The Eve of My 30th Birthday

Petey Campbell & his hairline staring down his 30s

On the eve of my 30th year on this Earth I wanted to take some time to reflect on the past few years of my life. For many, the big 3-0 is a scary life event, and I had looked at it that way for the last few months as well, but instead of facing a new decade of my life with fear and dread, I want to face it with honesty and optimism.

Only a handful of you know this, but last year I was let go from an extremely lucrative job which I committed several years of my personal and professional life to. It afforded me an obscene amount of expendable income, an expense account, trips to Las Vegas, luxury watches, clothes, the ability to redecorate my apartment on a whim, and to dine at some of the best restaurants in the country. But after years butting heads over creative, managerial and directional aspects of the company, I was replaced by an individual with considerably less marketing savvy, but considerably more industry experience. I was depressed, bitter, dejected, and lost. I probably lied to many of you about this. Maybe even right to your face. All to save face and protect my pride.

My closest group of friends is extraordinarily successful. To a level that most people will never experience in their entire lives. I’ve constantly felt the

#BaradayX

need to compete with them; via our close-knit, fraternity-style gatherings known as Baraday, fantasy sports, professionally, etc. During my time at the aforementioned company I experienced a level of success and career advancement that I never thought I would achieve, especially after deciding to make the switch from city planning to digital marketing, so losing that level of clout and personal accomplishment was a tremendous blow to my self esteem. Even out of my Baraday crew, I’m pretty sure less than a quarter of them know about this until now.

Over the past year I’ve interviewed at dozens of companies in various industries, but nothing seemed to match up with my experience and goals. I’m great at what I do, working with numerous companies to build their digital presence, grow their brands, and connect with both current and potential customers, but be it a lack of specific skills, under or over-qualification, I never found that perfect fit.

There have been points over the past several years that I have struggled with crippling depression and alcoholism. Points where I could barely get out of bed in the morning. There have been points I’ve had to worry about defaulting on my student loans and being evicted from my apartment. If you follow me on various social media platforms, you’ve only seen what I wanted to portray and put out into the world. The image of a happy, successful individual, regardless of how far it was from the truth. But I never gave in. I took these experiences and focused on what I love and what I do well.

Through these learning experiences, reflections, successes, and failures I have had the opportunity to focus on things I love and am proud of. Closer relationships with my family and friends. A beautiful and healthy relationship with my amazing, successful, loving, and supportive girlfriend, Stephanie. Not being able to find the right professional fit through conventional means, I finally took a leap and started my own business, Engage Social Media Solutions, which as of this week is close to servicing a half dozen clients. Maybe most important to me at this moment (and as most of you are probably tired of hearing about by now), I converted my love of elevated and beautiful food in the New Brunswick and Central NJ area into CougEats, a food blog network highlighting deserving restaurants via Instagram, Facebook, and recently Patreon (in the hopes that those of you who appreciate the dedication to my passion may decide to support me). As you may have seen I’ve even had the opportunity to be published and make crucial industry connections.

It has not been easy. I have leaned on friends and family for support as I get my ventures up and running, but it’s because of you guys that I keep moving forward and continue chasing my dreams.

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Everyone come see how good we look!

2016 was one of the worst years of my life (aside from being lucky enough to meet my girlfriend, be crowned #BaradayXII MVP, and win my very first fantasy football championship). If it weren’t for my incredible family, friends, and girlfriend / best friend, I honestly can’t say where I would be or what I would be doing. As I begin my 30th year, I try to do so with a positive outlook and a renewed sense of accomplishment. I know many of you have also suffered silently, but it’s important to realize that if you’re lucky enough to have a support network, you are never alone. If you don’t feel like you have anyone to turn to, I promise that you do.

The moral of the story (as cliche as it is): Keep following your dreams, and regardless of how down and out you may feel, never ever give up. Thank you to all who have been there for me and had my back, and know that if you ever need it, I have your back too. Here’s to making my 30s the best years of my life. Cheers.


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2012: A Year of Extremes

Excuse me while I blow the dust off this blog like an old N64 cartridge. Speaking of which, let me go on an IMMEDIATE tangent: My friend was over the other night and said his mom was planning on throwing out some of his old videogames (NES, Sega Saturn, N64 etc.), to which me and my roommate FREAKED OUT and told him to make sure she did no such thing. I regretted trading in my N64, original GameBoy, and assorted games for basically one and half original Xbox games almost immediately after I did so. Not only because I didn’t think I would ever want to play them again (What I would give to play Banjo Kazooie, GoldenEye, Diddy Kong Racing, any of the San Francisco Rush games, or Perfect Dark right now…) but also because I could have gotten a thousand times more for them on eBay versus the pittance I got from GameStop when I originally sold them. We assured him that if he didn’t want to keep them, we would gladly take them off his hands, or if he did want to keep them he could probably make a good chunk of change selling all that old school gamer swag on eBay. So here’s a lesson for all you cash strapped kiddies out there: If you’re desperate for the new Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, Dance Dance Revolution, or whatever you’re all playing nowadays, sell a kidney but don’t sell your classic games to GameStop for a fraction of what they’re worth. Throw those gaming treasures on eBay > ??? > profit. You can thank me later.

It’s been a casual five months since my last blog post and clearly that “post every other week” thing didn’t work out so well. Like I hypothesized in August, the last thing I want to do after staring at two computer screens all day is come home and stare at my laptop screen for another hour or two. Pretty much all I want to do when I get home from work is drink, sleep, play videogames, or go to the gym. Oh and remember that blog post where I was super excited about getting Fallout 3 for $10? I just finished it and it’s DLC on Sunday…76 in-game hours later. Oh the problems of being a videogame completionist… Now onto Batman: Arkham Asylum, Fallout: New Vegas, Halo 4, & Black Ops II…eventually. Not a lot of time for videogames now that I’m (sort of) a grown up.

Anyway… Now that 2012 has come and gone, I figured I should sort of wrap up how ridiculous of a year it has been for me. I’ve gone from being more broke than I’ve ever been, to having more money than I’ve ever known in my life, to buried under a pile of student debt from which I may never recover; from being so depressed that I didn’t even want to leave my apartment, to being happier than I’ve ever been in my life; and from working as an Economic Development & GIS Consultant and attending graduate school for City & Regional Planning to working as a Social Media Manager and Consultant. I bought…well, financed…my (realistic) dream car, a 2004 Infiniti G35, moved into a new apartment with two of my pals, posted back up in the gym for the first time in a year and a half (EAT BIG TO GET BIG), started going to grown up bars, and thanks to Don Draper and Roger Sterling graduated from boxed wine, Captain Morgan, and Four Lokos, to scotch, bourbon, and martinis. 2012 was a year of self improvement and refinement, and all in all my life is considerably better than it was a year ago. But although I’m thankful, I’m certainly not complacent.

“The only thing worse than not getting what you want is someone else getting it.”
– Roger Sterling, Mad Men

Exactly six months ago today, when I started at my current position, I was thrilled at the opportunity to build my company’s social media presence from scratch. I developed our accounts, I collaborate with our graphic designer on our branding, manage our social advertising, campaigns and engagement strategy. Very few social media managers have full reign over their company’s accounts. But being a one man social media team at a company where few, if anyone else even knows what Twitter is can be pretty lonely, and the environment can be creatively stifling. Without saying too much about my company, let’s just say the industry is very slow to embrace new technology and media. I feel like I haven’t even begun to tap my potential as a Social Media/Community/Account Manager, and my New Year’s Resolution is to move into a role that will both challenge me and help me learn from the people around me. I know this term is played out, but hustle is the word of the year for 2013. I’ve also had the fortunate opportunity to gather a few social media consulting clients, and if I find out the agency route isn’t for me, a small business social media consulting venture might be another possible career path.

Oh and wow 2012 was an unreal year for movies. And since I love ranking things, let me rank the ones I saw:

1. Moonrise Kingdom
2. Skyfall
3. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
4. Lincoln
5. The Dark Knight Rises
6. Silver Linings Playbook
7. Looper
8. Django Unchained
9. Argo
10. The Avengers
11. Taken 2
12. Cloud Atlas
13. The Grey
14. Total Recall

Any year where a Christopher Nolan Batman movie is released and it isn’t my favorite movie means it must have been an outrageous year for movies. Daniel Day-Lewis deserves to win Best Actor for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln, Moonrise Kingdom might have been Wes Anderson’s best offering yet, and after Silver Linings Playbook I now have a full blown celebrity crush on Jennifer Lawrence (ugh and Bradley Cooper).

I also think I went to more professional sporting events in one year than I’ve ever been to as well. In 2012 I attended a Yankees – Tigers game, Jets – Panthers pre-season game, the U.S. Open, and an Eagles – Panthers game. Hopefully I’ll have the means to attend even more in 2013, but only time will tell.

Hey…you know, this felt kind of good to blog again, but maybe that’s the scotch talking? Anyway, I’ll try to do at least a post a month going forward to keep you all on your toes. Oh, and Kevin Youkilis is dead to me.

The Coug abides.

Four Years In The Making

Tomorrow. Tomorrow is the day. Twenty four hours from now I will be sitting in a movie theater at the Franklin Mills Mall in Philadelphia, two hours into my nine hour Batman Trilogy experience. During this marathon I will witness Bruce Wayne’s transformation into the caped crusader, his fall from Gotham’s good graces and his return from seclusion to triumph over a new foe. Or maybe, just maybe, his tragic death. Only time will tell.

The Coug Nook

I apologize for the recent lack of posts. It looks like I’ll be doing about a post a week instead of one every other day. I just don’t seem have the spare time due to my recent employment! Yup, that’s right. I’m a working Coug now. Last Monday I began my career in social media and honestly, I couldn’t be happier. Originally I was frustrated, thinking that my social media manager duties would take a back seat as I learned the ins and outs of the coin business. But seeing that I was basically given free reign over whatever accounts I would run for them, I actually haven’t even had enough time to get everything accomplished. You’d be surprised how much time building community bases and driving engagement takes up out of an 8(+) hour day. In less than two weeks I already have our Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest accounts up and running, with a modest follower base. I even launched our first social media campaign yesterday, trading a free coin submission for a Facebook like, Twitter follow, or Google+ add. And a big thank you to all my friends who have followed our accounts. I can’t give you any rare coins, but I can give you a kick ass high five.

I love the feeling of being productive all day and actually getting paid to do something I love. The idea still blows my mind. I’m getting paid to do this! I’ve already become a regular at the Bedminster Starbucks and Bedminster Pizza and Subs (and foursquare Mayor of course haha). I’ve always wanted to go to a place so often that I can just order “the usual.” Because, you know, I’m a nerd.

I was hoping this post title would have a dual meaning so I could make some awesome link between The Dark Knight Rises being four years in the making since The Dark Knight and my love of social media also being four years in the making, but then I realized that I created my Twitter account in 2009 and not 2008. Oh well. This post is more about Batman anyway. There was only a three year gap between 2005’s Batman Begins and 2008’s The Dark Knight (both of which I saw in theaters multiple times), while The Dark Knight Rises has been four years in the making due to the filming of Inception (seriously though, I don’t think Nolan could make a bad film even if he tried. Insomnia was his worst and even that wasn’t that bad.)

As I give Hans Zimmer’s masterful The Dark Knight Rises Soundtrack a listen while writing this (leading up to another
screening of The Dark Knight later), I get hints of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, as well as a little Sherlock Holmes and even The Rock, which was also scored by Hans Zimmer. My favorite tracks so far are “Mind If I Cut In?”, “The Fire Rises”, “Nothing Out There”, and “No Stone Unturned” from the Bonus Digital Edition…which I….paid…for……. Overall this might be my second favorite of the three Hans Zimmer Batman scores, with Batman Begins being the undisputed masterpiece. I still owe this one a few more listens, but it looks like The Dark Knight will be a close third. The Batman Begins soundtrack was just so much more orchestral. It flowed together like a sweeping symphony that could easily be listened to on its own. TDK and TDKR are very obviously tied to individual scenes. Still Batman. Still Zimmer. Still amazing. No complaints.

So, after learning a bit more about The Dark Knight Rises’ plot since my last post. I think I can safely say that most of my predictions were way off base (though I’m sticking with my R’as & Talia ones). But I caught flak for not even mentioning Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character. The reason for this was that I just don’t think he’s going to be anything mindblowing or some big reveal. I actually thought he’d make a pretty good Riddler when we were all speculating about who the villains would be. After watching the previews over and over, I’m thinking that because Commissioner Gordon is tagged as a “War Time Hero” and “this is peace time,” that JGL’s character, John Blake, might be the choice to supplant Gordon as commish. Also while he does seem like a good fit for Robin, Nolan has said numerous times that there would be no Robin in his Batman films.

But here’s what I’m thinking. On Nolan’s IMDB page, it had previously said he was on board as producer for an untitled Batman reboot project. Do you remember the WB series Batman Beyond? Where an elderly Bruce Wayne mentors the next Batman? Well it was freaking awesome and you should check it out if you’ve never seen it. But either way, I believe Bruce is going to be riddled with injuries through most of this film and probably even more so after he takes down Bane (if he doesn’t die). The possibility is there for Bruce Wayne to hang up his cape and cowl and pass them on to a younger successor, John Blake.

Obviously this is all speculation, but I think it’d be pretty damn cool. But for those of you seeing The Dark Knight Rises tomorrow at midnight, you and your friends better batten down the hatches, because there’s a storm coming Mr. Wayne.

The Dark Knight Rises: Speculations

I was hoping to get this post done during work today, but I couldn’t find enough time to give it my undivided attention. Oh yeah. If you didn’t know, I actually got a job…in social media…with no formal marketing/advertising/social media background. I’m the social media manager for a small company in Bedminster, NJ and will be working towards growing their brand and social media presence. So to all the agencies, brands, and start-ups who didn’t want to take a chance on me: your loss. Coug is on the prowl big time and you’re going to wish you snapped me up when you had the chance. #kanyeshrug

Anyway, on to the real post.

In exactly nine days I will be knee deep in a nine hour Christopher Nolan Batman extravaganza with a couple of the biggest Batman fans I know. It’s a little over a week until The Dark Knight Rises premiere and I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for a movie in my life (other than Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2), and I plan on watching both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight more times than I care to admit before next Thursday. As I said in my Avengers/Batman Rant post, if you plan on seeing The Dark Knight Rises and you haven’t watched either of the first two installments, you…you just have to. I’ll personally screen them for you. Seriously, come over to the Coug Den and we’ll crack some brews, eat some snack packs, and watch them.

The only reason I haven’t seemed more excited about TDKR is that I’ve been so busy with my job search. The fact is, I am unfathomably excited. As I said before, I’ve always been a big Batman fan and have read the comics and watched the WB animated series since I was a little tyke. More than that, I have enormous respect for Christopher Nolan as a director. Memento, Inception, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Prestige speak for themselves. I love the dark, cerebral style of his films, his passion for realism (even with superheroes) and how he digs deep into his characters’ psyches. The man is a visionary and one of the greatest directors of our generation. As I’ve been accustomed to saying when any of my friends express doubt about TDKR: In Nolan We Trust.

WARNING! | THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD!

For anyone who has been trying to steer clear of any TDKR gossip (or if you still haven’t seen Begins), you might not want to read this. Save it til after you watch it…like a time capsule. I’ve basically been doing research on TDKR from the moment it was announced. I’ve watched every trailer about fifty times and delved deep into the rumor mills and IMDB to see if I could gather any clues. Speculating about who the main villains would be, who would play them, etc. The only big teaser I didn’t watch was that opening scene that was played in front of select IMAX screenings of Mission Impossible 4. It’s since leaked on the internet but I didn’t want it to be ruined by shaky cam.

As disappointed as I was that Nolan didn’t choose The Riddler, Batman’s most cerebral foe (and imagine Daniel Day Lewis playing him), I’m still very happy with Bane and with the choice of Tom Hardy, who Nolan also worked with on Inception and got JACKED UP for this role. The 1997 abomination Batman & Robin (“You won’t put me in de coola!”) completely misrepresented Bane, who in addition to being freakishly strong is also one of Batman’s most intelligent adversaries.

In the comics, Bane is the only villain that can truly match Batman in hand-to-hand combat, in addition to breaking his back in an epic showdown. It’s my prediction that this will also happen in TDKR. In various photos you can see Bruce Wayne with a cane and scraggly beard. Additionally, on IMDB there are actors cast as Young Bruce Wayne, Young R’as al Ghul, and Young Talia al Ghul (I’ll get to her soon). I’m thinking Batman and Bane will have a scuffle early on, in which Bane will break Batman’s back. After this, Batman will be crippled and have to recover, allowing for a number of flashbacks, in which his early love interest, Talia al Ghul will be introduced.

Throughout most of the comics and cartoons Batman’s flame was always Talia al Ghul, the daughter of his mentor and friend R’as al Ghul. Although Marion Cotillard, also of Inception fame, is listed as playing someone named Miranda Tate, that’s most likely an alias for Talia, as Henri Ducard was for R’as al Ghul in Batman Begins. Speaking of which, Liam Neeson is listed on IMDB as playing R’as again, but it’s unclear whether it’s in a flashback or a return from the grave (“But is R’as al Ghul immortal?”). I actually think R’as comes back, perhaps to aid Bane’s terrorist campaign against Gotham.

“Your punishment must be more severe.”

Finally, in typical Nolan fashion, I’m predicting that Batman will actually die. I think after he recovers, he and Bane meet again in a final showdown and Batman is forced to kill Bane in order to save himself, which he has sworn to never do. Just imagine how heart wrenching it would be to reach the end of Nolan’s Batman saga with the death of the Dark Knight. The story comes full circle from Batman Begins, and once again Batman isn’t prepared to do what is necessary to defeat evil, paying for it with his life. As sad as it would be, I really hope Nolan went this route. “You don’t owe these people anymore. You’ve given them everything.” “Not everything…not yet.”

Also, I’ve heard a lot of people complaining about the inclusion of The Bat-Wing (just called The Bat in TDKR). It’s gonna be awesome. Just get over it. Oh and I guess Catwoman will be alright. I’m meh over Anne Hathaway, but the addition of Selina Kyle as another vigilante/Bruce Wayne love interest is pretty cool.

So when all is said and done, The Dark Knight Rises is going to be batshit awesome (ha!), and while it might not dethrone The Dark Knight as the greatest superhero movie of all time, it will still be a cinematic masterpiece and a perfect conclusion to the Dark Knight trilogy. So go watch Batman Begins. Now. Then watch The Dark Knight. Over and over again.

Wait. Here’s another trailer just for good measure.

All Star Game time. Coug out.

Stranger In a Strange Land

First off, Merry Half-Christmas to all you Workaholics fans! I hope the egg nog is flowing and your sweater is nice and festive.

Three weeks ago I had to move back to my parents house for the first time in over two years. I had been a full time grad student with off and on employment in the planning & economic development field, but none of those jobs materialized into something full time. Unfortunately, my apartment lease was up at the end of May (Pro tip: be sure to read through your entire lease just in case your complex throws in some clause like you have to give them 60 days notice that you’re moving out. Otherwise, you’ll probably lose your entire security deposit…Not that it happened to me or anything.) and I’ve been unable to find a full time job in either social media or planning. Not for lack of trying though, since I’ve sent out over 70 applications since the end of April. Out of those seventy I’ve gotten seven phone or in-person interviews (ironically all in social media related positions, none in planning). That works out to a .100 batting average, so if I were playing baseball I’d probably be optioned to AAA, unless I was Adam Dunn. So like the Dunnkey, the idea is for one of those seven hits to be a home run. Maybe I just can’t fake enthusiasm for a planning job, since the prospect of landing a job in a field I’ve grown to dislike depresses me. Plus, I don’t have to fake anything in my social media cover letters or interviews since I’m sincerely passionate about it.

Honestly, I’m very confident in my ability to land a job soon (maybe delusionally so), and I guess you could say that I’m too proud to take any part time job in the mean time (especially if it meant crawling back to TD Bank). Needless to say money is tight. Anyway, being back home I sort of feel like a stranger. Being an only child, but never really spoiled, I have to say that my parents and I don’t always get along. The fact that our house is very small probably doesn’t help either. In addition, the majority of my friends no longer live at home. Most have moved to New York or other far off locations, and the ones that are home I don’t end up seeing all that often. Because of this I spend a lot of my time trying to stay out of my house and keep sane. It’s not easy. For instance, my mom has been teaching art classes out of our house for about ten years now. Normally she teaches several one hour classes a week, which means on any given day there are kids coming in and out of my house. Over the summer it’s even worse, since she teaches week long art camps for 3-4 hours a day. So during these camps, my house is overrun by children. It’s like Lord of the Flies up in here. I’m considering organizing some sort of Hunger Games to weed out the weak ones. To make matters worse, a couple years ago my father found out he could basically work from home, despite our house not having any sort of office. I don’t think he’s been to his actual office in over a year, and instead has taken over our dining room. Because of how small our house is, it has pretty much been monopolized by my mother’s art classes and my father and his conference calls for the majority of the day, driving me into my room or out of the house for some sort of sanctuary. Luckily my friend is letting me use his roommate’s MLB.tv, plus Wimbledon just started (Novak repeat!), so I can fill a lot of the void with sports.

On days I can’t fill with sports, I’ve been shacking up at the local coffee shop (try the Iced Matcha Green Tea) and pretending I’m writing the great American screenplay. Today I’m trying to stay out of the house until at least 4 PM. So until then I’ve been managing my social media, turntabling in the Coug Lounge and following up on some job applications. I actually followed up with some on Friday at around 4:30 PM, as if anyone would be checking their e-mail on a Friday at 4:30 PM. I’m pretty excited to finally be seeing The Avengers tonight, since I haven’t really had anyone to see it with. I might try to watch Thor, Captain America, or both before I go as a refresher. Both of which were much better than I had expected, but I went into both with pretty low expectations.

Banana & Almond Butter Stuffed French Toast

My friend Kenny and I had a delightful, totally hetero, non-bougie brunch at The Garden Gourmet in Clinton. It’s a pretty new breakfast spot/cafe that I’ve been meaning to try out, plus it’s right along the river and you can eat outside. It’s pretty much the most Brooklyn thing we have in Clinton. I ordered french toast stuffed with bananas and almond butter, which obviously I spotted on Foodspotting. It was pretty delicious, minus the fact that the french toast was a little chewier than french toast should probably be, but that might have been the bread they used. Also, the service was pretty slow for only having us and one other table. That wouldn’t have been a problem, other than the fact that my friend only had 45 minutes for his lunch. I’ll definitely be stopping by again though. The menu looked delicious.

That’ll be all for now. I guess I’ll try to get some real work done before my Avengers marathon. Have to pick up a Mike & Gian sticker from Sub Base too.

Welcome to the Coug Blog

This is my first foray into the world of blogging and at the moment I don’t intend on this being about any specific topic. I imagine I’ll post about a number of things, ranging from sports, movies, music, and TV to social media, tech, and apps, to general rants about life. Needless to say I’m always on the prowl for the next big thing. If you want to know more about me, check out the Man Behind the Coug tab or follow me on Twitter (link on the right). I’m about to engage in some poolside day drinking so this will be all for now. Sit back and enjoy the ride.