When you meet someone that has a special energy you can sense it in your soul right away. You usually are not sure what or why, but if you are open enough to find out the reason, it can be life changing. When I first met Katie Wells I was in Austin, Tx. I was enjoying the amazing nightlife in Austin with my buddy Shane (I spoke about Shane in my earlier blog about Austin). Shane has this contagious energy and he easily attracts like minded people into his life, not just with his bodacious beard and high fives, but with his gentle and caring soul. Shane and I were enjoying a beer at one of the rad bars in the Rainey Street Historic District (bars that were created from historic homes) when he spots this 6ft blonde and goes “Boom, she needs a high five.” He starts the conversation with a high five and a hour of conversation about life evolves. The conversation quickly turned into Shane extending an offer to Katie to hang out with us the next day. Katie of course accepted the offer ( I mean who wouldn’t want to hang out with Shane and I) and stopped by Shane’s pad the next day as we had some pre-cocktails and prepared for a night out in Austin with Shane as our gracious tour guide. During the conversation Katie mentioned that she lives in NYC, Manhattan, and played division 1 volleyball at Fordham University in the city. I told her all about my trip, my love life (which I was really struggling with at the time), and my crazy adventures thus far. Her Response:
“When you come through New York, you have to stay with me for a couple days so I can show you around. I am the best tour guide in New York. I know all the cool spots!!”
From her comment, which says a lot about who she is, we will begin the amazing story of Katie Wells and how I discovered the source of the contagious and bright energy she radiates onto everyone who crosses her path.
It is Friday night and I am in Washington, DC hanging out with my ex teammate Awvee Storey and I shoot Katie a text:
“I know it is late notice, but I am coming into the city tomorrow night. Does the offer still stand?”
Her response “My Maid finishes around 5pm, so plan to get here after that and then we can go do something fun. Also, my couch is going to be a struggle for you, but it is all yours. What do you want to do? Food, Drinking, Going out, Touristy stuff?”
My response: “You are the best tour guide in the City, show me what you want to show me.”
Katie’s response to my last minute text, again is just an example of the type of person she is. On a two hour notice, she opens up her home to a complete stranger (we only hung out for about 12 hours in Austin). What type of heart does a person have to possess to say: “yes, and I will drop everything and take you out.” Well……keep reading and you will soon find out what type of heart she has. Let’s just say if her heart was a city, it would be the Big Apple.
I get into Manhattan and I am looking for a parking spot close to her place in Gramercy Neighborhood in New York City. Anyone who knows New York, or has watched an episode of Seinfeld, knows how tough finding a good parking city in Manhattan can be.
George: Look, I have my system. First I look for the dream spot right in front
of the door, then I slowly expand out in concentric circles.
Elaine: Oh come on, George, please put it in a garage. I don’t want to spend
an hour looking for a space.
George: I can’t park in a garage.
George: Nobody in my family can pay for parking, it’s a sickness. My father never paid for parking; my mother, my brother, nobody. We can’t do it.
Elaine: I’ll pay for it.
George: You don’t understand. A garage. I can’t even pull in there. It’s
like going to a prostitute. Why should I pay, when if I apply myself, maybe I
could get it for free?
Sorry, I just had to add a quote from the Seinfeld parking space episode. I take one lap around the block and boom, there is the dream spot right in front of Katie’s place on 25th street. Ahh, I applied myself and I didn’t have to lower my standards and go to a parking garage. Katie comes running out like a welcoming party and she is definitely impressed with my amazing parking skills (Reality check: she had to help me park because we jammed it into the smallest space possible). When I jump out of my car I am greeted by a huge smile and a big hug. She is genuinely excited that I am here. Who is this girl???? Seriously her energy is radiating.
We get ready to head out and we decide to try the new Taco Street restaurant in her neighborhood and enjoyed tacos and some crazy good margs (“If eating tacos (Katie Perry) and drinking margs is gay, I don’t want to be straight!” Quote from the movie The Interview). I am so sorry I am in a quoting mood today for some reason, somebody stop me, please!!!!! After tacos we took a stroll through Madison Square park before heading to the Lower East Side, where we graced a series of bars with our presence. When we finished it was about 4:00am and decided that we didn’t want to walk home, since we ventured out so far, and we didn’t want to pay for an Uber. Next best option: Rent some Citi Bikes and take a ride home. It was an absolute blast (videos below)
The next day, after sleeping in and allowing our bodies to recover, Katie took me on a walking tour of the city. We went to the Financial District, saw the World Trade Center Memorial, the New Freedom Tower, the Oculus Mall, walked through SOHO/Shopping area, into Washington Square Park (Greenwich Village) and then up to Chelsea, over through Flatiron and past Gramercy Park before heading back to Katie’s Place. I am not sure how far we walked, but let’s say I decided to skip my workout that day. Actually, I just lied….I wasn’t going to workout anyway. We grabbed some New York City Pizza and I joined her in watching her favorite reality shows (I will lose my man card again, but I miss watching my reality shows with KK, but I can’t admit that without being made fun of……Damn..I just admitted that in a blog post)!
I had an absolutely amazing time on Saturday & Sunday and if all we did was go out and take a tour of the city, then my trip to NYC would have been well worth the travels. Lucky for me, Katie taught me so much more than just which bars to visit, which parks had the best live music on the weekend, and the best route to get to some of the tourist spots in her city (that is what she calls it). During our time together, we talked a lot about our life, our passions, and our dreams. These conversations turned out to be the real purpose I met Katie in Austin, took her up on her invite to crash on her couch, and joined her for a weekend full of fun. Katie’s story of how she was able to create this dynamic energy in her soul despite a list of adversities is one that I will forever cherish.
Katie lost her biological father when she was about 7 years old. After the loss of her father, she was blessed to have an amazing stepdad who jumped in to help raise her. Her stepdad was one of her biggest supporters and he was the one who encouraged her to play sports, as he played high level sports and was also a phenomenal coach as well. In 2009, when Katie was about to turn 20, her stepdad passed away. Katie mentioned that he was such a big part of her life, her growth as a person, and as a volleyball player; but he never was able to watch her play a college game. Katie grew up in Orange County and was attending Fordham University (In NYC) on a volleyball athletic scholarship. The day her stepdad passed away, Katie jumped on a plane to head from the East coast to the West coast to be there for her family. Stricken with grief, her mother was unable to plan the funeral, so Katie at 19 & just off the plane, had to plan the wake and reception on her own.
“I had to call random phone numbers in the phone book in search of people to speak at the funeral, but I was not sure who he was still close with and who he wasn’t. I even had to reach out to invite his ex-wife, which was quite awkward.”
Katie, at the young age of 19 had to step up and do what was needed to give her step-dad the burial he deserved, all while dealing with the immense grief of losing someone who raised her and who she loved so very much, her father.
Katie left California and headed back to school in New York City. After the death of her stepdad, she never received another dollar from anyone but her self. She had to get a job the week she got back to New York, all while playing Division 1 Volleyball. Anyone who has played or has seen a division 1 athlete, knows the intense schedule that must be kept up to compete at that level. It is a full time job all while attending classes. I know when we were in college, our coach would not let any of us work. It is almost impossible to work, go to college, and play division 1 sports, but without any support or security blanket, Katie again had to step up and do whatever she had to do.
“I had to produce a death certificate to even get his password for my FAFSFA account to renew my scholarship for my Junior Year. It was a nightmare. The autopsy didn’t get done for months and I was in danger of not being allowed to play in our first match the next year.”
While working a job, taking classes, and competing at a Division 1 athlete, Katie never let up with her intensity and her will to be successful. Katie was named team MVP and still holds a record for highest hitting percentage (.715 in a 4-set match). She is a member of the Fordham University 1,000 kills club and 250 blocks club. Based on her accomplishments on the court, and who she is as a person, I wouldn’t be surprised if she is soon nominated for the Fordham University Athletics Hall of Fame.
After graduation Katie then found out that her dad had taken out a couple small loans in her name to help pay for books or other expenses that were not covered under her athletic scholarship freshman year. The collection companies started calling her and she didn’t even know she had any loans that were past due. Her mom then stepped up and insisted on paying them, which she never did. The reason is still unknown to this day why she never paid the loans, but Katie stepped up and started making payments. With many other past issues with her mother weighing heavy on Katie’s heart, not paying the loans she promised to pay was the last straw and Katie has not spoken to her mother since that day (this was in December 2012).
Since graduating from Fordham University and completing her athletic career, Katie has taken this same attitude and will to her professional career. Katie is the currently the Director of Sales at Debtwire, after killing (not a volleyball pun….or is it) the game at Soros Fund Management and Tricadia Capital Management, both huge hedge funds in NYC. Katie was a great collegiate athlete, a successful student, and no doubt she will continue to rise up the ranks quickly in her professional industry, but this is not why she is such a special person. Katie’s ability to take almost impossible situations and rise above with out fear is something that not very many people have the ability to do. Through all of her trials and tribulations, she has not allowed them to bring her down into darkness, but instead she has used these experiences to strengthen and lighten up her life. She radiates appreciation, compassion, love, and openness that you can feel this as soon as you meet her. Katie is the type of person that when you meet her, you just have to smile (it is impossible not to). Her energy is contagious and she has this unique ability to give her light to others that need it.
I knew the second that I met Katie Wells in Austin that there was something uniquely special about her. After being guided through the city and allowing her to give her light to me, she has helped give me strength to guide me along my trip. God puts people in our life at the right time for the right reasons, we just have to be open and willing to accept them. Thank God for my buddy Shane and his energy that attracted Katie and her energy to allow me to have the gift of Katie Wells leading me through HER CITY.
Thank You, Katie