Dreams … we all have ‘em.
According to Erwin McManus, pastor of the Mosaic in Los Angeles, way too many of us dream better lives than we actually live.
There’s a black and white photo of me tucked in a frame in one of my bedrooms. When I worked at The Baldwyn News and later the Daily Corinthian, the photo sat on my desk. Why? Because the photo was one of a three-year-old me sitting in a small, rocking chair (even though the photo is black and white, I know it’s red cause I have the rocking chair in my living room today). My feet were propped up in another child-sized chair and in my tiny hands was a newspaper. Probably a Jackson Sun since we lived in Jackson, Tenn., at that time. It’s hard to decipher much about the newspaper from the photo since I’m holding it upside down. But I’m holding a newspaper as a newspaper should be held. In that photo, I’m looking away from the newspaper.
The pose makes it look as if I’m making some sort of editorial statement. From the look on my face, it was a positive one cause, well, because it was a look of sheer glee.
Of all the childhood photos I possess, that one has to be my favorite. Why? Because it is proof that the dream I carried into adulthood was birthed within me not long after I arrived on this planet. My mama used to tell me that while some children carried around security blankets, I almost always had a newspaper in my hand when I as a toddler. Some nights after I fell asleep, she would have to literally rip it from my grip often having to scrub my palm to get the black ink off the newspaper had imprinted there.
Although I think Daddy would have preferred I follow in his footsteps and become an educator, I never gave up the dream to become a writer. And not just any writer, though. The dream to be a newspaper journalist was always with me. In fact, I possessed that dream for so long that I don’t even know where it originated. It was as if it was instilled in me at conception and grew as I grew.
I wasn’t always totally faithful to my dream. There were times, as most children do, that I would explore other career opportunities in my mind and literally. Because my cousin Clara Lynn was a missionary in Brazil, I seriously thought about doing that. Being the biggest kid in my class (sometimes the biggest of the boys AND the girls), I was often took on the role of defending the underdog. From that experience, I considered becoming a social worker (even changed my major to social work one semester at Northeast until my advisor told me that even though my heart was in the right place, I needed to go back to journalism and right wrongs that way).
At one time in my life I really thought photography might become my profession of choice. I loved looking through the viewfinder of a camera – even if it was a 110 instamatic – and capturing a Kodak moment. Possessing the knack for getting just the right shot seemed inert to me even back then.
And since I spent a lot of time with Daddy at the various schools he was principal of throughout my lifetime, it was only natural for me to consider education as a career from time to time. I tended to play school more than I took it seriously, though.
Granny Hughes got me hooked on her “stories” at an early age and I seriously tossed around the idea of becoming a writer of a different sort when I was in high school. Soap operas were a huge passion of mine – somewhat funny now that I think about it all these decades later – and when I was a junior in high school, I began seriously talking about moving to New York and becoming a soap opera writer. I think my mama would have rather I joined the Sandanistas than move to New York. For some reason the big city scared her and Mama would discourage that plan every time I mentioned it.
Despite considering other career options, I never really totally lost sight of my dream to become a journalist. I’d like to say I worked hard in college to obtain a journalism degree. I did work hard in college but it wasn’t academically. I got by in the classroom, but I worked hard at being a “social butterfly.” Despite that, I graduated with a little over a 3.0 from Mississippi University for Women and hit the world wide open. My plan was to take what I considered a “learning job” in a small newspaper for a few years before hitting the streets of a big metropolitan area to become a paragraph producer.
I spent 3 ½ years in Baldwyn learning the newspaper business inside and out (as well as the business of life, but that’s another blog post I’m certain) before taking a job at the Daily Corinthian. That was literally part of my dream come true, in all honesty. In addition to stating I wanted to be a journalist, I would always add that I wanted to be editor of the DC. Funny that I would state that since I would also state I wanted to graduate from Corinth High School and never live in Corinth again (guess I thought I would live in the metropolitan meccas of Iuka, Kossuth or Walnut while I fulfilled that part of the dream, huh!?!?).
One year became five and five years became 10 while I worked at the DC as news editor. Although we were a small newspaper, I sometimes got to deal with some big city issues from my cubicle at work. I was able to meet a British prince, meet Hollywood celebrities and Washington, DC movers and shakers. I did stories on common people who did uncommon things and took hundreds of thousands of photographs. Eight days short of my 19th anniversary at the DC, I got to work early and sensed something was just not right. Of course, I’d kinda felt that for several months but this day seemed a bit lower on the “not right” spectrum. After I’d been there about 20 minutes, my boss called me into his office. I knew it wasn’t positive when I saw the publisher and the financial officer sitting in there as well.
Long story short, one of them read me a letter that thanked me for my service to the DC but informed me that because my position had been eliminated from the newspaper, my employment there was terminated immediately.
They could have shot me in the heart with a .357 magnum and it wouldn’t have hurt any less.
It was similar to those moments you see on movies, too. I temporarily went deaf – it was as if the world was void of sound for a moment. And a wave of shock coursed through my system. I almost hate to sound so dramatic, but it was that for me at that moment. For almost 19 years, I had lived and breathed the DC. I had often joked that I had BECOME the DC in a lot of ways – I didn’t know where my work life ended and my real life began. I think I had thrown myself into that job so much that it had become my world.
And my world was stripped away from me in those few minutes.
I quickly came to my senses and remembered that I was Betty Jane Hughes Jobe’s child. Where some folks might have caused a scene, I slowly stood up, attempted to smile and told them I would pack my own belongings. I felt they owed me that much respect as a faithful employee who had been a team player and a “company” person.
It took several hours to weed through almost 19 years of clippings and career souvenirs. Coworkers would come by my desk from time to time and attempt words of encouragement and support. Although I appreciated them, they didn’t really work as salve to heal the hurt.
Boxes packed, my best friend – who had left work in Oxford to be there for me at that moment – helped me carry them out to my car.
Although I’d forced back the tears at the DC, I couldn’t hold them in any longer. I felt huge, hot tears slowly drip off my chin as I headed for home.
Losing a job right before the holiday season is tough on many levels. It’s really tough on a person who wants to dive in and find another one. Most employers are trying to finish the year out and are more worried about getting in all the vacation time and personal time off that folks have saved up more than they are filling empty positions. So I spent the holidays with my family – something I’d not gotten to do consistently as a member of the media.
I applied for several positions at newspapers throughout North Mississippi and had some serious “bites” at a few of them. But it literally made me sick to think about walking in another newsroom and attempting to put my byline on a story in another publication. It wasn’t that I was that loyal to the DC. That wasn’t the case. It was as if losing my job was more than losing a paycheck – something during the event killed that dream within me that I’d carried since childhood.
For the longest, I didn’t want to write anything. Even filing out job applications and signing my name became too much of a chore.
Long story shortened, I found out about the project director’s position at the Corinth School District and applied for it. Dr. Childress saw enough potential in me to give me a chance and I began working there on January 16, 2008. A little over a year later, I still love what I’m doing. I’m becoming more confident in the depth of knowledge that I have about education and have learned more about it than I ever knew I could absorb. I have an even heightened respect for the teaching profession and honestly care about every staff member of the CSD.
A lot of people will tell you that you should keep work relationships and personal relationships separate, but that’s almost impossible in education. It’s a team effort to make sure children are learning all they should be at the rate they should be. And you can’t work that hard on something that closely with people and not care about them.
My dream career-wise had changed now. Although I never say never, I don’t envision myself returning to a newsroom anytime soon. I’m not certain that I will retire with the CSD, either, but I’m in no hurry to leave there. I think I’m doing a good job and believe I am making a positive impact on the lives of those who work with and attend our district. And I know they’re making a positive impact on mine.
Oddly enough, when I was news editor of the DC, I was often asked to speak to students about the newspaper business. Almost every time during the question and answer portion, some student would always ask – what would you be if you couldn’t work in the newspaper business? I’d always laugh and utter something about never thinking I wouldn’t be a journalist and then I’d always pause (not for dramatics but to honestly think about my answer) and state I would be a history teacher. Although my answer was always that – even though I wanted to be witty and say a ballerina or something ridiculous like that – and it would almost surprise me every time I said it. Looking back now, I wonder if maybe God wasn’t somewhat asking my heart to stretch a little and consider another possibility for my life.
There are other possibilities He is working on within me. Some are what I call “Oprah-sized” dreams – the kinds I would have to have an Oprah-sized bank account to see happen. And others are small dreams that I see coming true on a daily basis as special people have begun to come into my life.
Erwin McManus also stated, on the video we watched at church Wednesday night, that “you can miss those moments in life never knowing what you missed or you can seize those moments.”
I’ve missed enough moments in my life, it seems, so I’m picking the latter choice.
I don’t have a clue what my future is exactly, but I’ve always known who holds my future. And I’m content with that. Just as I am content to continue to dare to dream.