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Throwing it out there

October 5, 2007

My picture experience the other night was interesting. I’d like to use the word “enlightening,” but I don’t know that if it taught me anything more than that there are some things I probably still need to deal with. To be less vague, I found quite a few photos of my first marriage that I thought I’d chucked, and it stirred some things within me that I imagine I’ll be working through in the next few weeks.

In my search, I stumbled upon this photo of me at a journalism awards ceremony a decade-and-a-half ago. That night I bid on a Boston Globe coffee mug and won it for $8. I had it for years. Did I really want to be a journalist?

angaward3.jpg

I took a News Writing 101 class as an elective for my degree my junior year of college. In high school, I had always wanted to be on the paper, but didn’t know how to ask, even though I was in the top 3% of my class and took every honors course offered, except for physics. Asking for what I’d like or want — or even need — has never been a strong suit of mine.

The editor of my college paper came to me because of an article I’d written for the class and asked me if I’d be the news editor for the paper that next year. After my previous post about awards, it shouldn’t surprise you to hear that I was stunned. I told myself that it must be because it was a small college and they didn’t have a lot of choices.

Eight months later as I sat in this beautiful hotel to collect my award for a story ironically written about how my college had fallen off the top ten best schools list, I was in awe of the whole experience. “Maybe I could be a journalist,” I thought.

I remember driving by The Globe on my way to the children’s museum in Boston when Babs first learned to walk and I needed the sanity of getting out of the house and she needed to run. I was writing for a little paper that was more like a journal, really, funded by John Templeton as an experiment.

I remember editing something written by biochemist and Dean of Clare College at Cambridge University Sir Arthur Peacock. Sir John Templeton. Sir Arthur Peacock. It was surreal. And I didn’t pay attention to it. I ignored it as a coping strategy.

I e-mailed Frans de Waal at Emory University. He e-mailed me back. I e-mailed Dr. Bernie Siegel. He called me. I e-mailed the father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman. Yep. He e-mailed me back, too.

There was this sense that I was having some out-of-body experience, like it wasn’t really me interacting with all of these incredible people. I remember when my boss (the managing editor) told me that Arthur Peacock had called him to thank him for the wonderful job we had done editing his piece — that I had done. I stopped dead in my tracks. “Oh, shit,” I thought. “He actually read that?!”

I remember my boss looking at me sadly at one point and saying, “Angie, you have no idea how amazing you are; do you?”

And the truth is: I don’t. I don’t think I’m amazing or anything more than just another person on this planet. Does that mean that I don’t believe in myself? Is it supposed to be this way, or am I supposed to understand on a deeper level my own uniqueness? Not separateness, but difference — an appreciation for my talents and unique, irreplaceable soul.

I look at this picture, and I see a pretty, 22-year-old girl with big hair and enough talent to garner her an award right out of the chute.

I think that I have a decent amount of self worth. So how does that idea co-exist with the disbelief I seem to have as it relates to my own talents and being deserving of awards? Or do I downplay what is recognized about me to try to limit jealousy and criticism?

I tell people that I don’t like to write. Yet I’ve been writing for the better part of my life and have funded several cool things (like the trip to Disneyland earlier this year) with the proceeds from my freelance work.

I’m not sure how I ended up so contemplative on this Friday evening. Oh, that’s right. Those photos. The photos that have been sitting there patiently waiting for me to come and deal with them.

I don’t know what the answers are, but I find myself with quite a few questions. Here’s hoping peace and enlightenment for you in the journey of your own questioning. Maybe the answer is truly, as Rainer Maria Rilke says, to just live it.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions.”

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10 comments

  1. What I find amazing about you is the fact you have the courage to ask the questions – to voice them aloud. If you don’t ask, the answers will never come.
    Your unique journey is fascinating – thanks for sharing it.
    And believe in yourself!


  2. And, beautiful (in all respects) Angie, you do have no idea how amazing you are, to reiterate your boss. As a journalist of some 30 years duration I think you’d have made an astonishingly good journalist and I think it’s something you should still consider. The quote from Rilke, by the way, is most apt and truthful. Old photos from my second marriage especially always fill me with a wealth of questions, too, and they will never be answered, or certainly not to my satisfaction. Anyway, my ‘sister’ of great wisdom, have a wonderful weekend.


  3. Angie, I’ve wrestled with this issue all my career. I’m a journalist as well — I work as the night news editor at a daily paper — and for most of my 20-year career I’ve ignored journalism awards and contests. My standard line has been that good work is its own reward. I’ve know too many “awards whores” — people who measure their professional and even personal) self-esteem through their plaques and certificates — and I allowed my disdain for them to keep me out of contest after contest, year after year. But lurking underneath all that was an occasional voiced fear that I was really staying out of contests because I was afraid I’d like the spotlight too much in an unseemly way if I ever got a taste of it.

    In the past few years, I’ve found a rather pragmatic way out of this problem. My current paper’s corporate owner offer as QUARTERLY contest with CASH prizes, and one of the contest categories is headline writing. I happen to be a kick-ass headline writer, and so I first entered about two years ago, thinking I had a pretty decent shot at capturing the $1,000 first prize. Well … I’ve won it in six of the last seven quarters, and also won last year’s ANNUAL contest, and so far have collected about $7,500 in prize money. That money has paid for travel, paid for a few nice things I felt I needed … and, hopefully in about six months, will provide a big chunk of a big down payment on a new car.

    And somewhere along the way, my misplaced hubris about awards and recognition just sort of melted away. Not that I go about bragging (all evidence to the contrary right here!) wherever I go, but as I’ve grown older and more comfortable with myself and less worried about what others think, I’ve grown more comfortable accepting and taking credit for the good things I do when I deserve to be given credit.

    As I was just telling a friend in a conversation about ascetic religious fanatics, it seems so sad and unnecessary to define your success in this world by the extent to which you deprive yourself of what this world has to offer. Because if that’s the case, then, literally, what in the world are we doing?

    Be comfortable and confident in your spotlight, Angie. If somebody else thinks you deserve it, then why struggle against it so?


  4. By the way … it’s “chute,” not “shoot.” 🙂


  5. Angela, I’ve only been reading you for a month or two, but you are one of my regular stops on my daily bloggage perusal. That is because your writing is always interesting even if I would not necessarily be interested in the subject on it’s own. That’s something I aspire to…but I just suck people in with cute pictures of my skunk.

    In a nutshell, you rock.


  6. Beth ~ Thank you. Having this space to just come and *be* has been such a blessing. I’m so glad you’re here. Thanks for your encouragement.

    Ian ~ Thank you. I found that I wanted to share more about my writing background when I stumbled on so many wonderful writers and editors. It creates a sense of belonging for me, and I love that feeling. I hope that your weekend is tremendous, as well!

    Jim ~ Damn! See, this is why I may be a decent journalist, but not a good copy editor! You are very good at what you do. You ask some good questions. I know they’re probably rhetorical, but I will be thinking of them. As always, thank you.

    Reese ~ I’m just so glad our paths crossed. Thank you for your kind words. I LOVE seeing your skunk! (But I also think that you are a very talented writer in your own right.)


  7. at first, your photo looks right off the set of Broadcast News. I think thats that 80’s movie remake. You get the idea. Anyhow, you ARE amazing and the sooner you recognize it the sooner you’ll be able to do more than just pay for the occassional trips to Disney with your talent.


  8. Thanks, Pool. Insecurity is a bitch, but I know I’m not the only one who deals with it. 🙂 I’m starting to figure some things out and not be so wrapped up in the ramifications of choices, but I probably still think too much. Thanks for taking the time to add this. It means a lot to me.


  9. It’s so hard to be confident, I think. To trust that there are really good things about you, that set you apart in some way. That’s why you have to be reminded once in a while.


  10. C ~ Thank you for reading all this. It was a rambling rambler, that’s for sure. I’m infinitely impressed that you would read ALL these posts. Heavens, woman. You’ve got a lot on your plate! Confidence seems to be ever-evolving for me. Two steps forward, one step back. Peeling off the layers of the onion until I’m raw, which is a good thing. I’d rather be just me than all these layers I’ve been putting on all these years.



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