6:30am: Scarf down a bowl of Chobani yogurt sprinkled with granola, fresh-cut strawberries, and a squirt of honey.
7:00am: Swing open the doors of the legendary UCLA SAC gym, wide-eyed, scanning the premises for which hot shot I'll have the pleasure of working besides next.
The Phoenix Suns pretending to listen to her.
8:30am: Shower to Backstreet Boys Pandora.
9:00am: Air dry my goldilocks mid-sprint through campus in order to reach the parking meter in time before another hefty $68 ticket plops down on my windshield.
10:00am: Clock in.
For the first hour of my shift, it's my job to set up the bar.
Yes, the one who does not know an iota about alcohol is in charge of setting up the bar.
About ten minutes in, Karlen tells me that we're low on raspberries.
That's my cue.
To the fridge I go.
That is, until I hear a voice.
I look up.
"Why do I know you from somewhere?? I've seen you!" he proclaimed aloud.
Smirking to myself, I mumble, "UCLA."
"Yes! The transfer! But I swear I just saw you somewhere else too..."
"Yeah! The intern!"
"You're following me, Russ."
"No, you're following me. What are you even doing right now?"
"I'm a cocktail waitress."
I googled "waitress"
He's seen me for who I truly am, folks: the athlete, the intern, the waitress.
Russ took a seat at the bar as I filled up his protein shake. We hung out for 20 minutes while he waited for his trainer to come down from his room.
We talked about UCLA.
He said he would have loved to have been there for longer than two years. They were some of the best times of his life.
We talked about the Thunder.
He told me it would be a great fit for me, if I could handle the move back to Oklahoma...
We talked about life after basketball.
He told me he would never coach.
"I'm getting as far away from basketball as I can."
"Really? You don't want to coach your kids??"
"Fashion" he replied with a big smile on his face.
We talked about his back-to-back runs to the Final Four.
He lost to the one and only Coach Billy Donovan at Florida his freshman year.
"Coach never lets me hear the end of that one."
We talked about how old he is.
He's an old fart.
He's played in the league for 10 years already. Can you believe that??
As I contemplated grabbing the raspberries Karlen told me to snag while I prepped the bar, I couldn't help but remain distracted as fans gathered around hoping to steal Russell away for a quick selfie.
And there I was, the cocktail waitress in the black dress, hijacking all of his attention.
I couldn't help but laugh.
The amount of times I have run into this guy in this city.
Whether it be mid pick-up game in Pauley, in the elevator on my way up to Wasserman, or at the bar of the JW Marriott in Santa Monica, there was something special brewing here.
I just couldn't quite put my finger on it.
It was a day like any other day.
Chobani, SAC, 21, BSB, floppy hair, BEACH.
Today was an off day.
After my morning routine, I took one hard look at my car and knew it was time. She needed a shine.
Kari was at the gym working out a girl she trains, so I decided after I dusted off the fender of the 'ol Ford Focus I would pick her up and we would grab lunch.
I pulled up to Pauley at noon, but for some reason Kari wanted me to come in and meet her.
I took one step inside the gym, and shook my head.
There he was again. The MVP.
"STOP FOLLOWING ME!!!" he cried aloud.
We both had the biggest smiles plastered on our faces.
In order to quickly change that, we played pig.
As we're all aware, the last time I left you all, I was at a crossroads.
Earlier this morning I was at that same crossroads.
I'll tell you what I thought was next.
I had my mind made up on Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
You heard it. Philly.
Not Oklahoma City, not Nashville, not New York, Philly.
A good family friend, Matt Fraschilla, (hi Matt) is now the current GA at Villanova. He has a place with a spare bedroom. "My" spare bedroom.
Being a two-hour train ride from New York, the possibility of cheering my little brother on from the stands during his rookie season lit me up from head to toe.
And the icing on the cake?
It was free.
How do you say no to that??
I'll tell you how.
Starts with a J and ends with an ob.
I didn't have a job offer in Philly.
What would I do there? Who do I know there? How could I live there?
It snows and stuff.
Despite my lack of employment, I was gungho about this idea.
"The job will come later," I kept telling myself.
Free rent doesn't come around too often and neither do NBA rookie seasons, so I had my mind made up. I was moving to Philly.
That was, until I became friends with Russ.
My calling in life can be broken down into three bullet points:
-Use the gifts God has given me to spread joy to others.
-Use the gifts God has given me to spread God to others.
-Use the gifts God has given me to help others feel confident they can do it too.
Russell showed me how.
As I stated in my last blog, my head coach offered me a job to work for UCLA. Her vision is to showcase UCLA in a way that I kinda already naturally do.
Show the world how great this university really is.
It's right up my alley.
But for the longest time I had severe doubts floating around my head. Saying yes to her meant saying no to Philly. It meant remaining 1,787 miles away from my mom and dad. It meant running the risk of dating beautiful men with low morals. It meant paying half my salary in rent. It meant staying put.
And trust me, telling Miss Spontaneity to stay put isn't an easy task.
After two years of hittin' it, it's typically time for me to start quittin' it.
But after meeting Russell, something finally clicked.
I can do both.
I don't have to be tied down to one location. I'm no longer a collegiate athlete who has to be on call 24/7/365. I get weekends. And weekends mean travel.
Oftentimes people try to put themselves in a box way too early.
We think we aren't living up to our expectations we set for ourselves, or really, the expectations others set for ourselves, so we quickly say yes to the first opportunity that comes a' knockin' in order to feel like we did what we were supposed to.
We graduated, we got the job, we're adulting.
But are we happy?
After I graduated I was on a quest to impress.
I had made a lot of connections at UCLA, and I was eagerly awaiting the next glorious opportunity to be handed to me on a silver platter.
That silver platter never showed up.
What did show up is my consistency.
I don't know what I'm passionate about, but I do know I love to work.
It doesn't matter if that work looks like restocking a bar, or traveling the world and covering major sports events.
It had taken me 23 years to realize that what others thought about my job status meant diddly squat. If I'm passionate about restocking raspberries then by golly I will restock those raspberries to the best of my abilities.
That being said, I don't think I'm super passionate about restocking raspberries.
Which meant I was back to square one-- what next?
Just a few days after my last blog post a UCLA donor contacted me.
He offered me a full-time job at his record label, Blue Elan. My title? Social Media Manager.
Because of this blog, this very blog, I was offered a job.
A couple days after the offer my mom called me up.
She wanted to know if I was free the weekend of October 21st.
To shoot a pilot for a travel show a production company wants to do with the two of us.
After morning ball the following day, Baron Davis texted me and told me he would love to be featured in an episode and would like to discuss more over coffee.
The next night... Coach Cori told me that she could find me a living situation in LA.
After a few agonizing weeks of tossing and turning every night, the jig was up.
A decision had been made.
No matter how hard I try to hide it, I can't leave this place.
I can't leave LA.
Not yet at least. Not like this. Not to Philadelphia. Not now.
I am surrounded by the best of the best.
I am loved by some of the most beloved.
I am infatuated with palm trees, fluffy sand, zero humidity, no bugs, summer breezes, and Philz Coffee.
I am not here simply to pass through.
I am on a mission to make the city of Los Angeles home.
I am where I belong.
So many people stereotype this place.
"There's too much traffic."
"The people are crazy."
"It smells like weed."
"It's way too expensive."
I believe God has planted me here to break the mold.
And God gave me Russell to prove it.
LA isn't as big as it seems; it's as big as you make it.
If you want to find a solid, God-fearing friend group, you will find it.
If you want that dream job, chances are you'll eventually get it.
If you only want to take, take, take, you'll always come up empty.
As much as I thought my heart was leading me to Philadelphia--somewhere closer to home, somewhere where Catholicism runs deeps, somewhere new--he was trying to tell me all along that I can have all of that and more if I just sit still.
I'm in a transitional stage of my life. My life is going to be different whether I like it or not.
So what was I running from??
Coach Cori offered me a job to do what I do best:
Love Los Angeles.
With the help of UCLA production, I will be able to market athletes for who they truly are. Whether it be for UCLA, the Lakers, the Clippers, or the Rams, I will be traveling around LA and beyond in order to showcase athletes in a light they have never been showcased before.
I get to use the gifts God has given me to spread joy to athletes.
I get to use the gifts God has given me to spread God to athletes.
I get to use the gifts God has given me to help athletes feel confident they can do it too.
Everyone has a story to tell.
And it's my job to share it.