Saturday, February 6, 2021

Starting Over

 For a lot of people, starting over is a scary idea.

Starting over means giving up what is comfortable, or what is known -- which is comforting, I guess -- and jumping feet first into what isn't.

I've done it a couple of times, and yes, it's scary. I started over 12 1/2 years ago when I got divorced, and it was an experience I would never want to go through again. But at the same time, here I am, all of these years later, in a better situation, older, and lots more wiser. 

I'm actually in the middle of starting over in a different way. Back in August, 2016, I left my crappy IT job to make a go of it in the IndyCar world. While that didn't work out (or hasn't so far), it did lead me to go back to school. I'm in my fourth semester at Northern Illinois University and will be graduating in May. I hope to eventually work in sports somewhere, and next month I begin an internship with the Joliet Slammers, a baseball team that plays in the Frontier League. Having covered minor league baseball for so many years, the idea of spending another summer at a ballpark every day has me pretty excited.

I'm also starting over in another way, and for those of you who know me personally or who have followed me over the last decade, it might be a bit of a surprise.

I'm starting over as an IndyCar fan. Emphasis on fan.

You may be saying, what? But it's true. Here's the story:

Since I left my crappy IT career to work in IndyCar, I've been all about working in IndyCar. With the full support of my wife, I was ready to go all-in. I was willing to do whatever I was asked to do and move wherever they wanted me to move. All of my chips were moved to the middle of the table.

I was blogging, I was podcasting, I was part of another podcast...I was doing everything I could to get noticed. In 2019, I spent thousands of dollars and drove and flew thousands of miles to cover 12 IndyCar races, and left that experience feeling empty and unappreciated.

Very, very unappreciated.

Last year, with no races to travel to, I kept it up, blogging and podcasting. But all of it was getting less and less fun, because it seemed like the more I put into it the less I got out of it.

Editor's note: With that said, Eric Hall is the best podcasting partner ever. I really enjoyed our conversations every Tuesday or Wednesday night, and if you are looking for a very smart IndyCar fan, Eric is your guy. I'm glad it looks like we will be working again this year. More on that later.

I know some of you read those last few paragraphs and were rolling your eyes. Yeah, Mike, it had to absolutely suck to be able to go to all of those races. Must be nice!

I get it. It was a privilege to be able to do that, and it was a lot of fun...up until the end when I came to the realization that I was an employee and not a partner. That was no bueno. 

The think I learned about trying to break into IndyCar. It's hard, damn hard. So, I'm taking a different approach, getting my degree and putting in an internship. If that's not enough, cool, I'll just work somewhere else. No hard feelings, because it should be hard. It's still my dream to work in IndyCar, but it's not my life's focus anymore, either.

So anyway, by the end of last year, I'd grown sick of a lot of it, so I went full on nuclear: I blew away my Twitter account and unfollowed/unfriended pretty much everyone racing-related on my social platforms.

I was done with IndyCar.

Or so I thought, because last weekend's Rolex 24 brought me back to life. I watched most of the coverage and loved it. The 24 represents everything I love about auto racing, and I'm looking forward to going back next year. 

As I watched the coverage, I decided to reinvent myself as an IndyCar fan. And just a fan.

Over the last couple of years, everything I did when it came to IndyCar was about working in IndyCar. My blog posts, my podcasts, my social media posts, all of it was with that in mind. It was all in hope someone noticed, and all done with getting into IndyCar in mind.

So, in short, I had -- at least in my mind -- stopped being a fan and was a media member (and kind of a jerk at that) and wannabe IndyCar personality.

I just want to be a fan again (although media center access every so often wouldn't be off the table!), and look at IndyCar through that lens. Because man, I freaking love IndyCar. Along with being a runner, a writer, and a Cubs fan, that's what people associate me with. 

I know I don't have to make this announcement, but I also know that most of the people who read this will understand. I'll still put stuff on social, blog and podcast, but the difference is that I'll be doing all of this for me, as a fan trying to connect to other fans, which is a good thing. I'm not chasing anything, or anyone for that matter, so it's back to being what got me into this sport in the first place.

I'm an IndyCar fan. Is it May yet?