Yesterday I was interviewed by a journalism student at my alma mater. She was writing a paper and talking to various alumni in the journalism field. There’s nothing quite like reviewing your entire professional career in half an hour to give you some perspective.
In short, I went from sports writer at a newspaper to public relations director at a national youth sports league to sports writer/columnist at another newspaper by the time I was 30. After 10 years at the latter, I moved into web producing (read: editing) for a major network sports site in New York, then to a professional sports league in the same capacity, then to television producing at an exciting startup network. Whew.
So here’s what struck me while I was answering her questions. I have not always made popular decisions. In fact, people (some of whom I respect and love) thought I was crazy several times along the way. For example, as the P.R. director of a youth baseball league, I had a corporate American Express card, plenty of travel and a nice office. I left that to become an agate clerk at a newspaper. For those not familiar with sports journalism jargon, that means I did monkey work — coding statistics like horse racing results and boxscores. It also meant working nights in a non-glamorous atmosphere.
But the pay was a bit better, I had made up my mind to earn a beat of my own within a year (it was nine months, actually) and public relations involved writing fluff that didn’t come naturally to me. In the long run, I wound up thriving as a sports writer/columnist, loving the challenges of writing on deadline and meeting fascinating people from all walks of life. I think I can safely say that decision kicked butt.
When I made the jump to web producing, there were more jeers. It wasn’t a sure thing and some people are very into the sure, safe thing. I can’t live like that, at least not happily. So I made the move and loved working with tight deadlines in a different medium. What a rush. The hours were a little nutty, but that was part of the appeal for me.
When that operation moved to Los Angeles, I opted to stay in New York and landed a job at a professional sports league. It was a step up in pay and title and I had a gorgeous office complete with chrome and glass in Rockefeller Center. I loved the people but hated the staid corporate atmosphere. I lasted six months. The naysayers had a blast with that one.
But I persisted in my philosophy of “Nancy Knows Best” and took to the startup network immediately. I was given an opportunity to learn television producing and it was a priceless experience despite a layoff that decimated my 30-person department two and a half years ago.
The reason this speaks to me so much right now is that I have made some recent decisions that have others thinking I’ve lost my mind (and admittedly I’ve questioned my sanity at times as well). Mine is a freelance life, writing and life coaching. Some months it’s lucrative, others it’s very slow. And, to be fair, I’m a stubborn soul. I feel my life is being guided by the universe and my challenge is to be open to all of it and stay focused on the journey. When I try something repeatedly and doors keep slamming shut, I take that as a sign that I’m forcing a direction that isn’t supposed to be.
So thank you, journalism student. This has been a welcome reminder in a time of extreme ebb and flow. I am on the right path. I can feel it in my gut.