I had an “aha!” moment a few weeks ago that is now serving as my inspiration for the topic this week. I can’t remember exactly where it came from because I was more focused on the epiphany itself. I remember using video games as an analogy to describe what the feeling was like.

There is always a goal in a video game. Regardless of retro or modern games, there is at least one main goal to accomplish. Once you’ve completed that goal, there are other goals to complete afterwards and repeating that cycle (essentially) until you reach the end of the game (though modern games don’t really have an end anymore thanks to endless online capabilities). When you beat the game, it’s a sense that all of your hard work has paid off, especially when you think about it in terms of how many goals you’ve accomplished throughout the game.

I set a goal and I accomplished it. Then I did it again. And again. I still have a long way to go, but man does it feel good!

The “aha” moment was realizing that I’ve worked for the Times-Herald for a year now. That year was quite a ride for me. I was hired Aug. 16, 2016. Though I do not have a degree, I was able to prove my capabilities (how great it felt to be acknowledged). This is what I studied for while in college, dropping out because I couldn’t afford it. Getting hired crossed off many goals for me, but I had underestimated how many more goals I would accomplish along the way.

I’ve learned a lot and I’ve even witnessed my own writing style evolving along the way. I also understand that not every piece I write is going to be gold, though I promise I put in as much effort as capably possible with every article and column — accepting that I am not perfect.

There are outside goals I’ve accomplished as well. The biggest goal of them all was setting out to earn the support of the people of Alliance. Though I know not every person living here shares my views or agrees with me, I think I can safely say that the majority of you support me. I appreciate hearing feedback about my writing, even those who called to point out any mistakes.

I joined planning commission with the approval from city council; that surely counts for something, right? I was voted in by my peers to become the vice-chairman for Box Butte Democrats. I got the chance to represent Box Butte County at the Nebraska Democratic Convention where I met plenty of like-minded people focused on the issues we face in Nebraska. I traveled to Standing Rock, which I consider an accomplishment because I was able to learn much more about the national issue and about Native American culture. That’s just the tip of the iceberg for me.

Leadership Box Butte was a major event for me. I can’t express how much I learned from that class alone, not just in developing myself but also learning directly about our community, how it works, and getting to meet with everyone. We’re also working on putting up trail signs for the city as a team!

I got engaged, too! Don’t think I’ve forgotten to mention my soon-to-be-wife. It’s only two days away from spending the rest of my life with her, even though we made that jump when we got our industrial piercings together (it was seriously painful, but has served as our own way of marrying each other and “going through that process together of going through pain and being uncomfortable,” she says.)

However, I met all of you along the way, also realizing that I still haven’t met everybody in Alliance on a personal basis. There are those of you with the Growth and Innovation series I’ve written, the Carnegie Arts Center, everybody at the Alliance Public Schools and all of the kids (some of the kids even started calling me “Spider-Man”), learning about what it takes to be an officer in Alliance; I’ve kept every single article I’ve written about each and every one of you on my desktop so I could go on for a while.

I consider all of these things accomplishments. Even the seemingly small things matter to me (because we take every single win we can to keep us moving forward). These accomplishments don’t just belong to me, but they belong to you as well. We worked together and every success for me, every article written, couldn’t have happened without any of you. Even so, there is one person who deserves more credit for all of these things than myself.

Without her, I wouldn’t have ever made any of these leaps of faith. She supported me through every single step of the way. She gave me the courage to step outside of the box, to try for a new career, and to prove myself. She gives me strength I need to wake up on days when strength has left me. She is the reason I push myself to become a better person.

This is me thanking you all for giving me a platform to literally tell the world how much I love her. This is me thanking you all for helping me along the path of success and happiness. Thank you Alliance … and I promise not to be so cheesy next week. The next piece you’ll read from me will be the first I’ll have written as a happily married man.

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