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The Craziest Year of My Life

The last few months of 2021 and the start of 2022 were the peaks of my real estate career. In those few months, I had listed, under contract, or closed somewhere around 5-6 million dollars in real estate. I finished college in true Will Hedrick style by walking out of my last class in mid-December and simply moving on to the next task.

As I finished up my 2021, stable, focused on expanding my real estate business and my firm's business, there was something brewing inside of me that I couldn't keep down—cue the yellow taxis, subways, 8 million people, and Central Park.


Since I started in real estate in the fall of 2019, there has always been an itch to sell the most expensive real estate in the world. There is something so appealing about running up and down the streets of Manhattan, opening one apartment door and then waving a cab down to run to the next. The days are busy, the commission checks are ridiculously large, and you're in New York City - there's nothing better.

In January, I started studying. Fortunately, the real estate world isn't too different. A lot of the laws are the same. The only differences are in the real estate itself, not in the practice of brokerage and agency. For example, you have all the exact expectations and fiduciary duties as you would in North Carolina in New York. However, the knowledge of apartments, condominiums, co-ops, etc., is different.

In North Carolina, I was closing my final deals. These are some of my most expensive and largest listings to date. I was referring out any clients that came to me because, at this point, I had my heart set. I was going to go to New York City.

The debate was between going to New York City and joining another firm as an agent or staying in North Carolina and expanding the firm. I was getting bored with real estate in North Carolina. I've lived here my entire life. I've seen so many homes, and I've sold some in the extremely high price ranges - there's only so much professional advancement you can do from there. Or at least that was my thought. That is where my mind was and why I either wanted a change of scenery or to sit back, not practice as an agent anymore and expand the firm by taking on new agents.

In mid-January, the alarm clock went off at 3:45 that morning. I had my New York real estate exam that day at 1:00 pm, and I needed to be prepared.

Why so early, you might ask? Because I woke up in Charlotte, North Carolina - my test was in Syracuse, New York.

I grabbed my backpack, packed my computer, study materials, snacks, number 2 pencils, and approved calculator, and set off.

You have to take real estate exams in the state of New York. There are a limited number of test locations and even fewer dates to take them. This was one of the only dates open until March.

A flight from Greensboro to DC, then one from DC to Syracuse later, I arrived at my testing location 30 minutes early. Sitting down at the test site, I have the typical small talk with the exam administrators, and their faces of shock when I told them I was flying 1100 miles in one day to take an exam are still engrained in my mind.

I took the exam, called an Uber, and was back at the Syracuse Airport for my flight back to DC. However, I didn't make it back to Charlotte that night. My flight was canceled at 11:45 pm, and I had to stay at a nearby hotel. I made it back home the next morning.

A few weeks later, in January, I would make my way back to New York City, screening teams and looking at apartments to sign a lease with. My mind was made. I was going to New York City.


Another long day of travel is ahead. However, this time, it was in my mom's Volvo, full of my furniture. I was driving from Charlotte to New York City to build all of the Ikea furniture I had for my room and would spend the night.

I found a room I could rent in Long Island City from a fantastic family. It was a townhouse right by a subway stop and across the street from an elementary school. The family I rented from was excellent and helpful - that will be key come May.

After 14 hours of driving plus as much unpacking and screwing together of Ikea furniture made for a long day. I crashed that night and slept until my 5:00 am alarm went off. I had to drive back to Charlotte the next day.

The second week of February, I spent as much time as possible with my family and friends who were still in college. Both are fairly close to where I live, and I could find time for them quickly.

The day came, and my early morning flight was ready to take off. I sat in the Greensboro airport, still wondering if I made the right decision as the two weeks of goodbyes, I'm proud of yous, when are you coming backs, and good lucks made it quite difficult to step across the plane's threshold.

I knew that no matter if I hated New York, I had to do it. This has been a dream of mine for the last four years. If I wasn't going to pursue it now, when I had no job requirements, no kids, and no mortgages, when would I ever have an opportunity like this again? Before I knew it, I had landed in LaGuardia and lived in a city that never sleeps.


I only lasted a few weeks at the first team I joined when I was there. I loved the guy that I was working under. However, our working styles were completely different. To a fault, I am a run-and-gun, learn from my mistakes and move on to the next type of person. He was a more methodical, stuck-to-the-calendar individual. Nothing wrong with that, my lack of patience is probably what caused the partnership not to work out. A few weeks later, and goodbye, I was no longer affiliated with them and moved on to the next team.


Spoiler alert, the next team I joined didn't work out either.

It was late April, and by then, I knew my experience in New York - in just a few months - would be short-lived. I walked into a meeting with the team leads, prepared to tell them I was going to quit. They beat me to it and said that I was not a good fit. At least we were on the same page.

Over the last few months in New York City, I was struggling. First, as everyone talks about there - seasonal depression is real. It is freezing, no one wants to be outside, and on the days it is raining, the city is one of the most unappealing places I have ever witnessed. The energy that typically fills the streets is gone as people hurry to get back indoors, where it is a little decent.

This was the first eye-opening experience that NYC might not be for me. As someone whose mood can be easily changed whether they spend time outside or not, New York is probably not for me. Twice a week, I wake up at 5:30 to commute an hour to Central Park, where I joined a running club. This was my only way to spend time outside and surrounded by trees. The rest of my days were either inside or surrounded by skyscrapers.

Outside of the morning runs, my days would look something like this. I would wake up around 7:00 in the morning on the days I wasn't running, get ready, go to the Rose Main Reading Room at the Bryant Park library and work until lunch. I would go back home, eat lunch, and then work until the night's networking event. Two $40 Manhattans later (yes, that was an actual price for a drink I paid) and a few surface-level, transactional conversations later, I would head home. I remember those nights running home clearly. The above-ground part of my subway ride home was right before my stop. It turned sharply left, and you could see all of midtown and the glowing lights - quite the site.

With all this being said, I realized something was off within myself. I first noticed when I didn't want to wake up early. For four years in college, I always woke up early and worked out before my 7:50 class. It was motivating and gave me energy. However, the drive to do that was gone. Second, I started hating my work as an agent when I was with either of my teams. I had restarted my real estate career and had to do the awful, gut-wrenching sales work all over again that I hated. Cold calling sucks, networking events suck, and open houses are only bearable. I just kept wondering and wondering if this was really what I wanted to spend all of my energy towards. I started spending more days inside, doing less work and taking no care of myself. I was uninspired, and most importantly, I was lonely. All my friends and family were 1,000 miles away, and scrolling through Snapchat stories every weekend of my friends living up their last semester at college while I was dreading getting out of bed was not a good feeling.

After my, I'm quitting, your fired, meeting, I flew home that afternoon for some much-needed time away from the city. I spent time with my family, I spent time with my friends, and I started to feel like myself again.

The following month in New York, I spent most of my time either walking around the city exploring or working on business ideas in the same Rose Main Reading room. Forever, I have kept a list on my phone of business ideas. Stuff that comes up at random times that I might want to come back to.

I started working on an idea similar to Masterclass, but it would be job shadowing instead of an entertainment/hobby aspect of their platform. I am always wondering what life would be like as a doctor, lawyer, and so on, and I vividly remember looking at a list of college majors in high school and being completely overwhelmed. Undecided is not too accepted today, and it can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to college. We don't have money to waste around exploring careers and majors. I wanted to create a platform that would give the general public insights onto jobs they wanted to pursue.

This also was a calling as, for the first time in 7 years, I didn't have a job. I needed help with direction, and this was an outlet to get me there.


I packed my things in early May and called it quits on New York. Fortunately, that amazing family I was telling you about let me out of my lease.

I packed my things in a U-Haul and made the trip home as soon as I got the response from the landlords. New York faded away in the rear-view mirror, and so did my experience there.

Fortunately, New York was not a bad experience. There are opportunities in our lives where sometimes you just have to realize that it was a time to learn. What I learned mainly was that real estate was not where I wanted to spend my life. It was incredibly eye-opening for me to restart. Adjust my priorities and see what I have been working on for almost four years. Since my real estate career began, I have struggled with fulfillment and impact. I have always thought that my time might be spent better elsewhere, making a more significant impact other than collecting commission checks. That is partly why I started my real estate firm, SPEEK. I thought we could work on revolutionizing the real estate industry - which could definitely use some revolutionizing.

Most importantly, I don't regret my decision to move to New York. I had to get it out of my system. I had to learn. That's precisely what I did.

I moved back home in early May, and graduation was coming up. I graduated in December. However, I walked in May with all of my closest friends. That weekend I answered how New York is going 1,000 times, which was not enjoyable. At first, I struggle with this idea of abandonment and failure. I'm the type of person who will stick through the struggle just to say I did it. I couldn't say that about New York, which bothered me for a while. Fortunately, I accepted it a little bit later and realized it was all part of the story.

When I returned to Charlotte, I had three options, start applying for jobs, get back into real estate, or spend some time developing ideas for a new business. The online job shadowing platform was cool, and I thought it would be beneficial, but it wasn't going to be something I wanted to pursue long-term. Plus, there were many other business-related decisions with feasibility that kind of kicked it to the curb.

I chose the last of the three options. When brainstorming for business ideas, no matter what, I always had the idea of starting a nonprofit. Within the real estate firm, I wanted to create a nonprofit under its wings. I pondered the idea and decided what the mission and vision would be. Before June rolled around, I had a rough idea of who we would be and what we would do.


In June, I made one of the best decisions of my life. For 12 days, two of my best friends and I were going to celebrate graduation and do something we always talked about, backpack through Europe. Both of the guys I went with were going to be entering life's busy world again in August, one working in audit and another going to law school, and we knew that this might be one of the only chances in the next few years the three of us were going to be free.

We booked the tickets and spent 12 hectic days traveling Europe. We started in Edinburgh, then London, Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, Madrid, Seville, and Lisbon. We lived in cheap hostels and walked almost 150 miles to avoid taxi costs. We spent our money on good food, drinks, and site seeing. Everything about this trip was fantastic, and it was a good escape from the stress, drama, and changes in life we were all experiencing.

In addition, it was a good time to bounce ideas for my nonprofit off of extremely smart people who had to listen to me. We lived together for 12 days, so there was no way they could escape.

By the time we returned to the states, we had visited some of the world's best cities, taken thousands of pictures, ate excellent food, drank terrific drinks, and made memories that I know I'll cherish forever.

I was refreshed, having escaped the work world for the first time in seven years. No matter any vacation I have been on before, I would always work in the mornings as I am typically the first one up. But this trip was the first time I didn't think or worry about anything going on professionally.


After our European tour, I was refreshed and ready to go. The disappointment of New York was behind me, I had a clear vision of what was ahead, and I felt like myself again.


By August, I had launched our website, filed all our incorporating documents, and gotten our 501c3 status. Your 501c3 status typically takes months to get a response from the IRS, which usually tells the applicant they'll have to resubmit and try again and wait for another six months. We got ours back in under four weeks. I took this as a sign I was heading in the right direction.

I started talking to other organizations, and we had our first partners and a list of others who would be joining us. People believed in me and this little idea that I had. It was fulfilling and energizing to know that I was doing something others believed in.


In September, I started making as much of a push for media as possible at The Hedrick Project. We launched our Getting Started campaign, and our first donations came in. We had many friends and family donate, along with the occasional random name that I didn't know. It was amazing to see the word spreading and people starting to catch on and understand who we are and what we do.

This was also clarifying in what our mission is and what we do. This solidified that we could spend our time telling stories, focusing on media, and letting that do the work of fundraising.


In October, I went on my final trip to visit some lifelong friends in New Orleans, and it was my final refresh before the end of the year. I spent a weekend there and made plenty of memories that will stick with me forever, exploring a new city.

We were starting to gain some more momentum with The Hedrick Project and beginning to tackle the big problems ahead. First, I need people.


In November, the push started to fill our board of directors. In life, my success has been because of those around me. I would be nowhere without the friends, family, teachers, coaches, and others who have chosen to support my actions. This deeply engrained philosophy steered the last two months of the year.

I needed to fill our board of directors and get more people talking, promoting, and donating to The Hedrick Project. However, this is easier said than done.

The Shop also launched in November. I had gotten some long sleeves, short sleeves, and Pura Vida bracelets to raise money for The Hedrick Project. Figuring out the packaging and logistics of this was a nightmare - as well as creating another website just to sell the goods. However, in no time, we launched and had our first 10-15 sales in just the first few weeks.

In November, I also finished a 2022 goal of mine to run a half marathon. One of my friends from elementary school and I have run together since we were little. We ran track together in high school and were pretty serious about our running. When I got back to Charlotte, we reconnected and started running together - as when I was in New York, I enjoyed my time running in Central Park.

We chose, I would say, the worst day of the year to run a half marathon. It rained so hard we couldn't see far ahead of us, and it was in the 40s. We also ran on a mixture of tracks, trails, and roads. The trails were in some areas 3-6" of water, and as cars drove by us, we just got soaked. However, we finished in around 2 hours and have plenty of memories from just that one run.


December isn't and never will be my most productive month. We have five birthdays out of my immediate family, and when you throw Christmas on top, it's a ton of cakes, celebrations, and spending time with family. However, I would not have it any other way. It's an excellent time to catch up, tell stories, and spend time with those who mean the most to you.

Even with all the chaos, we made progress with THP. We got our largest donor and finalized some board of director positions. In addition, I got extreme clarity on our mission and strategic vision to bring this to life once I brought on our first board member. Having others to help, question, and be a sounding board with your ideas is instrumental.

Looking Back

Looking back at everything I have done in one year is something I like to do every year. With school being an integral part of my daily life for the last 22 years, I haven't been allowed to try and fail at as many things as I did this year.

2022 allowed me to find myself, find my interests, and steer my life in a completely different direction. I've found my priorities and developed a business and career that I genuinely think will change the world. This year also brought me to my lowest point. Leaving everything you have ever known behind is extremely scary - one day, I'll go into more detail - but being able to look back and say I got past that is something I'm proud of.

Sometimes you never know where life will take you, but looking back, I can ensure that I am on the right path.

2022, thank you.

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