Life can take you down some interesting paths.
In 1997, I was convinced that Stone Park would be the ideal location to ask my girlfriend to spend her life with me. Plans changed, and I decided to pop the question where we met in Lincoln. It may have happened in front of a drug deal on the streets. Not ideal. She did say yes, but the location was not as picturesque as my original plan.
I just celebrated my 25th work anniversary at KSUX 105.7 with a heavy dose of nostalgic vibes. When I look back at the recent college grad moving into a small one-bedroom apartment, I had clear intentions of how I wanted life to go. I dreamt of listeners hanging on every one of my words. My goal was to make an impact like Siouxlebrities Cowboy Bob, Johnny Walker, Jeff Miller, and Chris Thomas. My lovely wife would have told you my goal was to hop to a big metro, and Siouxland would only be a two-year commitment. She was with me for the journey. Man, I married well.
We were blessed with a son in 2003. Another one came along in 2005. Those two miracles would shape our lives in ways I hadn’t considered. Autism would alter our mission. Siouxland became the “Stone Park” setting for a meaningful life. The area has grown so much in a quarter of a century, and I’d like to think I have grown as an individual in many ways as well. I accepted many new challenges at work, started work as an adjunct professor at Morningside University, and made so many connections. I’m very thankful to those that made the choice to turn on the radio station.
My plan was to be a bombastic on-air personality like Howard Stern. The funny thing is I learned a new talent over that span of time, listening. Weird, right? The truth is I love it when I have a compelling on-air moment. But I’ve learned to take great joy in HEARING the talents of others on the radio like Josie Cooper, Chopper Scott, Candice Nash, Big Daddy, Charlie Stone, and Moose. Additionally, when I hear students broadcast live with confidence from the Doc Heistad studio on campus, I feel like the art of radio is alive and well. I beam with pride and joy.
On the podcast front, I’ve learned so much from the individuals you see in this magazine. Topics on the pod include the importance of self-care, mentoring, taking a chance, and compassion.
The concept of compassion brings us back to Stone Park. As I write this on a Sunday afternoon, I am very thankful for the worldview my oldest son Trey has brought to my life. Walking through the wilderness of autism was not at all in my plan when I planned to propose marriage in 1997. My 19-year-old has taught me the talent of seeing another worldview. His life is a celebration for me and a blessing I did not ask to receive. He may not have the gift of vocal words, but his smile communicates love. His squeals of delight at Stone Park mean more to me than chatting with Garth Brooks on-air. You can learn a lot when it’s not about you.
Howard Stern may have hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank. I learned the value in cherishing life on a quiet Sunday afternoon at my favorite park. All without saying a word.
Now, that’s a situation I could not have imagined 25 years ago. I learned to embrace the quiet.
Tony Michaels has been at KSUX since August 1997. He is also the Program Director at the radio station and adjunct professor in the Mass Communication department at Morningside University. In his free time, he takes long hikes and wrote his first book, “Tacos and Beer Atmosphere.”