Month: August 2018

The good, the bad and the learned

The good, the bad and the learned

I sat in my newsroom tonight, alone, trying to get caught up on some work. The only sound emanated from the scanner – the constant source of information and, at times, entertainment for journalists. I glanced around the room, picturing the people who would be at those desks in the morning. Then my mind wondered a little farther, and I began to envision those who occupied those desks a year ago, five years ago, 10 years ago.

It dawned on me as I took a few moments to reminisce that I had learned a great deal from the people who manned those cubicles and offices. Some of them I looked up to for they had helped me when I was just a kid cutting my teeth in the business. They answered all my questions. They offered me advice and tips. They made me a better journalist, editor and page designer. Some of them became like family as I felt a camaraderie and love for them that makes them special to this day.

Others, to put it kindly, I just couldn’t stand. They were irritating, braggadocios, incompetent … well, I believe you get the picture. But after some thought, I realized that I also learned from them. I educated myself in the ways not to do things or to treat people. I learned traits that I did not want to emulate. I saw things in them that if I avoided would make me a more productive journalist.

You see, a newsroom is a microcosm of life. We always will have those people in life that we love and cherish. Friends and family who stand by us and offer advice and tips that make us better people. These are people we love to be with and we want to experience as much of our life with them as possible. Then there are those people in life that we simply don’t care for. We separate ourselves from them, avoiding them as much as possible because we just don’t like them.

Both groups have something important in common – we can learn something from them. Countless people come in and out of our lives. There are those we look up to who are gone too soon. There are those we dislike who seem to stick around far too long. No matter our feelings for people we can learn something from everyone. Good lessons and bad help shape us and make us better people. How you view these experiences will help determine what kind of learned person you become.

If you avoid the irritants in life at all cost, you are going to miss out on valuable lessons. How will you ever know which traits are bothersome if you never experience them? How will you learn what mistakes not to make if you first don’t witness them? How can you become a better person if you don’t live life with some people who aren’t friendly or uplifting so you can see the flaws in your own character?

A newsroom is a diverse group of people who hold a common goal – to inform the public and put out the best product possible. Some people you will like, even love, and consider them treasured friends. Others you would gladly do the 25 to 30 years the judge might give you for your actions. But from all of them you can take things that will make you a better human being. And life outside of the workplace is the same. Everyone, good or bad, can teach you something if you are willing to learn from them.

As I reflected on the newsrooms of yesteryear, the names floated through my mind. I could hear old co-workers favorite expressions and tidbits of advice. I can recall the times we laughed together with a sense of humor only journalists can really appreciate it. I remembered those folks who were less than pleasant to work with and the lessons I learned from watching how they went about things. Both groups left a lasting impression, and hopefully, made me a better journalist.

As I continue to travel life’s path, I think about the lessons I have learned from everyone I have met along the way. Some were amazing opportunities with wonderful people who I will cherish forever. Other moments were painful, irritating and downright maddening, but contained valuable lessons of their own. The good and bad of life have helped me become more learned. And it did so more readily when I was willing to learn from everyone. How about you – are you willing to be taught by both friend and foe? If you are, life will hold far more lessons for you to learn and from which to grow.

It’s about to get lit in here

It’s about to get lit in here

What in the world am I doing with the title of this blog? I don’t even know if I am using that “hip” expression the way it should be. I am just trying to sound cool, and the one thing I have known for years is I am not cool. Sorry to disappoint any of you who thought I was.

As we get older, we have to admit things to ourselves – and others. Some of those things are silly – like me thinking I was ever cool. Rest assured, no one was ever going to confuse me with the Fonz when it comes to coolness. Just like no one was going to mistake me for a professional athlete or the sexiest man in the world. I always have been who I am – just the average guy who grew up in Small Town America and did his best to fit in.

Lately I have had to admit something to myself that is quite painful about that little kid who grew up in the small town. I guess I kind of knew this about my life, but I have never admitted it. Maybe I was embarrassed. Maybe I didn’t want to admit it happened to me. But as I have moved through life, there has been an issue that has bothered me more so than others, so it might be time to put my cards on the table.

As a journalist, I read accounts of horrible things happening to people each and every day. I can’t avoid it; it comes with the job. Natural disasters, murders, fatal wrecks, dirty politicians – on and on goes the laundry list of terrible issues that make the news. One has hit me harder than all of these – not because those others aren’t important but because the victims often are the most helpless in society. I am referring to the issue of bullying – and mainly when it comes to children. I know adults also are bullied, but children being the subject of cruel and many times physical attacks really gets me fired up.

The reason is simple – I was bullied. Now, don’t get me wrong – what I suffered is no where near the magnitude of what many young people suffer today. Bullying has gone far past simple name calling and the relatively harmless pushing and shoving. Today, children are killing themselves because of the abuse they receive from their peers simply because they are different. Often those who can help are too late for these children who feel there is nothing they can do to make life better than end it.

Bullying leaves scars – some literal, some figurative. But those who are bullied all end up with their life changed in some way. For me, the bullying may have been because I was a small kid. Maybe it was because I wasn’t very cool and not very athletic. Maybe it was because I was smarter (a geek) than those who were bullying me. No matter the reason I was bullied, the actions of others affected my every day life just as it does anyone who is bullied.

In school I would linger by my locker in hopes of giving the bullies a chance to leave or get to class so I wouldn’t pass them in the hall. Other times I would rush to my locker and leave out the back of the school, traversing the football practice field and walking home. The best thing for me was avoidance, but when that didn’t work, I had another weapon at my disposal – comedy. No, I didn’t stop the bullies with a knock-knock joke. I developed a self-deprecating humor that often would disarm or appease the bullies. You see, if I made fun of myself, there really wasn’t anything for the bully to do other than maybe a shove or a punch on the arm before they would walk away.

The problem with that for me is that I have carried that humor with me through my whole life. As many people have said, including myself on many occasions, I am my own worst enemy. To this day, I still am quick to make fun of myself when I feel threatened or pressured. What was a defense mechanism to combat bullies became a permanent weapon in my arsenal. Frankly, it isn’t a healthy habit but one I find difficult to break.

Why am I sharing this with you? Really, I have no idea other than to educate people that bullying does indeed leave a lasting impression on its victims. No, I didn’t commit suicide because I was bullied. No, I didn’t shoot up my school because I was teased and abused. However, I didn’t come through it unscathed either. No child who is bullied remains unblemished. It’s terrible to go through your childhood being scared of who might be around the next corner. I coped the best way I knew how, as do many young people today. But my point is they shouldn’t have to cope. Children should not live in fear of being ridiculed because they are small, uncoordinated, smart or whatever it is that makes them different than the “cool” crowd.

Bullying needs to stop and we need to do everything in our power to make sure it does. If you are a parent and you believe your child might be the victim of bullying, talk to them. Find out what is going on. Empathize with them and don’t simply offer trite “solutions” to their problem. These children need to be heard before they are helped. If the problem is serious, talk to the proper authorities to help the situation. If you think your child might be the one doing the bullying, stop them! Do what it takes, but make sure your child is not the reason another young person does something drastic that will cause harm to themselves or others.

No, nothing got “lit” in this blog other than maybe my pride. No one likes to admit that they were bullied, but if by doing so, I can spark conversation or help one person who is being bullied than I am willing to suffer a bruised ego. Many times a bruised ego is far easier to deal with than a bruised and battered body.