Hey guys… it’s Smalls.
Normally, I open up my first blogs back after not writing for months (or years, in this case) at a time by saying something like this:
Smalls is back in the blogosphere. Prepare for take off, b****es.The Return of Smalls
(Yeah, that’s an actual quote from one of my blogs back in 2020, let’s not talk about it)
This would inevitably be followed by me publishing two or three blogs later that week, then not signing into WordPress for another 12 months. In this case, the last blog I wrote was back in December 2020 where I announced that The Vault (my first and only consistent blog series) was being developed into a weekly YouTube show with my guy Benny Buckets.
This is not going to be one of those “Hey guys, I’m back” sort of blogs. Because at this point, I know that writing still isn’t something that I’ll be doing consistently, so why even pretend?
Instead, I’m going to use this opportunity to get in my feels a little bit. And if I’m being honest, even as I’m writing this, I haven’t fully committed to the idea of even publishing this to the site. Since coming on as a TFTB writer back in 2019, I’ve often used writing as an outlet to express how I’m feeling at any point in time when I can’t seem to do so in everyday conversation. It’s therapeutic for me, in a sense, since I’m absolutely atrocious at articulating what’s in my head. Oftentimes, I don’t even actually understand or grasp how I feel about something unless I put it on paper. This was the reason I wrote this back in 2019:
I’ve left my fair share of nights on the table, but now that I’m about to leave and start life in the real world, I wish I would’ve taken more advantage of my time here.The Most Important Things I’ve Learned In College
My last and most important piece of advice is to try and enjoy making mistakes while you can. College is this weird period in life where being an idiot actually isn’t that big of a deal (most of the time). Whether it’s partying too hard sometimes or failing an exam, it’s almost always gonna be okay in the long run. Hangovers don’t last forever. It’s when you get out in the real world where your mistakes carry more weight and you actually have to be smart. So relax and don’t sweat the small stuff while you’re in school. You’re going to regret less that way.The Most Important Things I’ve Learned In College
Don’t get me wrong, I’m very much looking forward to being a real adult with real adult money. But there’s something about Penn State that I’m always going to miss. It’s something that will always be a part of me and that I’ll always remember. It’s something I’m going to try to pass on to my kids one day, just like my parents did.
I love this place, and I’m going to miss it.The Most Important Things I’ve Learned In College
This ability to use writing as a way to recognize exactly why I feel the way I do is exactly why I’m sitting here writing this today in my home office. I don’t often open up about my personal life while portraying this character of “Smalls”, but here goes. This all does tie back into Thoughts From The Bench, so bear with me.
If you’ve tuned into The Vault on YouTube, you might have heard that I officially made the move back to Pittsburgh about a year ago now. There’s a long list of reasons I made the move back to my hometown, but it’s essentially the result of a series of events and experiences that all start with me graduating from Penn State with an engineering degree in 2019. At that time, I already had a very promising job lined up that paid very well (at least for someone right out of school) with the company I had already spent two summers interning with. I was absolutely convinced that I loved this company and that this was where I was going to spend the majority of my career. If I’m being honest, it really was a great place to work and I was extremely lucky to get that opportunity. I made a ton of great friendships and fond memories while there, and I still keep in touch with many of the people I worked with.
However, about a year and a half in, I was feeling extremely burnt out and generally unhappy. I couldn’t exactly figure out why I was feeling that way, either. I loved my manager, my co-workers, and the general atmosphere created by the team at work. I was told multiple times that I was excelling at what I did and was on track to move up the ladder fairly quickly. I had great relationships with the other companies that I worked with on an everyday basis. But I was still generally unhappy, and felt worn out by the everyday “grind”. I hated waking up and driving to work every day. I came to the conclusion that it was time for a change, whether it was finding a new role at the company I was at, or making the move to a different firm entirely.
I eventually decided to accept a position at a new company. It paid pretty well compared to my where I was coming from, and I was familiar with what the job entailed since I had already been in the industry for two years. It was a fresh start and I was told there was generally less stress involved. However, the biggest upside was that this new company was relocating me to northeast Connecticut, about an hour away from my girlfriend (now fiancé) who had moved to Boston to finish her graduate degree. I thought I was in the clear and that I could finally enjoy what I did for a living.
I quickly realized that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
Within just a few months, I was right back to where I was before making the jump. I was stressed, tired, and unhappy once again, except to a MUCH worse extent. I was having mental breakdowns and despising even the idea of WAKING UP for work every day. The great team atmosphere that I was lucky enough to have at my first job was virtually non-existent, so I didn’t even have that to fall back on. For months, the thought that kept running through my head was “How the hell was I stupid enough to fall back into the same trap I was in before? There has to be more to life than this, right?”.
There were four things that kept me going: my girlfriend, my parents, my dog, and being a part of Thoughts From The Bench.
Now I get that the last one might seem a little odd, but hear me out.
I started writing for TFTB back in college. This mostly entailed writing blogs about college football and my weekly “Vault” blog about the best/worst jerseys in sports, all under this faceless “Smalls” identity. I might have made an appearance or two on Two Beers Deep (TFTB’s flagship show), but outside of that I was the last guy to show my face on camera. I was awkward and constantly tripped over my words (that part hasn’t really changed, if I’m being honest). But writing was something I loved doing because it at least gave me an outlet to do something creative outside of school. I was simply doing it out of enjoyment.
After graduating and moving to DC, I made a few “returns” to TFTB, but they were all short-lived. Work and life kept taking away any ounce of creative drive that would occasionally creep back. Having said that, I always felt that it was something I wanted to get back to. I wanted to create just for the sake of creating, and I wanted to feel like I was a part of a community like the one TFTB had created, however small.
In October 2020, after yet another long hiatus, I made a firm commitment to myself to once again become a core part of TFTB. I haven’t looked back since.
Since then, I created, produced, and hosted The Vault with Benny Buckets, which transitioned from a weekly blog to a weekly YouTube show. Three years, sixty-eight episodes, and two “This is The Vault” SportsCenter-esque commercials later, we’re going strong and I can honestly say I’m extremely proud of the content we’ve put together. I also became a regular member of our Draft Day show on Monday nights (RIP in peace). I ran All-Purpose Garbage – our weekly college football show – in the fall of 2021, with Deke alongside me. I represented TFTB at the Yinzer Mob tailgate and helped Dre interview Barstool Big Cat, a guy who I’ve been a fan of since 2017 and an absolute titan in the online sports community. I produced TFTB’s 2021 Year in Review video, which honestly just made me tear up while making. I helped organize our 2021 Movember campaign, which raised $1,400 for men’s mental health, all through donations from the TFTB community. I shot, edited, and promoted our “The Vault Goes to a Hounds Game” and “The Vault Goes Bowling” vlogs.
I’ve done all of this just because I WANTED to do it. Even though it took me a while to realize it, TFTB, in a weird way, helped give me the answer to the question:
“There has to be more to life than this, right?”
There absolutely WAS more to life. That’s exactly why I now have a new job in a completely different industry. A job that I actually do love and that gives me the freedom and balance I was looking for. A job that has actually changed my mood and state of mind so much that it’s extremely noticeable to those who know me. A job that allowed me to move back to Pittsburgh, the place that gives me the opportunity to spend more time with family and friends than I’ve ever had before, because that’s what’s really important. A job that allowed me to find my passion towards coaching high school soccer, the game I truly love and need to be around. And most importantly, a job that allowed me to improve my relationship, realize that I had found the person I was meant to spend the rest of my life with, and ask her to be my future wife.
It sucks that I spent the past few years being miserable, but at least I’m on the other side now. In fact, I’m even kind of glad it all happened. In a weird way, I don’t know if I would have made it to this other side had it not been for TFTB there waiting for me the whole time. I’ve learned that being a part of this “thing” was (outside of my relationship) the one thing I could lean on throughout all the good times and bad times, keeping my sanity. Being passionate about something is important, no matter how big or small, and it helps keep things in perspective.
Because of TFTB, I now know for a fact that there can be more to life. Like Deke always says, even if TFTB doesn’t “make it big”, at least it has become something that we can be proud of, simply because it’s us doing this because we actually WANT to.
Thanks for reading. See you in next year’s blog.