I had four goals when I resigned from my $19/hr job with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to begin Political Science studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee:
- Meet and further build relationships with activists that supported the re-election of Governor Walker.
- Work with those activists to get more into the conservative movement of Wisconsin.
- Earn a second Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science while keeping a focus on the study of law without going to law school.
- Become more involved in activism within my university.
On a positive note, I did successfully graduate UWM.
It was the rest of it that didn’t go as I planned.
When I first arrived in Milwaukee in July of 2015, I spent several months looking for work, including using UWM’s student and alumni job network called PantherJobs. My first job was with Sandburg Cafe on campus in Restaurant Operations. For minimum wage, I cleaned tables, served food for two weeks, and worked in the dish room. It’s always fun when you have about ten years on your coworkers and the majority of them are traditional-aged freshman or sophomores. It was an easy gig that worked with my school schedule, and it was the epitome of “it’s beer money.”
Around Thanksgiving, I was already back on PantherJobs looking for the next gig considering there had to be something more worthwhile to do. Not long after Thanksgiving break, I applied for “Overnight Building Support.” The job was essentially unarmed security for the student union. We kept watch over the Information Desk, locked the doors and offices in and around the union, and did a security sweep around all three floors, the maintenance areas, and other places that have been security issues in the past. I worked the job while taking four classes. Fortunately, I was living in Kenilworth Square which was at most a seven minute bus ride home. The pay was a dollar an hour more than Sandburg, but the overnight hours were taking a toll on me and quickly. Odd as it may sound, despite the difficulty in sleeping during the day, I still had a good semester.
Within the same semester, I had an active profile on one of Wisconsin’s state-run job boards, JobCenterWisconsin.com. Through it, I received two emails from Katie, a recruiter from Kohl’s; one about a career fair, and one about working with a new type of store that was coming to Wisconsin called Off/Aisle. Katie wanted to get me into the system to help them open the new store, but it was during times when I would need to sleep. After a series of emails and some scheduling flukes, I eventually was able to secure an interview in March and was hired within a few days. I left overnights and started a position which would be a twenty minute drive away. Approximately the same rate of pay, but closing shifts.
Now, some would wonder why I hadn’t begun doing any work in my field.
As part of my moving to Milwaukee, one of my goals was to network with political groups on campus. Around the time I started with Sandburg, I had joined Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) and the College Republicans (CR). I had also joined the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). From there, I started receiving emails about social events from YAL, which prompted me to start attending their meetings. During one of the tabling events, I met their chapter president, Matt, and learned quickly of his “taxation is theft” mantra. In concurrence, I attended the one CR meeting that I was made aware of via email. The meeting coincided with the date of Hillary Clinton’s arrival in Milwaukee. Their big idea was to protest her arrival and make it a CR event. While I don’t mind a good protest, just standing in one spot and holding signs that would be seen for B-roll wasn’t up my alley. I never heard a word from them after.
After having missed a few YAL meetings due to class conflicts, I began to wonder if I was going to be dropped from the mailer. An incoming email that followed Hillary Clinton’s arrival included a link to a leadership conference with the Leadership Institute. I registered with my YAL affiliation and attended (I didn’t blog about my experience because at that point I hadn’t begun blogging like I do today). I had the opportunity to meet with and network with others within the liberty movement. It was a two-day affair and while I learned some good activism tips and information for the chapter, the demographic for the conference was the younger crowd (I think I was the third oldest person to attend), and it reflected.
A month went by and I received an email from Ty, the Midwest Regional Director for YAL, inviting me to take part in a conference call that was a introduction to and foreshadowing to the YAL convention that I would later attend. He also expressed that he thought I might be able to do some good in the liberty movement by recruiting for YAL. I wanted to take part of the conference call, but I ended up having to work that night. Through a long series of phone calls, the recruitment position was volunteer, but would consist of me reaching out to other students much the same way he reached out to me, and recruiting them both into YAL, and to the convention itself. Though I had been to a few meetings, I wasn’t a dues-paying member of YAL, and my involvement in the organization was sparse. Needless to say I declined. In hindsight, accepting that proposition might have been what I needed to get my foot in the door with such a liberty-driven organization, but after talking with some people that helped organize the convention, they received great recommendations, but ultimately, the networking didn’t go much further.
During that semester, I also linked up with another pro-liberty organization, Wisconsin Grandsons of Liberty. I started to become a regular of their meetings before the semester came to a close. I saw them to have a YAL-like agenda. Among the topics I recall hearing about while there: Article V Conventions, Civil Asset Forfeiture, and Common Core. While you could donate to the organization, there were no membership fees or dues to be part of it. I did ask a few of their people if they needed any help with activism, or even doing some social media work; no dice.
As the Spring semester came to a close, so did my time at Kenilworth. It also meant a change of job during the summer. I also knew that it meant that I would drive driving between the two cities on a regular basis. I had two options: The Brown Deer Park and Ride (P/R), taking the 49U to campus, or driving it the whole way. In most cases, once I left work, I would get down to the P/R and wait for bus while catching a short nap. For a while, it was a doable solution and I didn’t have to park on campus.
The P/R’s last stop to the Student Union was around 2100, but sometimes it would run later. While that timing was amicable for my schedule, I was also more involved with NAMI at UWM, which had me staying on campus beyond the shuttle time. Needless to say, I split my time between parking on campus and taking the shuttle.
I also used this final semester to approach my supervisors about advancement within the company, specifically with corporate. It turns out that my goal of going from store to corporate was futile and only generally happened if you stayed with the company over the long term. Political polarization had reached an all-time high, and the same movements that I came out to network with had fizzled out, or had decided they weren’t interested in dealing with me.
Given the futility of going anywhere with Kohl’s, I started using LinkedIn to look for full-time work. What turned up was a full-time position selling firearms at Gander Mountain. Naturally, I applied and considering it was around Thanksgiving, and there was approximately a month until I would graduate, it would give them adequate time to receive and consider my application. Prior to this, I had made the call back to my parents and letting them know that there was a 40-50% chance I would be moving back into their house.
Within a few days of applying for the job, I received a call from one of the managers at the Germantown store. He noted my location and asked me if I was certain that I wanted their location, instead of the more-local Sheboygan store; I explained my school situation. Over the course of a half-hour conversation, he agreed to an arrangement of me starting part-time in orientation/training with the firearms counter, and then transitioning to full-time once I graduated.
Within two days, I received a call from the general manager in Germantown to schedule an interview, and within another two days, I spoke with their hiring person who agreed to bring me as we discussed. The hiring was also contingent on me passing a drug test and background screening, all of which had to be done by the end of that day; I was squeezing this in between classes and getting back to Sheboygan in time.
They brought me on and gave me about twenty-two hours per week. I had requested up to twenty, saving for Friday-Sunday for school work. Over the course of one month, I worked less than ten shifts in what amounted me to job-shadowing. It didn’t take long for me to start losing hours due to the lack of business in the store save for Black Friday. After losing more than five shifts to the cutbacks, the writing was on the wall that I wouldn’t be going full-time. In addition, come the week prior to commencement, I was never approached about my full-time arrangement.
After confirming my inevitable return to Massachusetts with my parents, I called in my resignation to Gander.
My finals days in Wisconsin came around as my parents were flying in for commencement. There was a nasty snowstorm predicted for that weekend, prompting my parents to reserve an extra hotel room where they were staying. My plan was to leave Saturday morning and check into the hotel room before they arrived. Mother Nature and my parents compelled an early arrival.
Between the week prior to commencement and some extra planning toward the end of the week, I had planned on leaving Milwaukee Tuesday afternoon after my final exams. Reality was that I ended up taking both my in-class and my online final Monday afternoon. I woke up the next morning, checked out and started driving.
After a little under eighteen hours between two days and a little over one thousand miles, I had returned to the house I’d live in for twenty-four years previously.
As of this article, I’ve been “returned” since December 21st, but managed to keep the details so under the radar that I managed to shock some people once I dropped the ball.