Staying optimistic during hard times is not an easy task but it’s totally possible. Listen to your host Tanya Memme as she talks with Jordan Harman on his experience on hitting rock bottom and becoming better than ever. Horrible experiences have a purpose in our lives and that is to motivate us to rise and unleash our truest potential. Our guest, Jordan, is a veteran network television development executive who has created, developed and overseen hit series. In this episode, he shares his journey on making it through two kidney transplants and COVID which made a significant impact on his life. Tune in to learn the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people and instilling positivity throughout the roughest of times.
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When Hitting Rock Bottom Helps You Rise And Be Your Best Self With Jordan Harman
This is a special episode because I have Jordan Harman on the show. Jordan, I met you how many years ago, a few years back?
It was probably 3 or 4 now in 2022.
I met you during the pandemic.
We interrupt before the pandemic. It was before because the production of the show was happening right at the beginning of COVID. We had to shut down for how many months?
A lot of months. Jordan has something to do with the TV shows that I’ve been on, Sell This House! and Smart Home Nation. He’s an Executive from the A&E Network, but you’ve also been an Executive at a bunch of other stations, including VH1, and Food Network. Now, you’re at A&E, which is cool.
Cable television in 2022 is not what cable television was in 2004, but we’re still making a go of it, and we’re making some great stuff. We love having a relationship with Tanya Memme and doing shows with you. You’ve been a champion for A&E for a long time.
I also want you to know you are good at what you do. We worked on Smart Home Nation together, and you made the show amazing.
My notes would give people more Tanya. That was my note every time.
I wanted to have Jordan on the show because we all know it’s all about hitting rock bottom and getting out of it. One of my personal passions in life is to give people inspiration and help them out of rock bottom. I don’t remember when we first started talking about your story, but it was a conversation after one of the meetings that we had. I learned that Jordan is a two-time kidney transplant recipient. Your health issues started way back when you were sixteen or before that.
It was way before then. When I was five years old, on a routine camp checkup, they found I had protein in my urine, which is not a good thing. At the time, I was five, and I didn’t know anything. Suddenly, I was in the hospital with a diagnosis called interstitial nephritis, which means I was having reflux where urine was going back up into the kidney. A five-year-old may get an operation to correct that, but the correction is only going to be short-term. I didn’t know that at five, but my parents knew that eventually, I was going to need a kidney transplant. When I was sixteen, my father donated a kidney to me.
How was that decision made? That’s a big deal.
Luckily, my parents are wonderful, were then and are now. Both parents signed up to donate. When you’re looking for a kidney, it’s an organ, and you need to find a good match. Normally, parents or siblings are the best matches. We can get into more about that when we talk about the second kidney transplant. It was much harder to find a donor, but my dad and mom were both adequate matches until they realized the day before the transplant.
My mother had to be the donor. They found an issue with one of her kidneys. We had to call off that transplant. It started again with my father. That was scary. Mom was all set to do it, and she couldn’t. There’s an issue with one of her kidneys. It’s not a threat to her, but she can’t go donating the bad ones or keep her with the bad ones.
Did you know any time that your father was also clear to go, but your mom said, “I’m going to do it?” How do they decide who’s going to be the donor?
It came up with a lot of different things. The fact that they’re both willing to do it speaks volumes about the character of my parents. It was never a question for either, but the thinking was that it would be easier if my mother did it because my dad could continue to work. It turned out that none of that wound up being relevant at all. Mom could no longer donate.Look back and realize that you need to live in your present and not worry so much. It will take a major shakeup to realize things while you’re experiencing horrible times. Click To Tweet
There’s an entire evaluation with a kidney transplant. They run you through the wringer, all kinds of tests, and psychological evaluations. It’s a beast because if they’re taking a kidney out of someone, that’s a major ordeal. They need to make sure that that person is psychologically and emotionally ready to deal with that. It’s quite an ordeal.
I can’t even imagine what your family went through, too, and what you were going through. You must have had tons of guilt like, “How do I take this from my parents? What happens at this?”
I have more now. Back then, at sixteen, I had no guilt about it. I had guilt when the kidney was failing. At sixteen, I went and got a kidney transplant. Things looked good for a couple of weeks. The hardest part of a kidney transplant is making sure the body accepts it. As we all know so much about COVID, antibodies are everything, but your body has antibodies to reject foreign tissue. Someone else’s kidney is not yours. They do the math to try to get the best possible match. It’s not yours. The body tries to reject it. They give you massive doses of medication to make sure your body keeps that. I’m still on those medications now. At the time, my body was not having it.
This was when you were sixteen. What is it like from a sixteen-year-old’s perspective? What did you go through? Here you are. I’m sure your friends are going to March break or spring break. What was that like for you?
It was weird. All my friends were sixteen, getting drunk, hanging out, chasing after girls, and doing whatever a sixteen-year-old did in the ‘90s. We didn’t have internet yet. We weren’t doing that. I was stuck in a hospital for three months. I was traveling to a different hospital because the first hospital was no longer able to help me because the rejection I was going through was acute. That was hard again. We never had an attitude of what was me or that I was a victim here.
We were in a situation where we were going to figure our way through it. My parents were incredibly supportive. My doctors were amazing. We also had resources that a lot of people didn’t have. We were a middle-class, suburban family who had resources. There were a lot of families from lower income, non-English speakers, who didn’t know how to deal with these things and often would suffer in silence and not get the help they needed, not because they didn’t want it but because they didn’t know.
We were able to travel overnight to Pittsburgh to a different hospital to receive an investigational medication because we had the right people to call. We had the right places to go. We knew the right buttons to push. The hospitals are all amazing, but people need to make fast decisions, and we did that. In Pittsburgh, I was able to get an investigational medication, which now I’m still on several years later. That was hard, but watching these other families go through it and realizing how fortunate we were, even at sixteen, I realized that, “I’m one of the lucky ones.”
How did you feel when your parents said, “You can have one of my kidneys?”
I didn’t feel bad. I was a baseball player back when I was a kid. I started realizing I was getting slower. As other kids were getting bigger, I was getting slower because my kidney function was decreasing, but I never felt sick. How did I feel emotionally? I felt grateful and happy that I had parents willing to do this. I have a good relationship with my parents that I never questioned whether they would.
You’re all in this together. You’re going to get through this together, and your parents are thriving now.
They’re great. My brother, who was 4 years younger, was 12 at this time. I felt like he wasn’t getting his parents for a few months because they were focused on fixing this. My brother is cool as a cucumber and a good dude. It’s almost like all the attention is focused on me because I’m going through this ordeal. He’s like, “I’m here, too.” He was turning thirteen. His bar mitzvah had to be canceled. This was the blizzard of 1993. I was rejecting a kidney. I came out for a day to attend his bar mitzvah, which had to be canceled due to a massive blizzard that hit New York.
At this point, you guys are looking at it as the glass half full, “We’re going to do this together. We’re in this together as a family.” You get his kidney. What happens after that? The kidney only lasted for about 25 years, right?
Many people will tell you, especially after the rejection period that I had, “If you get five years out of this, that will be great.”
I’m coming from the perspective. I don’t know a lot about kidney transplants. Twenty-five years is a long time. You knew that it was only going to last long.
They monitor you. You look at your numbers. Over time, my numbers have been stable. We’re starting to dip. In the back of my mind, I always knew I was going to need another one. That certainly colored the way I looked at my life.
How did it color the way that it looks at your life?
I was afraid to have kids for a long time. I had an entire marriage where I was waiting for the other shoe to drop with the kidney and couldn’t commit to a world where I was going to have a kid. Psychologically, I’m able to look back at it now and realize that knowing that this was in my future stopped me from living in the present a little bit. It took a major shakeup to realize that, and the second kidney transplant might have happened.
I would think that this would be your major shakeup, but that’s not where the major shakeup is.
The first transplant in 1993 allowed me to go to college, pledge to a fraternity, and do all the things. I couldn’t drink and party the way other kids were. I certainly did some, but I had to be careful in a way that other kids didn’t.
The show is all about hitting rock bottom, what got you out of it, and how did you get out of it. I know that you’re leading up to that, but what was it like when you were at rock bottom? What were the circumstances around it?
My life was good. I got the transplant. I was living my life, but there was something for several years that was blocking me. I got married. I had a good relationship. I had a lot of friends and a good job. Things were going well, but I wasn’t able to reconcile that. I was afraid to have kids. That’s what it was. I was afraid of putting them in the position that I put my parents in. Eventually, dad might have a major medical issue, and I didn’t want to do that to children. Also, I wasn’t ready. I had a partner who was my wife, and at the time, I wasn’t able to communicate that. I can now, but then, I couldn’t.
We’re going through it. We don’t even realize that that’s what it is. You look back, and you have more things figured out in life.
In hindsight, you look at it, and you’re like, “I probably should have been open about that or communicative about that, but I wasn’t.” I thought my life was moving on smoothly until 2014. It was the year I hit rock bottom. I don’t think my rock bottom is the worst rock bottom. Certainly, people have many harder years than I do. In the span of a few months, I was fired from my job. I was an executive at a different network. I wasn’t working. My wife and I decided we were going to split up. I found out at that point that several years after the first transplant, my kidney, which was my father’s, was failing.
That all hit within several months of each other. Your marriage is falling apart. Everything’s falling apart. On top of that, you find out that you need a new kidney. Where does somebody go? What happened to you physically and emotionally after that?
It was a busy period, but it’s almost like you got to hit the full reset button. I wasn’t in immediate danger. It’s not like you need one tomorrow.
You have these things that tell you that this is happening.
I’ll get to the kidney piece in a moment because that’s a long story of how we wound up getting a kidney, but the other piece is the emotional side. I no longer have my job and my wife. I’m not sure who I am anymore. What defines me now? I’m 38, and I’m adrift. After I got upset and realized what I had lost, I took it as a positive because how many people get to restart their lives and almost have a second chance at life? It doesn’t happen often. I approached it in a positive way. I went on a road trip.
I’m a huge fan of classic rock, boogie, and jazz. A buddy of mine had been going through his own breakup. He was an attorney who worked for himself. He had the ability to take some time off. We said, “I’m hitting the road.” We did three weeks on the road, starting in Atlanta, and wanted to hit the music and food destinations throughout the South.
We went to Otis Redding’s widow’s house, jumped the fence, knocked on the door, and tried to get in there. We went to Tupelo, Mississippi, where Elvis was born. We went to the shack where he was born. We sat on the bed he was born. We went to Tupelo Hardware store, where he bought his first guitar, and were shown the place in the pouring rain by the grandson of the guy who sold Elvis the guitar. We went to Memphis.
How long did you go for?Take a negative experience as a positive one because of how many people actually get to restart their lives and almost have a second chance at a life. It doesn't happen often. Approach it in a positive way. Click To Tweet
I was gone for three weeks. We went to Mississippi Delta, down to New Orleans, and across down to San Antonio and Austin. It allowed me to cleanse and realize that my old life was over. It was time to start something new. After that, I was able to come back and realize it was time to hit the reset button. Meanwhile, I did get another job. This was happening in November 2018.
In February 2019, I met a girl on Tinder who also split from her husband. That girl was a 5’10” blonde Australian girl named Anabel. She is now my wife for several years. It didn’t take long. I jumped on Tinder. I started going out and dating for the first time in several years. My ex-wife and I had been together for fourteen years. I hadn’t dated since the ‘90s. I didn’t know about any of this stuff.
You were pretty young, and that’s good. What’s interesting is that I find that when people are at rock bottom, they will do anything and everything to escape. You will surround yourself with other people that are not in the same position but that you have freedom and you can truly be yourself. I believe, and I want to know from your perspective, too.
Did you feel like you discovered who you truly were at that time? Who is Jordan? That is one of the things that happens when you hit rock bottom. You were probably attached to your accolades, the network that you were working for, and the person you were married to. When you hit rock bottom, you lose all those things. You’re there and just you. You got to figure it out.
I had a wonderful support system. I wasn’t alone. I had a wonderful family. I have lots of amazing friends. I don’t use the word blessed, but I feel like I am blessed. I was never alone. Being alone is crushing for people, especially when they go through things like that. You don’t know where to turn, and there’s no one to listen. I feel extremely lucky that I felt I had support. The support of friends and family is everything. You know whom you can lean on in those moments. That was important to know that I had that. I never got self-destructive. Due to the fact that I was a transplant recipient, I wasn’t going to start drinking or doing drugs.
You could not have had that issue, but that kept you from doing that.
People with that issue still do that. I was going to lose the kidney anyway. I never took it out on myself. A lot of people get self-destructive in these moments.
How did you remain positive? A lot of people that I interview, especially at their rock bottom, are not as positive as you were during that time. You have to give yourself a lot of credit that you were in a pretty good state of mind. I’ve hit rock bottom. Everybody knows about it. I talked about it a lot when I was there. I was not okay. I was not positive.
I didn’t want to let down the people that supported me. I didn’t want to spiral. I had too much going for me to let it all fall apart. Even though pieces were missing, I felt I could reconstruct those pieces. I was looking forward to dating. Let’s be honest. After being in a relationship for a long time, I was looking forward to dating. I was still young, and I still had my hair. I was reasonably decent looking.
I also didn’t have kids. I could consider myself a catch. I approach it like, “This is going to be fun.” I wasn’t worried about paying bills. I owned my apartment. I felt I had enough of a runway to find a job and continue to support myself. Financial issues are the cause of the downward spiral for many people. I was going to consult. I was going to do some of this. I had a way to keep the bills paid for the short term.
Were you ever worried about the long-term?
I’m a positive person in general. I wasn’t going to let that bring me down. I was going to make myself better after this, and I did. I look at myself now, and I’m a much better version of Jordan Harman than I was in 2014.
A lot of people spiral down from one of those things happening, from a divorce or getting fired. It’s not like you lost your job. You were fired. That’s a big deal. I’ve been fired before, too. I know what it feels like. You find out that your kidney is failing. From one of those things, people can spiral. What would you say to people that are at rock bottom because 1 or all 3 of those things have happened to them? What is some good advice that you can give people that are there right now?
It’s cheesy to say stay positive, but nothing can beat you up like you can beat yourself up. We are our own worst enemies in many ways. Try to find a positive in something. If you’ve lost a job, maybe this is an opportunity to find a job that’s better. It’s hard out there. I acknowledge that. Looking back at it now, I realize I wasn’t in the right relationship. That’s no disrespect to my ex-wife who’s wonderful. It wasn’t the right relationship. I’m now in the right relationship. Look to people for help. The best support is your network of people. Find someone who is there for you, and don’t keep it inside. Talk about it.
I always tell people that your net worth is your network. It’s gotten me through everything. It changed my life. I always tell people, “When you’re at your rock bottom, join a group.” There are many ways in which you can communicate with people online, in live groups, or however it is. Take a course or study.
I started playing tennis. I was a tennis player. I joined a tennis league. I was meeting new people all the time. It was great. Get yourself back out there. If it’s a relationship that’s knocked you out, get yourself back out there. COVID may have made things much tougher, but get yourself back out there. Sitting and doing nothing is the worst thing you can do. Be active, and do something.
I love that you picked up and your answer was, “Let’s go on a road trip.” If that’s what you got to do, That’s what you got to do.
Brian Swerling, my road trip buddy, was there with me. He supported me at a time when I needed one. We’ve got some trouble out there on the road. We did some silly things. When you look back on those, it was the best thing we ever did.
It’s because you will probably never be able to do something like that again, especially with that person at that time, and have all those experiences. That’s very cool. If you are at rock bottom, switch it up and meet new people. Do whatever you can to meet new people, join a gym, take classes, take tennis classes, art classes, or whatever it is. What happened after that?
I have a new job and a new relationship. All were going great, but then I needed the kidney. That was still hanging around. This is going to get a little bit complicated on the medical side, but because I already had a kidney transplant. Finding another suitable donor organ becomes more difficult because your body produces a lot of antibodies. It has already accepted this one. A lot of antibodies are ready to knock out anything new that comes. It was hard finding another donor. Not that people didn’t want to, but they were not a good match.
Did you ask a friend or family? Did you go through everybody?
For most elements that you wind up getting in, God forbid cancer or heart disease, there are steps 1 and 2. With a kidney transplant, you can’t do anything until you find a donor. Hospitals will not find you a donor. You have to go through various organizations or your own network. It’s not that they’re not able to find you a kidney. They don’t have a fridge with kidneys sitting there.
There are millions of people on these donor waiting lists that are waiting for cadaver kidneys. In these lists, you can take 6 to 7 years. Most people won’t be able to wait that long. They will have to go on dialysis. I’ve never been on dialysis. I consider myself incredibly lucky. I never had to do that, but people do it. It seems like a rough way to do it.
They got to go on dialysis until they would get a new kidney. That list is long. You got to go to your network. These organizations would tell me, “Go out to your network.” However you feel about social media, it is a great way to spread the word wide quickly. I would send out emails, put posts on social media, and ask people to share my story.
You don’t go and ask someone for a kidney because that’s putting them on the spot. You ask people to share the story and you will be amazed by the people that reach out and say, “I would love to test.” Sometimes, they don’t reach out to you. Sometimes, they need to reach out to someone from the organization because it’s hard to tell someone, “I’m going to test for you, but I don’t want to do it.” They tell the recipient, “Don’t have them go to you. Designate either friend or an organization member.”
There are these organizations like Renewal. There’s a bunch of them. Renewal was great with me, and I’ll get to another one that I worked with that was incredibly fantastic. They go through these organizations to keep me out of the loop of what they’re doing. They have to get blood work done to find out their match. If they are a match, they’ve got to go through an evaluation. My brother tested, and my brother was not a match, which is crazy.
What about any of your cousins, aunts, uncles, or anything that you’ve ever been to?Don’t let a negative experience bring you down. You could come back better after it. Click To Tweet
I keep it relatively small families. My cousins tested, but they were not matches either because the antibody levels that I had were high. Highly sensitized is what they call people like me. If they put that kidney, my body is going to reject it. It was a two-year search. It took a long time to find a donor. We had several people and friends. I had four people test for me. The test is at the evaluation level. They went through the whole rigmarole of the whole thing. None of those kidneys worked out.
After a long time, we came in touch with another organization called the National Kidney Registry which incredibly works on paired donations. Let’s say you wanted to give me a kidney, but we weren’t a match. Because you’re a willing donor, you could potentially give a kidney to somebody else. That person would have someone who wants to give that a kidney, but they’re not a match. Their match would give me a kidney. This organization algorithmically matches people.
If I were to give my kidney, you would eventually get one because I gave mine. I don’t know how I feel about that. That’s a whole weird thing.
My angel in all of this, other than my wife and my family, is my college roommate. He got the name of Justin Evans. We’re close friends. He is the groomsman at both of my weddings. His wife, Justine, told me she wanted to donate to me. Initially, she went out to the initial test. It was not a match, but she came back and said, “I would still donate to someone else on your behalf.” We brought her into this conversation with the National Kidney Registry to say, “Justine, would you be willing to donate to this?”
Were you, at any point, losing faith at all that this wasn’t going to work out? How are you dealing with all of this?
We had one potential donor who was supposed to show up for a test and never got on the plane. He never showed up. It was a guy I didn’t know. Another organization had set him up. I didn’t know him, but he seemed great.
They’re scared, too. You can’t blame them.
I’m a close friend from college tested, and the hospital told him his kidneys were too thin. He was off the table. I had another gentleman who I did not know, who was a stranger and was going to donate. My antibody levels went up again. We had to cancel that surgery. He backed out. We had a lot of false starts.
How are you feeling at this point? How’s your family doing? How’s everyone?
I was devastated. I was working in A&E, and I took disability for three months to deal with it.
What year is this at this point?
This was 2017.
You are at A&E. it’s a big job. Lots of pressure. You’re doing your thing.
The company was like, “We’ll allow this. This feels like you need this time.” I did. 2018 comes. Justine, my college roommate’s wife, was a wonderful and amazing person. We’re set up with the National Kidney Registry, and we are going to do this pair donation she is going to. On May 1st, she donated her kidney up in Boston. Her kidney went to a needy recipient of a kidney.
That person had a plus one who then donated their kidney. That person’s kidney went to someone in Washington, DC. That plus one donated his kidney to another person in DC. The person in DC who got that kidney had a plus one. That person donated the kidney that was driven all the way up North, back to New York. We’re following this kidney, traveling on a GPS app.
This probably all happens in a matter of a few days. I would imagine.
She is doing her kidney at 6:00 AM. I got my transplant at 3:00 in the afternoon.
All of this happens in these eight people that are all involved. If one person breaks the chain and decides to back out, it’s done.
If anything happens, it derails the whole thing. The four people got kidneys on that day, but they’ll tell you, “It happens all the time where things come up.”
Could it ever happen where someone gets the kidney taken out because they don’t have the match? Could that kidney have gone to waste if somebody decided not to go along with the plan?
I’m sure it could happen. I haven’t heard a story where the kidney is out of the body because it’s going to go into someone. The kidney is already out. The person who needs it is still going to take it. Imagine this situation. Maybe that person dies. You could always give a kidney to another living recipient. It happens all the time when someone’s on the table and says, “I don’t want to do it.”
This is a true miracle.
I had a long rejection where I almost lost a kidney for the first time in 1993. I almost lost that kidney. This time, it was smooth. Technology has gotten better. The way they track these things are better. The way they medicate for these things is better. Several years later, you’re feeling and doing great.
If you were to look back on those years, what pulled you through during the darkest deepest moments? This is a miracle. There must have been points, at least sometimes, where you lost hope a little bit.
I lost hope a few times with the transplant, certainly, thinking, “We’re never going to find a donor. I’m going to have to go on dialysis.” I had a girlfriend, and we had been together for a couple of years. We were hoping to get married but did I want to saddle her with a life of a husband who had done dialysis? Maybe we don’t ever have kids. Was that fair to a girl who’s amazing? She’s seven years younger than I am and has her whole future ahead of her. Do I want to saddle her with my own stuff?
There’s a lot going on here. One day, you’re depressed. The next day, all of a sudden, you’re in the operation room. You have a new kidney. It’s in less than 24 hours.
I knew the transplant was happening a few weeks before. It wasn’t like they told me the day. We had a little time, but things can go wrong.Keep taking one day at a time. Click To Tweet
You never know until you know. You don’t know until your body accepts it. There is no rejection, and you’re healthy. You need months, time, and medication. Everything has to work.
My dog, Dexter, was my rock. He was having it easy. He was fifteen at the time. He had been in heart failure for a number of years, and he died a few months after my transplant. The cheesy part of me thinks that he stuck around to make sure I was going to be okay.
I met you before the pandemic. I remember that’s when we first talked about it. I couldn’t believe it. When the pandemic hit, what does that mean for someone that’s in your situation?
We were pretty much on lockdown. Anabel and I were living in Manhattan. She was six months pregnant. We’re like, “We got to get out of here.” We decamped to my parent’s house on Long Island and stayed there for a year and a half because I sold my apartment in the city about a year later. As a kidney transplant recipient, I was in a high-risk category because I was immune compromised. If I get any illness, it’s going to hit me hard.
We kept in a bubble that we’re still in to some degree. We’ve opened up a little bit, but when the vaccines came, everyone was excited about the vaccines. I didn’t realize until I tested that I didn’t have any antibodies from the vaccines. Vaccines do not work due to the medication I take to keep the kidney . If you think about it, I’m taking medication to suppress my immune system so I can keep this kidney. Meanwhile, that’s suppressing my immune system. If this COVID gets in, it’s going to have a field day.
The COVID virus mutates inside these people who can’t clear the virus. Every time we’re seeing a lot of these variants, it’s due to the fact that people who are immunocompromised, who get it, can’t clear it. That’s how these variants often pop up. It’s terrifying. For a few years, I didn’t do much of anything. We would go outside, but I still won’t eat inside a restaurant.
When was the last time you ate at a restaurant?
We’ll do it outside of restaurants, but I haven’t eaten inside of a restaurant since February 2020, maybe.
This was in New York. Why didn’t you get it early? You didn’t get it before we all knew about it because it was around.
I feel like I may have. In January 2020, I had a weird cold and a fever. I’m sweating through the night, and it wasn’t the flu. I didn’t feel that bad. I had a cough that wouldn’t go away for a month and a half. Maybe I had it. Anabel never got it though.
For you, is the pandemic over?
You’re still inside. What is your life like right now?
We do some things. We’ll see friends, but almost entirely outside. We’ll occasionally do inside things because it’s summer. We’re fortunate, but last winter was tough. I’ve been somewhat fortunate that for people in my position, there is a monoclonal antibody treatment that you can take prophylactically before you would get it. It’s called Evusheld. It’s a shot. They started giving that out early in the year, and I was all over this. I made sure I got this. The supplies were limited. I was telling every hospital that I dealt with, “If you have this, I want to be the first one to get it.” That has helped. That’s given me some antibodies.
Do you get it tested to see if your antibody levels are okay?
The last time I tested, there were still good. They’re not as good as a normally vaccinated person, but they’re still good. People were still getting the vaccine. I do feel like if I do get it, I’ll probably survive it, knock on wood. I don’t want it. Also, I have a two-year-old who’s going to be going to school starting in 2022.
She’s going to be exposed to it.
I can’t stop. Similar to when I hit rock bottom, I got to keep moving forward. I’ve lived in a bubble for a few years now. Fortunately, I work for a company that has allowed me to work remotely and not force me back into the office. I was hopeful that after a few months or a year, COVID would be a memory, but it’s not. It’s still real for me.
What do you see as moving forward for your family and your daughter? Ava has come home with it once. What does this mean? It’s going to keep taking a day at a time.
Take the best precaution we can. Be on high alert for signs of it. If I get it, go get myself a monoclonal antibody. I can’t take Paxlovid because it contraindicates with the medication I take.
You are getting that shot for now.
We all have our crosses to bear. We all have our things. She’s already far less socialized than she should be at someone at her age because we have kept her in the bubble. Now, she’s seeing friends and loving it. I wish we could have been doing this from the beginning, but it was scary.
Was it hard for your wife to even bring your daughter out to an indoor event or a gathering for kids? Is it difficult? She’s sheltered that way because no matter what, they cannot bring this back to you.
We send her to day classes once a week, but she’s two. She’s not going to mask appropriately. It bothers me that no one else in the classroom wears a mask. I have to be like, “Can you guys all please wear masks?” Nobody wants to wear a mask anymore. The CDC is like, “We’re over with this.” It’s like, “No.”
If there’s someone that’s in your position and their daughter’s in the classroom, do they know? They can’t. You’re digging into work. You’re digging into family and enjoying life for what it is for you right now, which is pretty great. One of the things you said is that you have an amazing life. You always look at the glass half full, which is why I wanted you on the show.
COVID has been terrible. I’ve got to spend every day with my daughter for the last few years. I get up and see her. I don’t have to commute to and from work. It’s a lifestyle we never would have had. We got to see her grow in a way that if we are both working, she’s in daycare or with a nanny, my parents, or whomever. Here, we’re with her all the time. The silver lining of the awfulness of COVID is that I’ve seen my daughter. I’ve seen every step she takes. I’ve seen every smile. I’ve heard every song. There are silver linings even in the worst of black clouds. I feel fortunate that we’ve got to experience that with her in a crazy time. That’s a small good thing.
That’s how you have to look at it. I look forward to seeing your daughter again because the last time I saw her, she was pretty small.
She’s two now in 2022.
I saw her when she was first born. My daughter is eleven now in 2022, but she helped pull me through rock bottom. You’re still going through a lot of uncertainty right now. There’s a lot going on with you and how you’re going to live your life for the rest of your life. When is this going to ever calm down, and will you be able to have a normal life? I’m sure you have all of those thoughts.
We do, but you had to be strong for her. I have to be strong for my family. I don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring, but we try to take it day by day and don’t believe before your cut is a line. I heard someone tell me once, “Don’t freak out about the things until they happen.” Plan for them, but I used to get worked up about every possible scenario. I’m now trying not to do that. Don’t believe before your cut. Don’t experience the pain of what might happen before it happens.You have to be strong for yourself and your family. Click To Tweet
The future does not exist. A lot of times, when you’re thinking, afraid, or worried about something, you create this whole scenario in your mind. 99% of the time, that never happens.
I was preparing myself for what would happen, but I was also driving myself crazy and probably other people. I’m trying to re-gear my brain to not do that.
What are some of the things that you do to make sure that you’re not doing that? I do that, too. A lot of people, when they’re at rock bottom, do that. It’s hard to get out of it.
It took my wife to tell me that I was stringent on COVID safety, even until several months ago. I’ve had to loosen up some because people have to live their lives. My daughter got to go to classes. She’s got to do things. It took her telling me, “We can’t continue like this.” I felt like I was suffocating them, even on my own concerns about my own safety. I’ve re-assessed how much of that to put on them. If we get it, we get it. We can do everything. 99 times out of 100 times, we might slip up. We might still get it.
If you do get it, will it raise your antibodies? Will you beat that? Will you have more antibodies?
I don’t know that it would cause my kidney to reject. I don’t think that’s a major concern. I suppose it could happen, but it’s more like it will beat me up more than it will beat somebody else up because I’m heavily compromised. I feel like I’m one of the only people who hasn’t gotten it. I don’t know many people who haven’t gotten it.
I got it once right when we finished filming Smart Home Nation. After I came off the road, I got it. It was crazy. I went to a wedding. Here I am, traveling all over the place with the show. I come home, go to a wedding, and that’s where I got it.
You are pre-vaccines, or you get the vaccines.
I love giving tidbits of information on how to help people out of their rock bottom. When you were in yours, what was that one moment or thing that may have happened that made you not give up?
Giving up was never an option. I don’t know what giving up means. I was going to continue. What does that mean, stop eating, and don’t bathe? This is a funny story. The day my ex-wife moved out, we decided she was going to move out on a specific day. When she did, I was going to take the dog. We would go to my parent’s house on Long Island. The night before, I decided to get drunk. This was my bender. This was my low moment. I’m about to get lower. I’ve been to horrible karaoke bars, acting like an idiot. I was at a McDonald’s in the village at 5:00 in the morning, eating a Filet-O-Fish. I’m like, “This might be rock bottom.”
That’s normal for most of us.
Yes, but not at 5:00 in the morning. The next day, I packed up enough of my stuff and went out to my parent’s house. We were doing karaoke, and I was screaming Johnny Cash’s Hurt into a microphone. I lost my voice entirely. I had laryngitis. I realized a couple of days later that I had come down with pink eye. I was in severe agony from this. It turned into a sinus infection.
Here I am out of a job. My wife had moved out. I was left with the dog and I had pink eye. I had been sitting on the couch for a week. This is truly rock bottom. I can’t talk on the phone because I can’t talk. The sinus infection makes me want to pull out my tooth because it’s like that horrible sinus infection with tooth pain. That was rough.
Did you read any books? Did you do anything that pulled you through that time? Was there anything that happened that held you out of that rock bottom? What was the thing that did that?
Music was a big healer for me. I had never been a huge country music fan, but I love Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and those hard-living rough guys. Some of those songs start speaking to me in a way they never had before. I had a lot of Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, and Merle Haggard in that period. I’m not a religious guy, but I found some spirituality in their tales of hard living. I’m a huge music guy, but I felt that music.Giving up is never an option. You have to go and continue. Click To Tweet
It’s amazing how resilient we are and we figure it out.
I had no choice but to figure it out. You can’t control what happens to you. You can only control how you respond to it. Respond in a positive way.
If you can’t get it from yourself, friends, family, books, music, or do whatever you need to do. Sometimes, changing your life up big time as what is what it is and stopping running.
You can run from things for so long, but you’re never going to escape them.
Walk right through it, plow it down, and figure it out.
It feels better when you do it. When you do overcome it and face it, whatever happens, you feel better that you stopped running.
When I was at rock bottom, the other thing I realized, too, is that no one is going to save you. It does feel lonely. No one is going to give you that perfect thing or fix everything in a phone call. It’s not going to happen. There’s no life deck that’s going to be thrown out. You have to swim to the shore.
I did have angels, Justine, who gave me the kidney. Anabel came into my life several months after my life fell apart. We met on Tinder. That place is full of booty calls.
You went on Tinder and didn’t give up. You were in bed every day, thinking you were never going to meet somebody. You still believe you’re going to meet someone. You went on Tinder. You put together your profile, and you found someone.
She’s amazing. We had a child now. I do feel like if you’re willing to put yourself out there, there are art pieces to pluck that will help you. If you sit and wait for them, they’re not going to arrive. You’ve got to put yourself out there.
It’s also how you look at it. I remember when I lost everything. I lost all my money. I was a single mom. Like you, I’ve lost my self-identity. I was attached to the accolades, the awards, the TV shows, and this and that. I didn’t know who I was. All of a sudden, you go through this for a little while to figure it out. I started to get excited about the fact that I got to start over again. I get to reinvent myself.
How many people get to do that?
See it as a huge positive, but how many people hate their lives right now? They’re not even at rock bottom. They just don’t like their life, and they’re not confident enough, or they don’t have the guts to start over again because you can.
You see yourself as important, though. You believe that you can do it. It’s easy to be negative. It’s easy to get dragged down in the muck and beat yourself up. That’s my advice to people who were in that situation. Don’t beat yourself up. This happens to all of us in some way. Believe that you can get through it and do it one step at a time.
If you are beating yourself up one day, there will be a day when you decide to stop.
It can seem massively overwhelming, but to be cliché, it all starts with the first step. Take that step and take the next step. Sometimes, you will be three steps back, but keep moving forward.
Thank you. I’ve been dying to get your story for a long time because you hadn’t shared all the details with me yet, but I knew that we were going to do this. It’s interesting because you’ve been through a lot, and you’ve created this incredible life. I texted you, and you said, “This did not stop me from having an amazing life.”
In some way, it made it better. The stuff I went through made me stronger. We all deal with stuff, but climbing out of that crap makes us stronger.
It does, and you have a whole new perspective on life. I want to thank you so much for doing that. You have been an incredible influence in my career in the last few years. I’ve had a wonderful experience with A&E. You guys are all incredible. I’m happy that you were able to talk to me and to people reading and give some hope out there because it’s needed. You’re awesome. Thank you.
You’re wonderful, Tanya. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
We’ll talk soon, Jordan. Bye.
About Jordan Harman
Jordan Harman is a veteran network television development executive who has created, developed and overseen hit series for A&E, Food Network, VH1, Spike TV, CMT and FYI, including beloved franchises like “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives”, “Zombie House Flipping”, “Cupcake Wars”, “Sell This House” among many others.
Jordan graduated from The S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University with a BS in Television, Radio & Film Production.
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