The Nashville Predators have reassigned Daniel Lavender back down to the Milwaukee Admirals this morning. During his first career NHL recall this past week the Predators claimed 7 points from a four-game homestand while Filip Forsberg recorded a goal in all contests which included scoring back-to-back hat tricks to top off a week in which the Swede scored 10 points (8 goals, 2 assists).
I won’t even attempt to give a faux-news post past that first paragraph. To put it short, I badly needed this past week in Nashville and couldn’t be more grateful to the Nashville Predators organization for allowing me the opportunity to get a look at work on the big stage and be a part of it.
Specific thanks can be given to Brian Verdi and Kevin Wilson for credentialing me and assisting in the media department for all the interviews you’ve been able to listen to the past week. Justin B. Bradford of Penalty Box Radio who was kind enough to provide a room for me to stay the week I was in Nashville as well as for allowing me to guest-host the show last Wednesday on 102.5 The Game. All fellow Nashville media members who are such great people as well as writers: Jeremy K. Gover, Robby Stanley, Kristopher Martel, and Cutler Klein. Plus, the always fantastic duo for the Predators of Thomas Willis and Brooks Bratten.
Then, of course, all of the kind people who took the time at the Bridgestone Arena to come around, meet me, shake my hand, hug me, or simply say “thanks for what you do” or “nice to meet you” at all of the games this past week. Those who did it know who they are. Plus, even those who were on social media actively trying to find a way to track me down at a certain time to do so – it meant all the same. Thank you. And this is where the long version of this week’s story comes in.
When I came to Nashville for the first time last Summer I did it because I was very eager to work, get a drop on things at the Rookie Development Camp, and see some of the new faces that would be coming to Milwaukee later for the 2016-17 season. What I didn’t expect was to be so overwhelmed by such great people who wanted to meet me, introduce themselves, or just so much as gave a wave. It ended up really being one of the most heartwarming experiences in my life just because I legitimately am always the last person that I think about – at all times. Right now I am cringing at the subject matter of this post being on me. I by far and away prefer to leave myself at the byline. Yet, Nashville seems to simply be the place where I can’t ignore myself. And this past week I needed that same feeling.
On my personal side of social media I published a photo with a story regarding the #BellLetsTalk Day which centers around breaking the stigma of issues related to mental health and illness. I’ve lived exactly half of my life with depression and anxiety. It started when I was nearly kicked out of high school as a freshman due to poor grades and persists to this day as a result of the high level critic I’ve become of myself to push myself -hard- and be better than that kid that nearly blew it all away. I can’t buck it. I will always be my own worst enemy. I’m always at war in my own head against myself. And, for anyone who lives with depression, it isn’t a matter of defeating it completely but weathering storms. When I published that story I did so as a confession to those who might not have known that it is my life and it is my current life.
At the end of December I saw my seemingly endless fight for health care insurance go bust. I spent the entire start of this year’s season going from phone call after phone call and dead-end after dead-end trying to get health care renewed. But, flawed system or not, my application for BadgerCare was declined with no reason for it to have been and with no real hope for it to be resolved. It was at that point that I broke down and started seeing the one thing I felt I had left to keep me upright, this work that I love doing, was a point of futility. Those in this field do not do it for the money. They do it because the work alone is worth it. The job itself is such a blast and you are doing it with countless groups of individuals that make the job itself all the more satisfying. With my health care gone I felt smacked out of the dream-like euphoria of the work I loved doing and into the harsh reality day-to-day necessities. I started to fade away and into darkness.
This is my fifth season with the Milwaukee Admirals. I started as a communications intern in the 2012-13 season before moving into a media based role here on Admirals Roundtable. The quest for full-time work has been a failure with nothing more than my own hope guiding me. I’ve been chasing this dream since I was fourteen years old. When health care went bust reality had dawned and killed it. I was punched hard and slipped into a state of depression the likes of which I haven’t experienced in years.
I scheduled the trip to Nashville long in advance this season. It was a rare time when the NHL and AHL schedules opened up at the right time to be afforded a chance to shoot for it. I reached out to the right people and was all set. I knew some of what I was getting into thanks to the previous Summer trip. But I badly hoped for the same heartwarming feeling that Nashville provided had provided me then that trip. Nashville, you didn’t disappoint for a single second this past week.
I cannot express my gratitude enough to everyone who made this past week what it was for myself. For the past two months I’ve been in a fog. I badly needed a change of scenery to detach from myself. What Nashville gave me in bulk this week was its single greatest attribute: its people. There have been so many different walks of life that I’ve been fortunate enough to come across this week and each and everyone helped to get a smile back on my face. You all reminded me that I belong here. It means the absolute world to me. From the day I arrived here at Admirals Roundtable I knew full well that the term “thankless job” was going to come up an awful lot. Much like the individuals that I get to view in the AHL though I’m very much in my own process of making it to my NHL. It takes several sacrifices, hard nights, learning from mistakes, and such soul searching to bring out the best of yourself to accomplish getting there. I’m not there yet. It has been a long ride of not getting there and it hurts. It’s the AHL lifestyle that I identify on a personal level because I very much see my own highs and lows playing out daily. Yet, there is no greater feeling watching at a distance when someone gets that first career NHL call up. They earned it. They just saw countless years of work finally meet the goal that they have been working so hard for pay off. I had joked last week that this was my first career NHL recall. It wasn’t. But everyone around Nashville this week treated me as though it really was. And the fog finally lifted.
Nashville, from the bottom of my heart: thank you.
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