Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Things Have a Way of Working Out

A year ago today I was "let go" from the only job I thought I had ever wanted.

True story: When I was a journalism student at Syracuse University, I would see the Syracuse New Times at one of my three places of employment, the long-gone Burger King on Marshall Street. I read it; I liked it. I announced to myself, "I want to be the editor of that paper."
After a circuitous route that included two years as a copy editor at a major daily newspaper, the editor of a small alternative weekly in Ithaca, years of freelancing, and working for a labor union as their communications director, I achieved that dream.
When I told Shirley Zimmer, former co-owner of The New Times, this story, she couldn't contain her awe that I had predicted my future 20 years before it became my present.
I spent 13 years on staff at the third-oldest alternative newsweekly in America, one as staff writer and 12 as editor-in-chief. It was daunting, it was scary, it was nerve-wracking, it was gray hair-producing, it was exhilarating, it was fun. I got to interview people I never could have imagined: Ray Suarez, Liz Phair, Pete Best, Graham Nash, Hillary Clinton. Actually, I had tea with her one late August morning; it was awesome.
Sure there were issues working there--any newsroom has its stresses, but an alt-weekly newsroom's are magnified.
The money stinks.
The benefits (what few there are) are pricey.
The work can be all-consuming.
You are perennially understaffed.
Every Tuesday, production day, demanded undivided attention--no doctor appointments, no lunches outside of the building, no idea when you might make it home.
For years I convinced myself that the positives far outweighed the negatives (life is merely a series of trade-offs, right?). Besides, it was a pretty cool job.

A year ago today my life changed. I had never before been fired from a job. I had never before worked so hard for someone who had no clue 1) how hard I was working, 2) why I was working so hard and, 3) why I so desired to protect the paper's integrity and my editorial staff. The dirty deed happened on a Tuesday, after the paper was put to bed; figures.
I cried (but not outside my office). I called my husband and cried. I called my daughter and cried. I went home and cried. I drank too much wine and cried.

I have never been one to wallow, however, so instead of continuing to feel sorry for myself, the next morning I posted a candid status update on Facebook. The community outpouring of support was incredible and flattering, and served to boost my self-confidence in the face of the ego-deflation I had just experienced.

Now, Facebook is both a blessing and a curse. Three-hundred-sixty-four days ago, I was truly blessed when a friend-of-a-Facebook-friend contacted me via, what else?, Facebook to say she had a position available, and would I want to come in and talk about it. Would I?

Almost a year later, I am enjoying this job (can't call it new anymore) at a different labor union than the one I worked at before, helping communicate the plight of workers, learning so much I can't even begin to list it, being part of a team that is like-minded and dedicated to the members we represent. I am doing good work, important work, satisfying work, and that's really what matters.

Some things, I believe, are truly meant to be. Way back in 1981, when I transferred to Syracuse University's Newhouse School, after I finally realized Skidmore College and I didn't mesh, my sister was organizing upstate New York healthcare workers for an upstart Service Employees International Union local. I moved in with her (free rent in exchange for keeping the apartment clean).

Nearly 30 years later, I find myself working at the place she helped form way back when (life can truly be strange). Some people she worked with are still with the union, and they remember her, and they remember me. And it feels wonderful to be appreciated.

So what's the takeaway? 
1. You're never too old to learn some lessons about life, or at least have them reinforced.
2. Life isn't fair, but it isn't meant to be fair.
3. Hard work does pay off, often in surprising ways.
4. Try as you might, you cannot control your destiny. You can take steps toward your life's goals, but they may get derailed. The key is to bounce back, be flexible and keep an open mind.
5. Dreams often turn into nightmares and then back into dreams.
6. When the going gets tough, the tough get going (one of my mother's favorite sayings).

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