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  • Justin Oba

How Losing My Job During The Pandemic Made Me Focus On Building My Best Life

Ya Boy is Back.

In 2016, I launched as a platform to start making food-related content about the Seattle food scene. Fresh from my first season as a Savor Seattle Food Tour guide at the famous Pike Place Market, I wanted to continue to share my love and knowledge for Seattle's food history and communities outside of my 2-hour culinary tour. The best way I thought to do that was to do so online.

I was inspired by the community within Pike Place Market, to whom I had the privilege of introducing out-of-town visitors and new arrivals of the greater Seattle area. I started with two posts, along with two videos featuring two of Seattle's favorite restaurants, Oriental Mart & Kitchenette and Gordito's in Greenwood. After that... nothing. I just never continued to create on my website. I felt bad about my failure to continue my blog but was having a lot more fun creating content on my Instagram account. I however continued to pay for my web hosting and domain name for the next 6 years, making my website function no better than a $300 per year email account.

Me in my prime as a food tour guide in Pike Place Market

2020 changed everything. Tourism in Seattle came screeching to a halt. My job at my ever-stretched food tour company drastically changed as it pivoted in a major way. Some of my favorite restaurants in the city were abruptly closing. I stopped creating on Instagram to focus more on helping Savor Seattle create content, along with its network of small businesses we were doing business with. A pleasant thing to do, but I did so without any explanation to my growing audience.

When asked about why I had stopped posting on Instagram, I cited travel shaming, the pandemic, my work, and not feeling good about doing so at a time when friends were losing jobs and not being able to afford to dine out. These were all true, but to be completely honest, I was also just pretty burnt out.

Mentally I just wasn't up to continue making the content I was creating at the time. Plus, with my income taking a significant hit, going out to eat wasn't in my best financial interest. I felt shame for stopping what I previously loved, but simultaneously felt a powerful sense of relief. It allowed me to better focus on my relationships with my girlfriend, my dad and allowed me to dial in on work that could pay my bills during the height of the pandemic.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2021, and that awesome food tour company that I worked for over the last 5 years is acquired and bought out, eliminating its tourism sector in favor of the pivoted food delivery concept, eliminating my role as both a tour guide and a marketing specialist. My one main source of income - Gone with the wind. A terrific way to start 2021.

...And that's when it hit me. I needed to get back online. I needed to create content again. I became complacent in my position as a tour guide and the lull of the statewide shutdown and pandemic wore down my enthusiasm and extroverted personality. I used to always say that "it's easy to do what you do, when you love what you do," and I needed a deep reminder of those words and their meaning. What was it that I genuinely loved to do? What things in the world and my life bring me joy? I loved sharing stories and going on adventures to delicious destinations around Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. I loved having conversations in the comments section with past tour guests and followers who I met and became friends with both online and IRL. I loved being the person people messaged when they were planning a trip to Seattle and needed a guide or recommendations on places to visit. THAT was what I needed to get back to, but how could I without a paying job?

Sheeeeeit, I got bills to pay! Yet I didn't want to just take any job that was out there, either. I loved being a tour guide, but I didn't want to go back to a job or tour company just as another employee, working for someone else's dream that doesn't align with my own. I also wanted to work smarter with my time and understood that I had to dig deep if I was going to make this all work out. Doing so meant working directly towards my own goals and accomplishments. Could I take back and reclaim my own personal brand, and deliver it to new heights? Could I sustainably make a living wage on my own, online?

"Fuck it," I said to myself as I decided not to surf CraigsList to look for a new job, and instead committed to building my own business. I had some money in savings, but that would only carry me so far. If this were to work, I'd have to learn quickly and not be afraid to fail.

So here we are.

Since April 2021, I've spent considerable time planning and designing the new website that you are now on. I've improved the aesthetic and added features including my freelance services and some fresh new articles with video content to enjoy.

Fans who enjoy my content and want a way to show their support financially can do so with a purchase from my Obalicious merch and art shop, where you can find cool items with fun original designs, as well as some of my photography to license digitally or purchase as prints.

In the future, I hope to also add content such as going live on Twitch and cooking videos! It's an exciting time to create, and I hope that fellow eaters will enjoy what I have to offer.

I didn't start these tasks to bring back alone. In fact, a lot of the thought process I mentioned above came from conversations I had with my fraternal brother Cheyenne Eady and HR expert and friend Kendyll Sharpe.

In fact, we felt so inspired by our conversations and ideas, that we decided to venture together to help others like us following their creative passions as well.

We created Black Circle Consulting to do just that.

Want a website, but don't know where to start? We got you. Want to start an online business but have no idea what type of business to start? No problem, we have ideas. Already have a product or service but don't know how to generate sales online? We have solutions!

If you have a creative project on your mind, consider Black Circle Consulting as the team that has your back.

With that said, if you're still reading, thank you. I appreciate you for reading more than just the headlines.

Things haven't been easy the last year and a half, but it hasn't been as bad as it could have been either. I'm so grateful to those of you who have reached out to me during the pandemic and to my close friends and ohana for looking out for me and encouraging me to continue to do what I love to do. While we can't change what has happened, we can be the change for the future. Before 2020 I thought I'd be a food tour guide at Savor Seattle until I retired. While that reality isn't my own, I hope I can still provide the same sense of friendship, laughter, and Ohana to those of you reading this blog as I had on my food tours.

Before you go back to scrolling Facebook, or whatever it was that you were doing before reading this blog, please consider subscribing to my email list to stay up to date on my latest writings, reviews, and content. You can find a sign-up form on the home page of this site. You will also find me back at it again on Instagram, so why not show some love and say hi there too @ObaliciousPNW.

I am really excited about this journey, and can't wait to re-connect with all of you.

But enough of this sob story and check out this juicy video about a Secret-Not-So-Secret Beef Brisket Burger in Washington.


Justin "Obalicious" Oba

Current picture of me and the GF

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