Today’s interview with Scott Bjerk is part of my ongoing blog-to-book project: Life After High School: Secrets To A Successful Life By Those Who Have Had Twenty Years To Think About It (or) What They Didn’t Teach Us Gen Xers In High School. If you missed the last post, click here, otherwise, you can start at the beginning here.
Scott Andrew Bjerk
My Life In High School
Who were you in High School and how did you feel about it?
Quiet, smart, reserved, tech-kid. I was rather ignorant of my ‘social status’ and kept mostly to myself, a few classmates, friends from church, and my computer.
What did you think your life would become when you graduated?
I wanted to program video games…. That dream was evident in that I took on 3D Animation as a senior project, spent 2 quarters at the University of WA studying computer science – and then transferring over to the Seattle Art Institute for their Computer Animation program. While it has not yet come to fruition, I still have a dream and desire for this line work and pursue it as a hobby.
My Life After High School
What happened in your life to you, for you, and by you in the last twenty years (how have you used your time and who have you become)?
A brief overview of the past 20 years in Scott Andrew Bjerk’s Life:
1996 Graduated High School – jump-Started at UW that summer.
1997 Transferred to Art Institute and started work at ‘AFTS’
1998 … continued studies
1999 Graduated Art Institute. Searched for work in L.A. – eventually found himself ‘homeless’ for a day and returned home to live with Mom.
2000 Produced the Short Film ‘The Grapefruit’ (Unreleased)
2001 Grandfather passed. Scott stood by his hospice bedside. (Also experienced a 6.0 Seattle Earthquake, and of course 9/11 that year.)
2004 Became friends with Shannon online which turned into a long distance relationship
2005 Shannon moved to Seattle. A trip to Russia.
2006 Proposal. Seattle Printing. 10 year Reunion
2008 Joyful years marriage, Various travels, life with pets.
2011 Shannon’s trip to FL to help amidst her Grandma’s Funeral and her parent’s struggling relationship.
2012 Shannon’s Passing, Her Father’s passing a few months later.
2013 Scott visited Shannon’s family Florida. Pet Parrot dies.
2014 Mission Trip to Africa
2015 New York (Shannon’s Mother passing, a visit with her Family)
2016 20-year Reunion, Trip Israel/France
“CHALK IT UP TO LIFE – Scott Bjerk”
After Graduating from High School I jumped straight into Summer Quarter Studies at the University of Washington to pursue a Computer Science degree.
I was excited for a new chapter in life… filled with hope and a sense of ambition.
Things didn’t work out so well and after receiving failing marks at the UW. I switched to the Art Institute of Seattle where I received a degree in Computer Animation in 1999.
Failing classes at the UW was emotionally painful. It was a stark contrast to my top grades in High School and a blow to my ambition to do well. The Art Institute was a welcome change both in pacing and as a creative outlet.
After graduating with my degree in Computer Animation in 1999, I spent a short time that summer in L.A. looking for work. I found that I was not competitive there in my industry.
While in California there soon came a day where I had to sleep ‘homeless’ in my car. This was another emotional blow and another “Chalk-it-up-to-experience” situation. (That’s what the optimist calls the pessimist’s “failure”). I returned home to the Northwest to live with my Mom temporarily.
Upon my return to the Northwest, I undertook the role of Film Producer and made a short film called “The Grapefruit”. It was a fun ‘experiment’, and I considered it a successful project—but again felt defeated as it was never released/submitted/finalized, and in the end really felt like nothing more than a “hobby project”, though I wanted it to lead to something more. “Chalk-it-up-to-experience”.
In 2001, I was back in Seattle. I experienced the ‘Big-Quake’, registering over 6.8. That year I also traveled back to Minnesota and stood by my Grandfather’s bedside at the hospice where he passed away. This was also the year of the now historic 9/11 attack.
In Seattle, I was rehired to work my old ‘College’ office job, and I advanced there over the following years. I became quite involved with my Church—volunteering with the Youth Ministry/Outreach program. We worked with inner-city kids and I am sure I’ll never fully know the impact I had there! I do know the huge and positive impact those years had on me.
As time went on, I made a connection with ‘Chromeglints’ as she was known on the message boards. It wasn’t long before Shannon and I were talking every night on the phone in a long distance relationship. The catch, however, was that she was in Bradenton, Florida and I was still in Seattle. After a year it was decided either move on or move closer to one another, so in 2005 she moved to Seattle.
I had by that point begun going to a different church. The year Shannon moved closer to me—I had the opportunity to travel on a mission trip with my Church to Russia. It was only 10 days, but I hadn’t gone hardly a day prior without talking with Shannon. It was a good trip and fantastic experience, but I was happy to be home. There was something about her that I loved so much.
Together we undertook a new adventure together. I had an opportunity to take ownership of a Print Shop in Seattle even securing the name “Seattle Printing”. Together with Shannon and a small staff we were making a good amount of revenue. Gross revenue that is. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to keep up with expenses. In the end, the business was losing money and I came to a point in tears finally making the decision to sell it off at a loss. More chalk.
That was the year of my 10-year High School Reunion. I pulled up in Red Mustang convertible, I was CEO of my company, and I had a wonderful fiancé…Yep, I proposed to her that year on a trip out to the Washington Coast. 6 months later we went back to Florida to be married in her hometown, March 31st, 2007.
The following few years were “wedded bliss”. They were! Sure there were fits of frustration, but we always worked our way back to love, forgiveness and understanding before a day was over. I truly believe God was guiding us in our relationship with one another. Pets, travel, holidays, it was all the little things that filled the time.
Shocking news came in 2011 that Shannon’s Grandmother had taken her own life. Shannon’s parents were struggling in their relationship, her mom had fallen with a severe injury, and together Shannon and I decided she would travel down for an extended period of time to attend to the needs of her family. Her caring heart was so big.
Little did I know just how sweet that time with her family would be. I know this to be God’s timing. Little did any of us know Shannon would see her family for the last time those months she stayed there with them. Sunday, February 19th, 2012 she would suddenly, and without any expectation, be gone.
There are just some experiences you want to claim. These come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. They leave us grieving. It a funny thing, though… It’s the pleasant memories that hurt the most—they are the ones you wish to have again and know will never be the same. A moment of joyful memory covered over by sorrow of that loss.
I don’t grieve the morning I woke up in bed and she did not. I grieve the pet names she called me, the odd way we held hands with fingers not split evenly, I grieve the big heart… Oh, the painful ironic twist is that it was, in fact, her physically enlarged heart that failed her (we learned she died of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy). Pain heals in time, but it is as an amputee—the wound heals, but there will always be a missing part of me.
Her father soon passed about 5 months later. Her mother then passed 3 years later. I have remained good friends with my In-laws over these difficult years.
Life didn’t stand still for me. I didn’t stand still for it either. In the subsequent years, I had the opportunity to travel again with my church, this time to Africa. If I ever thought I had a difficult and painful life, I was given a measure of perspective. In contrast to that, I traveled to and across New York state the following year where Shannon’s brother and sister ended up. From Times Square to Niagara Falls it was a completely different type of trip.
It is hard to condense the years down to only key moments. Not only that, but I will soon add to my adventures stories from a trip I have planned to see Israel and France.
With financial stability, a steady yet flexible work schedule, opportunities for world travel, great friends and family (like those I re-connected with at my 20-year reunion), and so many other unique to myself experiences, it’s hard to feel I have somehow missed anything that was meant for me in this life.
Whether I tell my story of loss, of love, or adventure; one from the pages Africa or my upcoming layover in Zurich, I remain aware of every blessing my life has been. Even if it has been disguised with a bit of chalk-dust along the way.
My Life Lessons
What were the major life lessons and wisdom that you gained during your journey over the last 20 years?
More or less answered in other responses. -SB
Letter To My High School Self
If you could write your 18-year-old self (or however old you were when you graduated) a letter, and send it back in time, what would you say? What lessons, wisdom, encouragement, or warnings would you give yourself?
There are so many lessons I’ve learned, but life hands us all a different set of circumstances and sometimes the best lessons for us are the ones you learn along the way.
You made it this far.
You’ll journey out adding story after story to your life. Here are a few lessons life has given me:
1. Don’t be afraid of trying things. Things can be fixed or replaced—It is a matter of inconvenience and cost involved in a mistake, but the world hasn’t yet ended due to someone’s mistake, and more frequently is made better because of them.
2. Remember, The best way around is through. (A lesson I learned from life and from watching Pro-football where it is uncommon to see them run the ball around the outside… When this is done it is usually a last resort.)
3. Consistently doing a good job is better than inconsistently doing a slightly better one.
…But remember batter made with inconsistent butter is still consistently good, (You don’t have to worry as much when the right ingredients are there).
4. ‘Obedience’ and ‘Disobedience’ are not opposites as you may think. Consider partial obedience, this is still being disobedient. However, partial disobedience does not become obedience. Obedience is only the fullness of obedience, and by itself is its own reward. Many, many times though the reward ends up being greater.
5. I would be remiss not to share my faith in Jesus with my words of wisdom so I close with this:
I firmly believe God is real and that he allows us to be nearly godlike in our own way (“Made in His image”). In our desire be our own person there is plenty that we do that doesn’t measure up. Faith in Jesus is trusting that He became the substitute for our shortfalls, the sacrifice for our sin. More than that it is trusting that when we pursue His way of life, when we pursue Him, that such a life is the one ultimately best suited for us.
Is this really the truth? That is itself a matter of great faith. I would, of course, encourage it and count it as my wisdom to you.
Wishing you many Blessings,
In the next post, I will start chapter 9.
Are you from Generation X? I want to hear what you think! Please comment below and participate in the conversation about What They Didn’t Teach Us Gen Xers In High School. What do you wish someone told you when you were eighteen?