Every day I wake up to the sound of birds chirping and a cool breeze rolling through my window. Shortly after I open my eyes, my alarm clock starts chirping like the songbirds outside my window. I throw my covers off, stroll over to my phone and turn the alarm off. To start my day, I’ll sit on the edge of my bed and glance through the headlines on my Facebook timeline for about 10 minutes as I adjust to a new day and wipe last night’s crust from my eyelids.
After throwing on my workout clothes, which usually consists of a full set of long sleeve rash guards, shorts, sweatpants over the shorts, and a perfectly worn 59FIFTY fitted baseball cap. I slide into my slippers and walk directly into the kitchen to put a tea kettle on the stove.
While the water starts to boil, I walk into my den and turn on the space heater, fire up my laptop, and open the Respect My Region (RMR) WordPress dashboard along with iTunes. I’ll lean over my chair and scroll through all the pending posts and open four or five that need edited and scheduled.
“What am I gonna listen to?”
“The Day That Heaven Had Gone Away” from Black Label Society starts pumping through my sound bar, I scroll through last night’s RMR staff group chat to see if what I missed. The usual 20 or so missed messages. Most consist of roasting Mitch, the other half are work-related. The tea kettle calls me back to the kitchen.
“Goddamn I’m lucky,” I thought to myself as I meandered towards the steaming kettle.
My mornings wouldn’t be so relaxed without my writing career in the cannabis industry. What started as an internship with RMR during my senior year at Central Washington University, parlayed into a full-time freelance writing and digital-journalism career. I’m afforded the luxury of writing on my time, fulltime. This wasn’t the case last year.
Pouring boiling water into the stainless-steel French press, memories flooded my mind like the water washing over the coffee grounds. Memories of mornings that weren’t so relaxed. Mornings filled with anxiety and dread for the day to come.
The alarm clock screams unapologetically as I stir, somberly to consciousness. I hadn’t figured out songbirds were a more pleasant alarm than a fabricated noise designed to break your soul.
“…Fuck my life…”
Three hours of sleep feels like a blink of an eye. I slap my alarm clock off the nightstand. When I sit up and open my eyes, it feels like I have sandbags on my chest and eyelids. Being a full-time journalism student with an enthusiastic addiction to video-games and mind-altering substances wrecked my sleep habits for most of my time at Central Washington University.
Destiny is a first-person shooter video game that requires a coordinated team of six players, working together to complete puzzles, boss-fights, and other challenges. I play Destiny with a clan of 10 or so people. Hanging out with friends, while saving humanity from alien threats, and getting really high was a great way to escape after hours of class, busy work, and a general feeling of unfulfillment. Here I was two quarters away from having a Bachelors Degree in Digital Journalism and I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my degree. I didn’t even have a single lead for my senior internship.
“Alright guys it’s one, I’m out, I have class in the morning,” I tell my friends through the headset.
“Hazy, we still have another to clear, “Joker says.
“Yeah, don’t be a bitch bro,” Buck chirps.
“I gotta get to sleep guys.”
“Bro you can’t leave. Who are who are going to take your place? Fucking Kari?” Deboo says.
Kari was a general annoyance of a human being. When his kid was crying in the background, he would just call for his girlfriend to take care of it or ignore it all together. He was an asshole and I didn’t enjoy assholes getting glory in my place.
“Alright, let’s just hurry this up,” the words trudging through a strong yawn. One hour quickly turns to three.
“…Fuck me…” I head off to bed.
Three hours of sleep feels like a glorified nap. I get out of bed and throw on jeans and a wrinkled shirt from a pile of clean laundry because I couldn’t be bothered with folding my clothes. I lurch towards the bathroom to handle my business before class. While brushing my teeth I see the pronounced black-bags below both eyes.
“Why are you like this?”
I walk back to my room and grab clean clothes out of a messy pile on top of my dresser, everything down to the long socks are wrinkled to hell. The finishing touches to my outfit are a plain black under-armor sweatshirt with a blue and red flex-fit ballcap tucked under the hood. By the time I get my clothes on its almost 8, class starts at 9. Just enough time to make coffee and knock out the remainder of my homework that I neglected the previous night to start raiding an hour earlier.
A bitter breeze rolls through the window I forgot to close the night before. A reminder of Winter’s cold grip. I closed the window and wait for the water to finish boiling. Pacing back and forth in my tiny kitchen, a step and a half cover its entire length. Once the water boils and the coffee is made, I sit down at my computer and fire up a giant bong bowl. I fell ground up Tangie to the rim of the bowl and sparked it with a flaming hemp wick.
Cannabis quieted the loud voices in my head, voices spilling excuses like broken water pipes. Telling you to skip class, to stay home, to go back to bed and try again tomorrow. It was just easier for me to be a college student while using cannabis.
After I blow a big cloud of smoke against the window, I knocked out a reading response in about 10 minutes. The next 20 minutes were spent planning my next Observer article. The Observer is CWU’s student-run weekly newspaper. College and school were never my thing, but covering the local cannabis scene for the Observer was rewarding and fun, rare adjectives I used when describing anything occurring on a college campus. I read my first story planner of the quarter as I sip on black coffee with stevia.
“Reporter: Jon’s Story: Local Shop’s Employee Training,” the PDF reads.
I jot down notes about potential sources budtenders in Ellensburg and Moses Lake. Seattle? Then I jot down a quick who, what, when, where, why, and how to outline. After I finish my coffee and put my pen and notebook into a bright blue and orange backpack. I pour the second cup of coffee into a travel mug. I throw on a worn black North Face coat on over my hoody before I leave. Travel mug in hand, I walk across my living room, the hardwood floors echoing loud creaks on my heels all the way through the hall and stairwell. The building was old and the entire thing seemed stiff and achy from the long, harsh, winter.
Ellensburg’s signature swirling winds blew ankle high snow drifts against the doors of my apartment building overnight. Forcing the door open revealed the freezing wind on my face. I start my car engine and crank the heaters to warm it up before scraping and hacking away a 1/8-inch sheet of ice off my car.
Once my car is chiseled clean, I climbed into a fully heated cockpit. I plug my phone into the AUX cord, start “Knew School” from the KnowMads and creep out of the ice-covered drive towards campus. It takes two minutes to drive to campus, and 10 to find parking.
You may be asking yourself, why wouldn’t he just walk to campus if it takes longer to find parking? Maybe I was subconsciously procrastinating class? Or was I simply being a lazy bitch? Probably both.
I walk into class 10 minutes late, Cynthia Mitchell, one of my Journalism professors and mentors, is reading through today’s agenda which consists of due date reminders and schedule changes for the coming month. I take a seat near the back and pull out my laptop and my notebook. After I set them up in front of me I quickly tune into the lecture.
Being a journalism major afforded me the luxury of completing most of my work off campus, so my lackadaisical attendance record never reflected my grades. Even though I dreaded being there, showed up late and left early while I was stoned to the gills, I always took my journalistic integrity and reputation seriously. I took notes, asked questions, debated, spent countless hours with professors before and after class, engaging my environment in any way I thought would challenge me and make me a better journalist.
I worked hard for many reasons, but Fear was a driving force that always stood out. Fear that comes from visualizing a reality with potential career opportunities, and responsibilities. It’s a fear of success and the expectations that come with it. Fear of getting a degree and never applying it to something you love. Fear of going back to Starbucks while my degree collects dust in the bottom of a box in the back a closet.
Today, a former CWU student is skyping in to talk to the class about what he’s been up to since leaving CWU and to give tips to future graduates. Once the skype call was set up, a kid no older then I appeared on the screen. A skinny kid with a contagious smile, a Snapback, and glasses. He introduced himself as Joey Brabo A.K.A J-Ping, a current budtender at Diego Pellicer, one of Seattle’s swankiest pot shops, a former marketing student at CWU, Microsoft employee, and Leafly brand ambassador. When someone your own age has a lengthy and impressive resume, one that puts yours to shame, pay attention and take some notes. Few of my classmates shared enthusiasm, still staring at their iMac monitors, social media feeds reflecting off their eyes.
Brabo explained his main focus was running Respect My Region with another CWU graduate and Ellensburg native, Mitch Pfeifer. He explained Respect My Region as an upstart clothing brand and hip-hop blog. But when he mentioned RMR just started covering the cannabis industry as well, my spidey senses started tingling.
I asked a lot of questions and filled two or three pages with notes. The last thing I wrote down was Brabo’s email address. I emailed him as soon as class ended, a quick response followed. After a few exchanged messages, I set up an interview with J-Ping for my Observer article, and the idea of covering cannabis for RMR was already floated around. I never seriously thought writing about weed would be an option after graduation.
Covering the cannabis industry for The Observer is one thing, I loved it, but it never felt real. With professors babysitting your progress and minimizing your failures, it just seemed like another class that you credit for, but writing for a real publication that thousands of people my age read is something completely else, something that excited me. Excited me more than playing Destiny for hours on end, excited me more than doing drugs, or drinking and smoking until I was dizzy multiple nights a week. I finally found something that motivated me more than the fear did.
“Holy fucking shit…. “ I thought as I relaxed and leaned back into my seat. I felt a curious weight leave my body, a weight that had been with me for a long time.
One year later as I sip my coffee in my den and write this story, I’m still driven by fear, but who isn’t? I don’t think the fear ever goes away. But when you get paid to write about weed, and the only time I see the inside of a Starbucks is when I need a coffee on my way to grab more concentrates to review as a KushMart staff writer, I don’t notice it nearly as much.