How a House Fire Made Me Who I am Today

My destroyed house while the debris was getting cleared out.

My destroyed house while the debris was getting cleared out.

On December 18, 2012, two days after my 25th birthday, I was sitting in my living room around noon. It was a day like any other, except something unsuspecting would happen. There was a pop in the wall behind me. I didn’t have time to evaluate the situation or ponder on what caused the noise because the burnt plastic smell told me right away. It was a spark.

I immediately threw the couch away from the wall and saw the old curtain was already on fire. I tried to kick it and put the fire out, but my attempts were to no avail. I ran to my refrigerator and grabbed a giant container of water. I even thought for a second how lucky I was that I hated the iron water from my well and kept distilled water for drinking. Those positive thoughts quickly dissipated as the water hit the fire and did basically nothing. It was at that point I saw the fire was coming out of the outlet and that’s when I knew that the fire was inside the wall. I ran into the kitchen and frantically looked for something, anything. I turned around and saw the fire was already at the ceiling of the living room. I grabbed a shirt and covered my mouth, ran into my living room, grabbed my cell phone and darted out the back door. That move actually singed the front of my hair, but I didn’t realize that until a firefighter pointed it out to me later.

As I ran down my back porch steps, there was a sound similar to a cannon firing and the living room window blew out causing glass to fly everywhere. I called 911 and waited at the road with nothing but the pair of gym shorts I was wearing and the phone in my hand. Slowly, the rest of the neighborhood came and stood with me offering me apologies and small tokens of help. I appreciatively smiled to them, but my mind was still numb at the sight in front of me.

The house that was burning was where I grew up. It was old. The walls were covered in wooden panels, a practice not done anymore because it is essentially turning your walls into flint. The insulation was old, as was the wiring. Perhaps I was lucky that something like that didn’t happen earlier. After all, it could have happened while I was sleeping.

I have always considered myself a strong person, but there is no denying that it was devastating. Not only did I lose everything from my childhood, I also lost everything I owned too. On top of that, I received a dose of reality on how mortal I am. If it had happened just a little earlier, I would have died in my sleep. Insurance did pay for most of my lost items eventually, but I was in a bad spot right after the fire.

I had no house and belongings. I had no clothes. I lost all of my school work as well as my computer. My dad lived an hour away which would have turned my drive to school into a two hour trip each way. As hopeless as the situation seemed, something magical happened. My friends and family popped up wanting to help, especially my girlfriend and her family. Even my friends’ parents gave me things. People on Facebook that I hadn’t seen in years were messaging me telling me I could stay at their house if I needed to. I must have had more than 30 people contact me wanting to help.

My network turned my tragedy into a manageable problem that didn’t ruin my life. When school started again after the Christmas break, I was able to drive my normal route to school and do my work on someone else’s computer. Because of the charity of everyone, I was able to get my life back on track until the insurance money came in and allowed me to support myself and replace my belongings.

Looking back, I can see that this network that helped me is the same concept that is used in public relations. Whether you need help getting a message out or getting access to new potential clients, a network of friends and strangers is necessary. Like when someone gave me a shirt, someone can give a retweet. A place to stay for a few days is like an opportunity to guest blog. Maybe it is silly to downplay my traumatizing experience by comparing it to the public relations industry, but I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to learn from it. It is only traumatizing if I let it be. I choose not to.

If there was anything that I gained from the house fire, it is strength. I didn’t crumble to my near-death experience or the things from my childhood that were lost. I’ll never get to show my kids the chess set from Jerusalem or the Slovenian history-themed Tarok card game set their great-grandfather gave to me before he died. I’ll never get to look back at anything I ever accomplished or the hundreds of poems and novels I endlessly wrote as a kid that made me want to be a writer like I am today. It was humbling, but it was strengthening. I am a firm believer that God does everything for a reason and now I look forward, ready to make an imprint in the public relations industry. I’m ready for whatever comes my way because I feel like I’ve already been through the worst.

Did you have a situation in your life that you learned from like this? It doesn’t have to be traumatizing, but I would love to hear it in the comments section.

-Marty F. Nemec

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A guest post I wrote about my time interning at Axia Public Relations.

I hope you enjoy it. I’ll have something deeper on here eventually, but it is cool that I got some placement on the actual company website. Let me know what you think. Did your internship experience in public relations or marketing go like mine?

Click here to read the post.

And gosh, do I hate the picture they used of me! Hah.

-Marty F. Nemec

I Am Now a College Graduate

A lot has happened in my life recently. My house burned down seven months ago and I had to find another place to live quickly. It definitely threw a wrench into my life’s plans. Then, I made the decision to switch careers. It has been hectic, but I did hit a milestone I’ve been working towards.

As of two days ago, I am a graduate of the North Florida with a Bachelor’s degree in journalism.

It wasn’t easy, but I enjoyed it. Writing has always been a passion of mine and being able to do it for a grade has been rewarding, yet demanding. Reporting is hard. People are not very cooperative when you need information from them. I’m so glad I’m done and now I can move onto the next chapter of my life: starting my career.

You may or may not care, but this was big for me and I had to post it. May you also achieve the goals you have set up for yourself!

Martygraduate2

Martygraduate3

-Marty F. Nemec

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The Fear of Being Between Journalism and Public Relations

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public-relations-malaysia-2

My college experience has come to an end and my career is beginning. There is a problem, though. (We’re about to get personal here)

I graduated with a degree in journalism and I have made the decision to go into public relations.

As a kid, I used to write poetry and little novels about robots and magic. My brother and I went to a Catholic school that was pretty far away and no one from the school lived by us. We would kick a soccer ball back and forth in the front yard or play with a football. Other than that, there wasn’t a whole lot to do. Most of our time was spent playing video games together.

Other than writing, nothing had more impact on my video games more than video games, especially this one.

Other than writing, nothing had more impact on my video games more than video games, especially this one.

Another one of the activities I did was write. My brother didn’t share that interest, but it didn’t stop me. I wrote every day. My novels that I wrote in black and white composition books had a little following in my school and I would regularly let people borrow them so they could read the new chapters. It was fun, although I hadn’t looked at those books in years before my house burned down, so I’m sure they aren’t that great.

Yes, my house did burn down December 18, 2012. That was the house I grew up in and it happened two days after my birthday. I pretty much lost most of the things from my childhood, but I have already come to terms with that. It did lead to a pretty lengthy break on my blog, though!

Another passion of mine is sports. I’m a diehard Ohio State Buckeyes fan and I have been for my whole life. FOr anyone who doubts me, I live in Middleburg, Fla. Gainesville is literally an hour drive away from here. I’ve been to Gainesville many times. In fact, I went to the Gators’ 82-6 win over Central Michigan in 1997, which is still the most points the Gators have ever scored in a game. The Gators are the team of almost all of my friends, minus a few Florida State fans. I definitely root for Florida and Florida State for the sake of my family and friends, but O-H for life.

Writing and sports have always been passions of mine and it made sense to pursue them in college. My plan was to be a sportswriter. My school, the University of North Florida, didn’t have a special major for sportswriters so I had to do traditional journalism. I’m extremely glad I did go that route because I believe it has helped my writing in unimaginable ways. I am very proud and confident in my writing and majoring in journalism helped get me here.

As I went through college, I felt good about my position. I figured I could pursue a sports writing job and if that fell through, I would just do journalism in a more traditional area.

The closer I got to graduating, the more I realized I hate reporting. I hate journalism that isn’t sports journalism. I don’t like interviewing people who don’t want to talk to me. I don’t like having to beg people to call me back on a story that helps them. The fact that Jacksonville only has one major sports team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, didn’t help my case to be a sports writer. I would have had to move.

I started to second guess my decision, but it was the path I cut for myself in the jungle that is life. Then, a beautiful thing happened. I had two electives and a senior internship standing between me and my degree. I did a journalism internship because I had to, but as one of my electives, I took Introduction to Public Relations with Professor Chunsik Lee.

My mind was blown and immediately I saw that I could have my cake and eat it too… with chocolate syrup on top! I had been blogging and using social media professionally for years. I would be able to write and connect with people, while not having to report! I was immediately entranced. I bought a giant box full of books about Social Media, Public Relations, Marketing, and SEO. I devoured all of the information I could find. I vamped up all of my social media profiles and my blog, using my new knowledge to try to gain more influence.

This led to the obvious next step: trying to find a job in the field. I searched for everything Public Relations-related in Jacksonville, Fla. and all I found were jobs that required experience. There were very few jobs that would take people right out of college. I probably wouldn’t be able to get them because I don’t have a public relations degree. While I would confidently put my writing next to their’s, I didn’t learn how to plan PR campaigns, host events, or talk to potential clients.

After a very long talk with my girlfriend and a large amount of thinking, I decided to try to get an internship at a PR agency. I researched all of the public relations firms in the city of Jacksonville and I quickly decided that I would try Axia PR first. It is a very respectable organization and it has represented big companies like Miller Lite, Verizon, and Dave & Busters.

AXIA logo with public relations

Although it is an unpaid internship, I decided that was best for my future. I have gone through two phone interviews and I have an in-person interview set for Tuesday. Darby, the woman who did the phone interviews, has been very nice and she and I share many similarities as she was a broadcast journalism major and switched to PR. Jason Mudd, the CEO, also was a journalist 20 years ago when he decided to do PR. Mudd went on to create an incredibly successful PR firm. I have been given a great opportunity and I hope I can get the internship.

I hope that at the end of the internship, I will be able to write on my resume that I am a PR practitioner and I know everything a PR graduate knows. I will also hopefully get some good references by working hard every day I am there. Best case scenario would be if Axia offered me a job after the internship, but I’d be an idiot to hope for that.

I sit here scared because I don’t know what to expect. What if I get this internship and then when I’m done, no one will still hire me because I don’t have a PR degree? What if Axia decided they don’t want me and then I can’t get another internship. I have invested a good amount of time into public relations now. This is what I want to do and the idea of going back to journalism with my tail between my legs isn’t an enticing thought. Could I even produce great work when I don’t want to be in that field?

I’m floating in limbo right now, between the career I want to be in and the career I trained to be in. I am dedicated to making it and I don’t intend on giving up, but I really it works out. It’s scary to have my future uncertain. I just really hope I get this internship. That will be the start of public relations journey.

Have any comments on this? Any advice for me? Have you gone through this yourself? I’d love to hear them. Please comment below.

Also, if you actually read this whole thing and liked it, click the “like” button below and follow my blog. I have a lot more interesting stuff on the way!

-Marty F. Nemec

My Transition from Sports Blogger to PR Practitioner

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Like many people in their careers, I have arrived at the crossroads.

Today was my last day of college. Today would be the day that I sit down and reevaluate my life. It would be the day I peer into my own soul without the outside noise of college homework, projects and tests slapping down every thought. There is a problem, though.

I already did it. Months ago, in fact.

It started when I chose to take Introduction to Public Relations as one of my last two electives. Within a few classes, my mind opened and my vision of the future was turned upside down.

PR

I have been thinking about my position in life and the location I live in. The truth is that sports blogging and journalism in general doesn’t work for my future. Journalists have to do more than they ever have, yet they get paid less than they ever have. I was sure I was willing to not make much money with the hope of eventually becoming a sports writer, which would still not get me much money but I would enjoy my job. It was a pipe dream that I would have suffered through to maybe not achieve. I had never realized that.

I love writing more than anything in the world, but I don’t care for reporting. I don’t care to interview people who don’t want to talk to me and research topics that don’t interest me. The reporting would honestly only be fun for me if it was about sports. Writing about sports is a wonderful idea, but how many people get to actually do it? How many people actually make decent money doing it?

Public relations is a whole new world to me. It’s exciting and the field is comprised of so many different tasks. Social media, press release writing, publicizing, event planning, crisis management, and more are under the public relations umbrella. Journalism is get your story, research the topic, set up an interview, get quotes, write the story, add quotes, turn in the story, get it back with revisions, then turn it back in, and repeat. Over and over and over. The two-way communication model of PR is fascinating. Using SEO to pull the invisible strings of search engines is fascinating. Helping support causes and change the behavior of people is fascinating. We don’t just inform. We influence! How cool is that?

These are the median incomes for public relations jobs in 2012 and 2013. Note they are on the rise. (Graphic by: PRWeek US)

These are the median incomes for public relations jobs in 2012 and 2013. Note they are on the rise. (Graphic by: PRWeek US)

Even more importantly, public relations is getting bigger and bigger each year. The pay is also going up every year. There is money and a future there. I will actually be able to live comfortably with a public relations job. Money isn’t everything but it is something. I want to raise a family and live comfortably. I want to be able to go on vacations and buy nice things. Money is something.

What does this mean for you, my fans and readers? Well, it actually doesn’t mean much.

I love sports. I love watching sports and writing about sports. I have kept this blog up for years and I haven’t received even a penny for it. I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. I will keep writing about sports and I will keep tweeting about sports. I will just do it less.

I will be posting and tweeting about public relations from time to time. I have to get knowledgeable on the subject and I will be dedicating the rest of the summer to researching public relations, other than the time I put into my internship at Folio Weekly. I already have purchased six books about SEO, social media, and marketing. I also have subscribed to PR magazines and I have signed for countless PR newsletters. My goal is to be a transformed man by the end of summer. I am confident my base in writing, along with my new-found PR knowledge, will help me get my foot in the PR field.

Not too much will change, but this is worth mentioning. I have dedicated myself 100 percent to public relations. I hope this helps explain why.