Currently I’m in the process of moving from Nevada to Texas. Considering I am politically liberal, socially liberal-ish, and racially Black, many people have asked the same sensible question…” yo what’s wrong with you” and I fully understand that feeling. For many reasons I understand why people are baffled but given the environment (literally) in Nevada and west coast in general, my work being on the east coast and family in the middle, the long-term prospects of moving further east made more sense. With that, I sincerely love Las Vegas like a second home. Two stints, 3 years apiece, totally different income classes and neighborhoods…really good experiences both times. On a walk recently I began reflecting on these fond memories and over the course of these last three weeks, I landed on this feeling. Grateful.
Full disclosure, I had more fun on my first stint in Las Vegas. I was significantly younger (obviously), I had more free time, more friends, I was more athletic and at no point was there a pandemic going on. In addition to that, I was single, no kid, no responsibility outside of myself and I was seeing this place with virgin eyes. Also, it was a rebirth of sorts for me. I started a new career in the Air Force, I had just moved back to the United States and for the first time in 5.5 years I spent more than 30 days there. The person that initially told me about the career field that ultimately changed my life retired two days after my arrival and I ran into him at the hotel I was staying at, the day before he was leaving. I got a chance to thank him for the words of encouragement and the advice he gave me 5 years before that. He had no clue who I was, but he congratulated me on my move and wished me luck and advised me to stay away from the casinos.
I learned a lot in those first 3 years here, I stopped writing poetry altogether, I began going to a studio to rap. I took some college classes, won some awards, and made a name for myself, synonymous with success and positivity in my professional circle. In my social circle I was known as the filter-less, sarcastic guy. In addition to all of these cool things, I got a second job at a Green Valley Grocery gas station, and I met some cool people there too. Most folks thought I was crazy, and they couldn’t figure out why I’d work at a gas station when I was in the military. Though the answer was simple, folks didn’t think it was worth me risking my safety for extra money…as if I wasn’t already risking my life in the military.
Las Vegas is a city built on hopes, dreams and a little bit of crazyMichael McDonald
The second stint began 11 years after the first one ended. COVID was brand new still, and I got the hell out of dodge from Virginia before it could be truly defined. I packed up my daughter and dog and we began driving west. Stopped in Chicago to grab my dad and we were rolling. I stopped at the hospital my daughter was born at in Nebraska, she didn’t care one bit. We drove from the chilly east coast to chillier Chicago, to cold Nebraska, to cold and snowy Colorado, to 77 degrees in Las Vegas over the course of 3.5 days. We bought a new, significantly nicer house than our town home in Virginia, and despite not really knowing what would happen with this COVID thing we made the best of the situation. My daughter met some new friends, my wife met new coworkers and made a few new friends, and I made friends virtually through the Nextdoor app, and the parents of my daughters’ friends.
Most people don’t know of the rollercoaster of these 3 years because I don’t really show stress. When I first got here, business was growing, we were up to 38 employees and looking to expand. A few setbacks and unlucky breaks and we were down to 24 employees. Still doing well, but it took a lot of work and patience to turn that around. As I write this, we are up to 119 employees with better prospects of more growth this year. I didn’t imagine being in this position when I came to Vegas the first time. Though I worked hard, I played hard, now I’ve grown accustomed to working too hard and playing too little, which is the polar opposite of the first stint in many ways. I began writing this blog, which has been a cool mental release, and put out 2 albums as well, which was a childhood dream of mine kind of.
Oddly enough, in my lifetime I have never returned to live in a place other than Las Vegas…and upon this next move, San Antonio will be the second place that I can say this for. When the movers came and loaded all of our furniture into the truck, officially turning our home back into a house, we moved into an Airbnb with the thinnest walls known to man. I can hear someone thinking in the next room. The comforts and space of my old house are gone, replaced with discomforts and very little personal space or privacy at all. The neighborhood we lived in is still close, but far enough that it’s truly a different neighborhood. We are in a transitioning space now. I never knew there was a trailer park over here until we arrived at the Airbnb. There’s a tiny home community and a small helicopter terminal nearby.
I was existing so comfortably in my own little luxurious zone; I never noticed the not so luxurious reality down the street. Not that I ever looked down on people in these positions, I simply didn’t know this place was here. I look out the window at the trailer park and reflect on growing up in Chicago, not having all the luxuries, but having a great time. I didn’t have a lot of the luxuries in life at that time, the basics felt like more than enough, but I wanted those luxuries. Now I have many of those luxuries and I recognize the cost of attaining them is really a tradeoff of comforts. When I didn’t have, I wanted, but I made do with what I did have. Now that I do have, there is more work in maintaining it, which gives me less time to do a lot of things. Removing perspective, it seems I traded being a slave to my desires for being a slave to my comforts.
All in perspective
All of this brings me to why I feel grateful. I have been able to experience the various levels of success, failure, joy, pain, and all the things in between. As cliché as this sounds, I feel better for it. In my Stoic approach to life, I try not to get attached to what I know is fleeting. Comfort, and all of the previously mentioned things exist because of their opposites. If every day was amazing, no day would be amazing. If every day was horrible, no day would be horrible. The existence of that spectrum brings value to each day. I have been really high and relatively low in my times in Vegas and the basics are all I ever needed. I appreciate having the things I want too, but I’m not consumed by them or attached to stuff. Granted, I didn’t need a second stint in Vegas to come to this realization, I’ve felt this way for a while. However, changing conditions presented an opportunity to reflect so I took it. The outcome of this time to think is that I’m truly grateful for life and all that comes with it.