The Summer of My Dreams … In Words

If I could have sat down and drawn up a design for a summer that I could only dream about, it would be this summer. It was a bridge summer between the youthfulness of my 30s and the new life after 40. But it also felt like a celebration of all that life has been to this point, and a hopeful pointer towards what life can be in the future.

This summer came just at the right time. For several years now, I’ve struggled to believe that life and my career were really going in a positive direction towards the goals that I had set for myself early in my life. A year ago this month, I was sitting in a cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains wondering if I even had a job at all, how I would possibly pay all of my obligations, and concerned that I had made a bad decision by resigning from a prior job without the promise of a new one. But I kept believing, and a year later, I find myself positive about myself, about my life, about my career and finally having achieved financial goals that thus far had been impossible. I could not have imagined all the good things this year would bring.

It has not been without struggle. I had one of the best and one of the worst semesters ever at Pepperdine. I enjoyed my classes more than ever, was recognized for areas of contribution and leadership, and had several opportunities to be published in university publications and other journals. It was a satisfying year. But I also had some experiences that made me question both my own self and my my decision to be at Pepperdine. I kept persevering, and new opportunities continued to unfold both at Pepperdine and elsewhere. But it was time for some things to go right, and this summer they finally did.

One of those places was in my position with Cipriani in Beverly Hills, which led me to know my new business partner Shane Green. Shane is a sought after motivational speaker with an expertise in luxury hotel management and consulting. Shane asked me to join his team, and new possibilities unfolded for me that I never had imagined. I always had been interested in hotels, but I had no idea how much I would enjoy the work or how well I would succeed in the industry. In one short year, I worked for Loews, Cipriani and now Starwood. I began a consulting project in May that led me to London, then Phoenix, Charlotte, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm and back to Phoenix. I will travel internationally again this fall. The consulting work went so well that I’ve been offered an opportunity to work full time for Starwood in the spring, but I am not jumping at the opportunity just yet. Still, a year later, I now have several job possibilities where before I felt that I had none, and the most income I’ve ever made.

It also has been a lot of fun. I have traveled beyond my wildest dreams: within the US to Phoenix, Sedona, South Beach, Charlotte, South Florida, Abilene, Nashville, San Francisco, and internationally to London, Florence, Kiev, Prague, Budapest, and throughout Tuscany and Eastern Europe. I have stayed in some of the world’s finest hotels, eaten amazing food, and experienced some interesting new people.

There were a few moments I will never forget from the summer of 2007: Dinner with Cooker in Florence at one of the best restaurants I’ve ever experienced and a chef I will not forget; teaching my delightful students in the Ukraine; standing outside on a train traveling through the dark night of the Ukrainian countryside; the awesome beauty of the chants of the monks in Kiev; Grady as he waved goodbye to me on the platform in Kiev; the House of Terror in Budapest; the tough work of training in London; having Indian food with my buddy Martin on Brick Lane in London; dinners and cookouts with my “DC” friends; the massage at the Singer Island spa; the friendly and generous staff of the Luxury Collection hotels; discussing film and the future of Hollywood with Rebecca and Nancy in a Hollywood office until late night; Saturday afternoons on the porch with Matt at Fiesta; Sunday afternoon cookouts at Maryetta’s; writing eulogies for two women who loved me unconditionally: Helen Ridge and Frances Calder; a lunch with my friend Tony that had to be arranged by God; meeting Sidney Poitier; the sheer joy of a job well done; and the gratitude for God, Matt and my parents who saw me through the darkness until it was light again.

The summer will come to an end with several birthday celebrations starting tonight with my DC friends in Pasadena, then tomorrow afternoon with my hotel friends on the roof at Fiesta, on Tuesday night with former students at Paradise Cove, Thursday lunch with my old roommate Michael Hopper and his wife Rita from DC, and then a grand finale weekend in San Francisco where I will join two of my dearest friends, Jim Schwab and David Jenkins, for the University of Tennessee football game at Berkeley and a weekend of celebration throughout the city.

After such a great summer, all I can do is be grateful. I don’t know why so many good things came my way, but as I sit here tonight on the verge of a milestone birthday and the beginning of a new academic year, I am humbled and give thanks to God whose mercies are everlasting, and whose goodness is beyond my imagination.

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