I think this is a post about balance.
Or, just getting older and wiser.
In May 2005, I got a job as a newspaper reporter. I loved writing, and the thought of getting paid to do so, regardless of the pittance bestowed upon such a profession, was exciting. Every week, I’d trudge off into the dark, snow-covered recesses of Western New York to cover a discussion between a few town old-timers in a windowless room (Franklinville Village Board meetings are easily the most memorable). They’d discuss seemingly trivial topics like fence height or so-and-so’s dog that barks too much, but since the meetings were held under the auspices of a municipality, it was official. It was a byline.
I was just a kid, and even though I still see myself as a bit green in nearly every life category, I know that I’ve grown tremendously since then.
My younger self didn’t stand a chance. For starters, my reporting job was in my hometown – where I’d grown up and where I’d gone to college. This proved an issue from the start, for someone with grand plans that didn’t involve Olean, NY.
Plus, reporting in my hometown introduced an unexpected element of the job.
It’s one thing to cover a town where you’re virtually anonymous, a stranger with a pen and notebook. It’s quite another when some of the very people I’d reported on had seen me in diapers. That was strange, and it made for a number of uncomfortable moments (The most, by far, involved interviewing an ex-girlfriend’s mother regarding a testy school district issue).
When I left the paper not more than a year later, I was unsure if I’d ever get back into the business. Though I had the writing chops, I began to doubt whether I had the acumen of a cut-throat reporter, someone bold enough to state, “My readers demand an answer, dammit, and you’re gonna give it to them!”
So I moved away, tried something else, and in turn accepted pedestrian work to pay the bills while blindly heading toward an unknown destination in the creative world.
That was a bold move and a necessary one. Ultimately, I failed miserably in almost all of my endeavors in the ensuing 10 months, but I don’t regret it for one moment.
And, as luck would have it, I’m reporting again after five years away. Amazing, too, how balanced the bike feels, how the intricacies of news reporting come bursting from my subconscious and yell, “Long time no see, asshole. That lede blows.”
So, I put my head down, pedal like a maniac and hold firmly to my creative goals and a loose definition of “success”, feeling more confident than ever that I can keep all the spinning plates going – the reporting gig, music, writing, film – without completely losing my mind, demanding the world acknowledge my genius.
I think back to the young kid stumbling into meetings in Cuba and Allegany, and I can’t relate to him. Whatever I was thinking then – what my aspirations were, how easy it would be to attain them – seem so foreign, so misguided and devoid of reality.
So I begin again, down a career track, feeling wiser, better equipped to handle … everything.
Except for interviewing an ex’s mother. That will always be weird.