Sixteen years ago I sat at our crappy kitchen table in Lexington, Ky., and braced myself for a life of mediocrity.
The newspaper I had helped found was foundering. I was working such late hours that it was easier just to sleep under my desk. My wife, Lucy, was pregnant with our first child and was working (more than) full time as a newspaper reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader.
She was standing by our freezer with a pint of chocolate ice cream. I was wondering what the hell I was going to do with my life.
“The problem,” I recall saying, “is that I’m kinda good at lots of things. But I’m not really good at anything.”
It was true. Lucy and I had both been reporters for newspapers and magazines, and she was the star player. I was the waterboy. She was feted by her bosses. I was plagued by errors and corrections and a judgment misstep that still haunts me. Ask me about that over a beer some day.
By some stroke of luck or divine intervention, I landed a job at Popular Woodworking, and all the pieces fell into place. I got to work with my hands. I was allowed to write, edit, design and take photos – all things I was “kinda” good at. This job salvaged my career. Without it, I have little doubt that I’d be writing obituaries for a shopper with a fifth of Ancient Age in my desk.
So my emotions were mixed as I loaded up my bench, tool chest and shaving horse yesterday and took them to my house. This job was the only job I’ve truly ever loved. I’m paid well (for a writer). I’m treated well and given plenty of freedom.
Why? Well, in journalism school, one of the first things they teach you is that when you write, you should “show – not tell.”
So I guess I’m going to have to show you why.
After my friend Phil and I loaded my stuff into his truck, I got into my car and started the drive home. At the first traffic light I plugged in my iPod. The song waiting for me was from Superchunk, one of my favorite DIY bands.
When I learned to talk, I found words that weren’t worth dirt
Heavy like the rocks we carry, I stopped sinking and learned to surf
I stopped swimming and learned to surf
Stopped swimming, learned to surf
I learned to surf.
— Christopher Schwarz