At long last, the 2016 “State Of THE Luke Norris Address” has arrived.
As those of you who follow the site, I usually get this out a lot sooner than this (usually around the anniversary of the site), but this year has been such an absolute whirlwind that every time I’d even try to get this going, something would come up where I’d have to put it on the back burner. But to be honest with you, I really just need to get this out there for myself right now. For the past 18 months, I’ve been writing and writing and writing but so much of it has been for other people, which I suppose is something that I have to do given I’m a freelance writer and all, but today I just want to get some things out there and update everyone on exactly what’s happening in my world right now.
When I started this new adventure 18 months ago, I’ve got no problem admitting that I was absolutely terrified. I was making good money doing what I was doing, which is certainly important, but I was absolutely miserable. While I enjoyed some of the people I was working with, the actual guy I was working for was an absolute nightmare. Now, I know that’s what a lot of people say about their boss, but I hadn’t had that in a while. When I was doing the coffee thing, I loved the people I was working for. They were helpful and had a vision on where the company should go and while some of the follow-up didn’t necessarily work, it was okay. But this last guy just didn’t get it. He tried to teach through fear and that’s just no way to go about things. I didn’t mind the everyday challenges that I had to face, but again, this guy just didn’t get it. He would LITERALLY corner me in the bathroom to discuss how things should be going and just try to intimidate me into changing into somebody I didn’t want to be. I’m a pretty laid-back individual and he was trying to turn me into this aggressive, pushy, know-it-all monster….basically, he was trying to turn me into him. I would wake up everyday just hating that I had to walk into that place and that’s no way to go through life. So I left.
Obviously, he’s not the only reason that I left but it certainly made it a bit easier. As I explained in last year’s address, I wanted to follow a dream that I’ve had for a long time and it was time to really take a shot at it. And I hated the fact that I felt as if I was never seeing my children. For those who don’t know, I’m divorced and while I am lucky enough in that situation to have my children 50 percent of the time, it didn’t feel like that at all. I’d leave work at 5 or 5:15, drive the 20 minutes to go get them from my ex-wife, drive the 15 minutes back home and essentially would just have dinnertime, bathtime and bedtime. That was it. Sure, we’d get to play and do things on the weekends that I would have them but I felt that I was missing so much. Even on the mornings that they were at my house, my mother would have to come over and drive them to preschool so I didn’t even get to do any of that. My two daughters are still at the age where they actually like me and I wanted to be involved in as much of that as I could. And I wanted to be able to look them in the eye and tell them that if you want something bad enough that they should go after it. I never want to be a hypocrite to my little girls so 18 months ago, I made the decision that I did and started over.
I wish I could say that the past 18 months have been all sunshine and rainbows and I’m doing things exactly the way I planned to do them but that would just be a bold-faced lie. But as I’m trying these days to focus on the positives before the negatives, let me start there. The plan to have more time with my daughters is working perhaps even better than I had hoped for and I’m more thankful for that than anything. In essence, I can do all of the things that a “stay-at-home mom” is supposed to do and the only reason I used that term is because if social media is to be believed, dads aren’t actually able to do anything for their kids, right? Yes, I do get a little offended when people say that mothers do absolutely everything and dads only get to do the “fun” stuff…but I digress. But to me, I do get to do all of the fun stuff that I wanted to do. I get to wake up with my daughters and get them breakfast and get them ready for school and make their lunches and actually take them to and pick them up from school on the days that I have them and at least for the time being, that’s something I’m not willing to trade in for anything. You can put a lot of titles on me these days but I’m a father first and foremost and I’m loving every minute of that.
On the professional side, things started out a little slower than what I would have hoped for but I certainly have myself to blame for some of that. In the beginning months, I probably could have worked a little harder and done some more things to get the ball rolling but I was just enjoying my time with the kids so much that I didn’t want to focus on anything else. And yes, it was difficult to hold myself accountable for my day-to-day activities working from home. It was an entirely new concept for me and I told myself that I wouldn’t get distracted and would stay focused but it’s certainly something that I still have to work at every single day. I had so much freedom in the things that I was doing and I openly admit that I would just shove things to the side, especially in the beginning. But as the months went by, I focused in a little more and all of a sudden I found myself working for a number of different websites. I had found a Chicago-based site that was going to pay me to write about the Cubs and the other major teams in town. But seriously, someone is going to give me money to write about the freaking Chicago Cubs? Yeah, I think I’ll do that. Then I found another one that was going to pay me to write about wrestling. Yeah, I think I’ll do that as well. And for those of you who want to judge me about being 37 years old and still watching wrestling, just go ahead and save it. It’s an amazing form of entertainment and storytelling that I’ve been watching for 30+ years and will never be ashamed of doing so. I’m not judging you while you watch The Bachelor or Big Brother or any of the other 8,000 “reality” shows that exist right now. Okay, maybe I just did right there a little bit but seriously, you like what you like and I like what I like. If it entertains you, go nuts and don’t worry about what anybody else thinks. And then another one came along where I could write about just about anything. I could still do my sports and my entertainment but I could also hit on world news and politics and religion and things of that nature. And I was still having some fun doing some podcasts and contests and such for my original home at Binge Media. And to make everything even better, I was with (and still am) a woman that was supporting everything that I was doing 100 percent. I had a family that was being as supportive as they could be as well and I was doing all of this while still doing all of the things I wanted to with my kids. The money wasn’t exactly rolling in but I was doing okay and gaining a following and making a little name for myself in this business. The things that I’ve written in these past 18 months have literally been read by millions upon millions of people (without any of them including a cute kitten video) and things were okay…until they weren’t.
There are certainly advantages to doing what I do. I do have a bit more freedom in my daily life than many others. On days that I feel like it, I can literally sit on my couch in my pajamas and work and I’m not going to lie and pretend that that doesn’t happen. But working for a lot of websites is very time-consuming and while I was enjoying a lot of what I did, I had very little time for anything outside of that and my children. The time I wanted to spend with my girlfriend was limited, due also in part to the fact that she has an amazing work ethic and is trying to get her own career off the ground in musical education. Actually, while I’m on that topic, let me just talk about her for a minute. As I said before, she’s been nothing but supportive since I made this decision and I really couldn’t ask for anything more on that end. If you’ve not been here before and don’t know anything about her, allow me to fill you in. When I was going through the most difficult time in my life, she was there initially as a friend to help pick me up and it blossomed into what we are today, which is two people that are trying to balance going after our dreams while trying to raise two children in a 50/50 environment. I’m sure many of you reading this can relate and I’m sure you know how hard that is. Balance is always tricky, isn’t it? But this particular “millennial” is bucking the stereotype that her generation is lazy and busts her ass 65 hours a week at two schools, a music center and a church so I can do what it is I do each and every day. Does that sometimes cost her some time with my daughters? Yes, it does. But you know what? She absolutely loves my daughters and I know for a fact that they love her right back. To be honest, I know that she could put in more hours than she already does but she’s chosen not to do that in order to spend as much time as she can with the girls. I know that she takes a lot of heat from certain people and it’s heat that is absolutely unwarranted. She’s 26 years old and while she hadn’t initially planned to be a mom or a stepmom or whatever label you want to put on it, she’s doing her best to make everything work and she’s doing a damn fine job at it. I apologize for the small rant but these things just had to be said and as this is the one thing per year that I don’t edit, I just wanted to get that out there. Actually, I’m really not sorry.
Where was I? Oh right. So doing what I was doing didn’t allow much time for anything else. As I started to say, I was staying up late trying to write as much as I could and things did get a little tense between Ashlie and I for a bit. She wakes up very early for work so she has to go to bed quite early and I just couldn’t do that. At least I felt I couldn’t at the time. I’d stay up working until 2 or 3 in the morning and then get up with the kids early the next day and start again. Or on days that I wouldn’t have the kids, I’d stay up late and then wake up the next day and just try to cram in as much as I could while they were with their mom. And I really just became a shut-in. I avoided phone calls. I avoided text messages and really never wanted to do anything except work and hang out with my kids. And I really just stopped talking. I know that sounds strange for someone who occasionally does podcasts but I just didn’t really care about what most people had to say and I really just didn’t want to talk to most people. Still don’t if I’m being completely honest here. For the most part I’ve always been a pretty laid-back guy anyway but I would just get annoyed with anyone who opened their mouth. Somebody could be telling me the best story in the world but I likely wasn’t listening even if my eyes were looking directly at the person. Of course that didn’t apply to people I truly cared about but I really just wanted to be left alone. I was exhausted all the time and it was getting to the point that even when I was with my kids, I was just tired. And a lot of that was due to what I was doing to myself physically. I’ve never had the best diet in the world but there were days that I would literally just forget to eat and when I did it was just garbage. Any exercise that I had gotten in my former life from lifting boxes of coffee or just actual exercise were gone. And then there’s the smoking, which has now reached 20 years. Not exactly a celebratory milestone, is it? Add the maybe three or four hours of sleep I was getting each night and it’s no wonder I was exhausted on a constant basis. So I decided to cut back on work a bit.
I looked at everything I was doing and decided that the Chicago-based site had to go. While there are some very nice people running that site that do have a vision, I wasn’t liking a few of the things that were happening so I decided to leave. At the time, I still had two other sites that actually paid a bit more anyway so I felt I could walk away and still be okay. And I was for a while…until problems arose at the site for which I was doing the wrestling articles. I had come across a site that I had no affiliation with whatsoever that had posted something very similar to an article I had written. I actually came across it after Hulk Hogan had put it up on his Facebook page and I was insanely excited. If you don’t already know, I’m a huge Hulk Hogan guy and this was a big deal for me knowing that he (or at least somebody that’s running his Facebook page) is reading my work. So I click on it and it’s the same exact words and same exact pictures but it’s not actually my article and I got no credit of any kind anywhere on the page. After leaving a comment on Hogan’s page, I immediately contacted my site and told them what happened. I was assured that the legal department would get involved, that they had my back and everything would be taken care of. Okay, cool. But then it happened again. And then again. And then again. Every time this happened, I was losing money. If somebody like Hulk Hogan posts a wrestling article, it’s going to get a ton of views. But while they were my articles, they weren’t my actual articles and these millions of page views were going to somebody else that wasn’t me. Every time I contacted my site, I was told the same thing. We’ll take care of it. Well, they didn’t take care of it and it just wasn’t worth my time anymore to work for a company that actually didn’t have my back and would let this happen time and time again. Perhaps I took it a little too personally, but I went ahead and left there as well, still hanging onto the one site that I had where I was making the most money and decided to devote all of my writing time and energy to them. I’d be making more money and could build a better schedule that allowed me to get more sleep and just feel better overall, I thought. And it actually did work that way for a little while….until it didn’t.
Now, in the meantime I actually was making an attempt to get out of the house a bit more, even if that only meant I was still working. A local tavern that I’ve been going to for years needed a bartender on Thursday nights so I just threw my name in the hat and was given the job after about a minute of talking about it. There’s some great people that go there and it gave me a bit of a chance to be a bit more sociable than I had been, which really only entailed me sitting at a bar watching a ballgame by myself and not really talking to anybody outside of Ashlie and a friend or two that would join me on occasion. So after a much-needed vacation to the beach, I started working there one night a week, which has now turned into two due to the Wednesday guy wanting to get out. And I absolutely love it. It’s a little dive bar and it’s not that I’m making a ton of money working there but it gets me out of the house on nights that my daughters are with their mother during the week and I basically now just get paid to watch ballgames and have a few drinks. And I get to hang out with my ex-in-laws, who are regulars there, which might be strange for some people but they’re great people that I wasn’t seeing on a regular basis anymore. They’re people that I care about a great deal and we just sit there and talk about the kids while I’m cracking beers for them and it’s great. And it also opened the door to another opportunity that I’ll get to in a few minutes.
So at this point I’ve got the one website, the bar and a few side projects going and things are going pretty smoothly…until I get an e-mail telling me that my services are no longer needed at the one website I’ve got left, the one I’d been banking on to keep me going for a while. Honestly, I had been wondering where they were coming up with the money to pay all of the writers they had on staff and things must have been drying up a bit as the explanation I was given was that they were cutting back a bit and I guess I just didn’t have enough seniority. Although I understand, I can’t say that I wasn’t upset and certainly disappointed at what happened. At the risk of sounding a little crybaby-ish, it just felt that perhaps things were going a little too smoothly for me and that wasn’t allowed. Poor me, right? I had gotten to a point where I was finally finding some balance and all of a sudden it was taken away. But then I got to thinking that perhaps I did some of that to myself. Maybe I shouldn’t have left the other two sites but was I really happy with them anyway? The whole point of doing what I did was to be happy and I really wasn’t. A big reason in doing what I did was to write for a living and I had been doing that for over a year but I also wasn’t doing some of the projects that I really wanted to do. Writing articles for other people was taking up the majority of my time, obviously a necessity given the mortgage and bills and all of that, but was I really writing the things that I wanted to write? Sure, writing on the Cubs and wrestling and the other things for a check is a great thing and I’m going to continue to do that, but I’ve had ideas in my head for years that I’ve never pulled the trigger on and I suppose telling myself that I just didn’t have the time as opposed to being scared as hell to do them was something for another day. Except that day just kept becoming the next day and the next week and the next month and the next year and while I know I’m off the original topic yet again, I’m just sick of doing that to myself.
So what happens next? Where am I today? I know these addresses run a little long, which is why I only subject you them once a year, but I thank you if you’ve made it through all of that just to find out what the latest news is. I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t wallow in self-pity for a few days but I couldn’t afford (literally) to just sit back and take it. Life’s about getting back up after you get knocked down and I’ve certainly had to do that on a number of occasions in the past. So I got back to it. I started throwing out some feelers to a few different websites and just a few weeks ago I latched onto a pretty big site that I’m starting to do a few things for called FanSided, a sports and entertainment website that’s owned by Time, Inc. and is actually a partner site to Sports Illustrated. So we’ll see how that goes moving forward.
As far as that other opportunity I mentioned a little bit ago, I just kind of fell into that. I was bartending one night and the mayor of my little slice of paradise comes in with his son, both of whom I’ve known for many years, and we just get to talking as you do in a bar. I actually hadn’t seen either in quite a while so they asked what else I was doing these days and I told them that I was doing the freelancing thing, writing articles and such and the son informed me that a small newspaper in his building called The Labor Paper, which is actually more than 100 years old and focuses on stories that pertain to unions and politics and things of that nature, was looking for someone to perhaps write a few articles here and there and was also looking for someone with some advertising sales experience. It was really kind of funny how it happened. Ashlie was sitting there with me while all this conversation was happening and her eyes just got so big and started pointing at me as if to say “That’s you! That’s you!” And as it turned out, it was. I got the number of the editor and met up with her a few days later for lunch and after talking to her for about 15 minutes, she hired me right there on the spot. So I’ll get to put some of that sales experience that I have to good use without an overbearing prick looking over my shoulder the whole time, which will be quite nice. In addition to putting out the paper, we also have a talk radio show on Saturdays on a popular station here in town and in addition to selling some spots for that, we’ve also discussed me filling in as the host from time to time when the regular guy needs a break and I still get to write, whether it be an article for the paper (will be nice to see my name in actual print) or writing radio spots for some clients. And the most beautiful part of this whole thing is that I work on my schedule. The job is technically a part-time position and I choose when I work, which means that everything I need to do for the kids isn’t affected in the slightest and who knows what other doors this could open as time goes on.
Six weeks ago, I was really down on myself as I thought that this little experiment of mine was a complete failure and I really thought I was ready to give up on myself. But I’ve got too many people believing in me to let that happen. And I’ve got two little girls that I want to look in the eye and continue to say that anything is possible if you just believe in yourself. And I’m still betting on me. I know that it’s going to take a little time to get adjusted to everything new that’s going on and nothing is going to happen overnight, but I’m preparing myself for what lies ahead. I’ve got a lot of goals that I’m setting for myself and now more than ever, I’m determined to reach them. I’ve been looking at what might work best to help me quit smoking and had some conversations with people about what’s worked best for them. I’ve been researching some different ways that I can ease back into exercising without overdoing it at the start. I’ve cut back on soda and have also been researching some diets that work for me that don’t involve McDonald’s three or four times per week (if you’re thinking that’s what I feed my kids, that’s certainly not the case…they eat a decent meal while I watch and after they go to bed I cram 1500 calories down my throat). As of right now, I’ve got the site, the bar and the paper and I’m looking into some other opportunities that perhaps I overlooked when I first started doing this. And I’ve started some preliminary work on what will end up being the biggest thing I’ve ever done (sorry, can’t give that one away just yet) and am looking to also start a children’s book in the near future. But I’m going to do all of this on a schedule that works best for me mentally and physically. I’m tired of being tired and it really all just comes back to balance. I know what I’m capable of and I know that I can do this. Hell, I’ve already proven that I can do this and although I’m basically starting over, I want even more this time. And I know it’s not going to be easy moving forward, but nothing that’s worth anything in life comes easy, does it?
Look, with all of the negative things that have happened in the past 18 months (I won’t even go into the feelings I had when my house was broken into as I’m likely to just type a bunch of expletives in red that won’t form a coherent thought), the positives easily won out. I’ve got so many good things going in my life that make me smile. My sister has a beautiful family and gave me a third nephew just last week. My brother continues to do well in law school in Portland and I’m so very proud of the man he’s become. My mother and stepfather continue to be the greatest grandparents in the history of forever and I’m so thankful to have them in my life. I still miss my dad every single day and despite everything I had to go through with him, I can now better remember the good times we had as opposed to constantly focusing on the times when things weren’t so good. I have a support system of aunts and uncles that I know are behind me each and every day and would do anything to help me. And of course, I’ve got my three girls here at home. Ashlyn, Brooklyn, Ashlie….it’s because of the three of you that I know that I can do this and want to do this and will try each and every day to be the best Daddy and partner that I can be.
And I also want to thank each and every one of you that’s ever taken time out of your day to read something that I’ve written or listened to something that I’ve recorded. My goal is simply to entertain you in some way and that certainly remains the same as I move forward. My name is Luke Norris and I’m a writer, editor, publisher, podcast host, marketing specialist, bartender, friend, brother, son, boyfriend and father. And the best is yet to come.