It’s hard to believe that it has been one year since walking away from a job that had essentially defined who I am to so many of the people who know me. It’s even harder to believe what life looks like now compared to a year ago.
For nearly a decade, I was the guy who covered sports for the local newspaper, and it was a role I was happy to serve for over a third of my lifetime. When you do something for so long when you’re still so (relatively) young, it’s almost bound to define you.
Parents: “You’re the reporter guy, right?”
Athletes: “I follow you on Twitter!”
Referees: “I read your column.”
Being a reporter was all I knew. There were over 100 contacts in my phone with “Coach” in front of their name, I knew random facts about pretty much every team in our area, I had memorized every mascot of all 80-plus schools we covered, and, truthfully, I could never see myself doing anything else.
The thought of changing careers always terrified me, but over time became a reality I knew that I would eventually have to face one day. That day came on Oct. 21, 2019, when I started the next chapter of my life.
It hasn’t been an easy year.
COVID cost me my new job and left me unemployed for the first time since I was 15 years old. What started off as, “Hey, we might get a whole month off and get paid for it!” turned into being laid off, and has since turned into complete uncertainty.
The past eight months have tested my mental health on regular basis. I have questioned my purpose in the world. I have questioned what the future will look like for me and my loved ones. I have questioned what this pandemic means for my impending nuptials. I have questioned if life as we knew it will ever return.
But I don’t regret the move.
Yes, I might still have a job if I had never changed careers, but the reasons I ultimately left would also still be there.
There would still be no promise of job security for the long-term future (and yes, I recognize the irony of saying that after being laid off from my new job). There would still be little confidence that I would ever make enough to support a family. There would still be the unnerving feeling that while I was out with friends or on vacation, something was going on at work that I was missing.
There would still be the never-ending grind of finding the next story, the right combination of SEO-friendly words to generate a few extra hundred clicks, and the balance of reporting the truth and maintaining a relationship with the people who would not be happy with that truth being printed.
But the last year has also taught me some invaluable lessons.
I learned how to be a leader, if only for a brief period of time. I learned what it is like to earn the respect of your employees and I learned what it is like to bear the brunt of employees’ displeasure with their superior. I learned what it is like to have the buck stop with you.
I learned to have some very uncomfortable conversations. I learned that you may only serve a singular purpose to some people, and that when you no longer serve that purpose then you are of no use to them. I learned that being true to your beliefs can ruin relationships with everyone from acquaintances, to people you respected, to family members.
And most importantly, I learned to appreciate the little things more than ever. I’ve done a lot of growing up over the past year, and I would be ignorant to say that losing my job and dealing with the stress of a global pandemic were not factors in that growth.
I know that I’ve stepped way outside of the box that many who are now reading this may have previously had me in. I’m thankful to those who have treated me all the same, and I’m appreciative of those who are willing to have a civil and constructive dialogue about things we disagree on.
I’m a human being with many flaws, not the least of which include having too many thoughts, too big of a mouth, and too little restraint. But I also think we rarely say the things that need to be said because we know people may not react kindly to being told the things they need to hear. My hope is that we can all one day effectively communicate our thoughts and feelings with one another, even if that hope is idealistic at best.
I’m a human being with many flaws, but I will always work to become a better person, a better friend, a better son, a better brother, eventually a better husband, and hopefully one day a better father.
I know that I’m going to have to make some life-changing decisions over the next several months and the next few years, and I have no idea of knowing what the correct ones are… but I know I’m going to try my best to do what is right for myself and my family.
I’m not the same person I was one year ago, and that’s either a good thing or a bad thing depending on who you ask.
This past year has been a unique experience, and one I hope to never face again if and when this current state of existence passes. There has been a lot of ugliness, hate, and fear in the world over the past year, and it’s unsettling. But there have also been glimpses of light if you look for them.
I, for one, will never stop looking.