Laid off? Here’s to our health!

Today officially begins the transition of this blog from my wife, Marcy Smith, member of The News & Observer “graduating” Class of October 2008 to me, Joe Miller, member of The News & Observer graduating Class of April 2009. (My posts begin February 19, and while written on the dates listed, were not posted until yesterday.)

This may seem like an American Tragedy, husband and wife laid off within a half year of each other, but it’s not. Far from it. For me, yes, I could have written about health, fitness and the outdoors for The News & Observer for another 20 years, retired, and been happy. I mean, this has been my job for the past dozen years or so: Work from home, set my own hours, ride my bike across the state, snowboard, backpack — do whatever, and get paid to write about it. It’s been work and it hasn’t been all fun and adventure. Still, it has been a dream job. And yet ...

Had I lived out my work life in such a manner I would have looked back and lamented the things I wanted to do — and didn’t. Write books, for instance. Now, I have written books while doing this job: “Take It Outside: A Guide to Hiking the Triangle” in 1998, “100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina” in 2007 and I’m currently working on a backpacking guide to the Tarheel state that’s scheduled to come out in spring 2011. But there is no small amount of irony in the fact that by day I wrote about striving for a healthy lifestyle — including getting plenty of rest and exercise — and by night, a night that on occasion lasted until 5 in the morning — I worked my second job writing books. Not a great combination, nor one that could have continued. Already, my publisher has asked if I can start on a book we casually discussed late last year.

I also find the internet to be a far superior means of portraying the outdoors experience. It’s visual (slide shows, movies), it’s audio (podcasts), it’s written, it’s got the potential to deliver exactly what people interested in exploring the outdoors are interested in. Thus, I’m in the process of starting a Web site that I hope will provide outdoors types — from cyclists to paddlers to hikers to climbers — with whatever interests them. More about that in posts to come.

So what will this blog be about? Losing your job is one of the 10 most stressful events in a person’s life. (This from a random sampling of Web “sources,” not including unemployed bloggers ranting in their pajamas.) Stressful events tend to take a huge toll on our health. The curious thing, though, is that now that you’ve lost your job, you have more time to exercise, more time to plan your meals and eat better. It’s a dichotomy at once perfectly understandable and at the same time without explanation. Why would we rather sit by the phone waiting to hear on a job application and eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s instead of going for a walk and taking our cell phone with us? Why do we continue to hit McDonald’s for breakfast when we no longer have to punch the clock by 7:30?

Perhaps those questions are easy for me to ask now, just a week into self-employment. (That’s my first key to eliminating post-employment stress, viewing myself as “self” employed as opposed to “un” employed.) Over the coming days, weeks and months I’ll be exploring whether it’s not only possible to maintain your health, but to improve it. To maybe even get in the best shape of your life. And not just me. I’ll be talking with other people who’ve also been given this opportunity to see how they’re making the most of it healthwise, as well as talking to health care professionals to see what they suggest.

Tomorrow : My baseline stats at the start of this venture.


John Dancy-Jones said...

They are going to miss you at NandO, Joe - more than they know - you are a big part of the plane engine that has just been ejected to gain height on the doomed jetliner that is our fine local newspaper. But you are well equipped, and poised as shown here on this blog, to take advantage of this "opportunity." Best of luck and see you on the greenways!

Ronda Watts said...

Don't go, Joe (Miller)!

Joe, I read this morning's article and learned you will be leaving the N&O as a featured writer. I have enjoyed your writing so much over the years, always finding your columns interesting and motivating. So motivating, in fact, that I joined you in one of those adventures myself! My time on the Adventure Race Team was a high light for me...thanks to your encouragement, guidance, and companionship, I learned to mountain bike, paddle, and find my way with a compass through the woods in two short months. And what a reward! I now have bragging rights for having competed in an Adventure Race! And at the age of 39! Not bad :)

Joe, I wish you the best as you take off for your next adventure. I'm sure you'll land on your feet and make many new friends along the way. Thank you for the time you've spent here with us!

Ronda Watts

thomastrails said...

Joe, My husband and I have enjoyed your N&O columns and we will miss your hiking recommendations. Best of luck, Ann and Jim

Jennifer said...

I am excited to find your blog, I loved reading your N&O articles and blog posts and look forward to reading your work here!

tandemonium said...

Thanks, Joe. We'll never know how many people you motivated to "Get out! Get fit!" but we always enjoyed your work and tried some new activities thanks to you. We'll miss you in the N&O.

We're all the poorer for the slimmed down paper and the lessened oversight of our government by the ink-stained wretches of the fourth estate.

Hope to see you on the road. Tailwinds to you!

Joe Miller said...

Y'all are very kind. And Ronda — great to hear from you. I was telling someone at lunch today about your experience on the adventure race team. Glad to hear you're doing well.

I'll soon be writing on another blog as well. Details tk.

Anonymous said...

As an avid N & O reader and outdoor enthusiast, I always looked forward to your articles and will miss them. Like the others who have left a comment, I believe your column and blog had quite an impact on educating and motivating the community to move more and try new activities. Best of luck to you and your family.