A lesson I needed to learn

On the verge of a major life change, I’ve learned a valuable lesson.

A few years ago, I was committed to the idea that my novels/short stories were going to be my calling. My true calling. You have to understand that I was in a horrible place professionally. I’d been a newspaper professional for a number of years, but journalism — especially in the newspaper world — was changing quickly. There were fewer people to do the work. The hours were longer than ever, and the rewards were fewer and fewer. I was ground down to the nub.

Looking back at some old journal entries, I can tell you I was probably as unhappy as I’ve ever been.

So I quit journalism. I didn’t just quit the paper. I was so worn down, so flat-out tired, that I couldn’t do it anymore. I used to believe that good journalism was a high and holy calling. Maybe it still is, to some folks. I know there are places out there who are still doing quality reporting.

I moved to Tuscaloosa about five years ago. Married my fiancee’. Found a great group of friends. Bought a house and two cars. Had a kid. My life was good. Except for that pesky professional thing. I was never really happy anywhere I landed after working in journalism for so long.

So I bounced around a bit. Did some studio photography and some public relations/marketing. Bartended some. I even worked as a stay-at-home dad for several months. Talk about a full-time job.

From the time I moved to Tuscaloosa, I’d set my priority on landing at The University of Alabama. I applied for everything under the Sun. Office associate, office pool, program assistant, whatever they had available that I thought I could do. I applied for 25 jobs at the university over 4+ years.

I never heard anything back from ANY of those applications, until the last two. Think about that for a second. I pounded my head against the wall of futility for nearly half a decade. I often wonder if it left a mark.

Last fall, I did hear back, though–landing an interview for a media relations position. Based on my writing samples, journalism history, and my ability to interview well, I very nearly got the job. It was not-quite-soul-crushing when I didn’t get it. There was a lot of moping around the house.

When another media relations position opened up, I almost didn’t apply for it. I was ready to quit, ready to just give up. My wife talked me into applying for it. In the meantime I’d registered with a temp agency and landed a job as a graphic designer.

Then one day about three weeks ago, I got the call for another interview. Did I go? Does a one-legged duck swim in a circle? A few days later, the university requested a background check. This was a key step toward getting hired. Of course I agreed to the check. And then waited.

And waited some more.

The days that followed were so LONG. Never mind that it only took a week or so! I was on edge. Pins and needles, if you’ll allow me the cliche’.

I heard back last Friday. I got the job. Put in my notice with the temp agency and the very nice folks I’m designing for. I start as a communications specialist in media relations on August 1. I can’t wait. All of that time spent fruitlessly applying, waiting, and hoping doesn’t seem so bad now.

But the larger lesson I learned is something I will apply to my fiction writing. Persistence pays off. Did it take years and years to find my perfect professional opportunity? You bet. It’s going to take persistence for me to take my fiction to the next level as well. I’m disappointed I don’t have an agent or a publishing contract yet. But if I keep putting one word in front of the other, keep trying to make connections in the publishing world, keep moving forward, then my time may come around.


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