October 27, 2014
For most of my career, I’ve had this feeling of just starting out.
To wit: grad school took me forever (don’t ask), and no sooner had I earned my degree in art history when I hit the road in search of something beyond the four walls of a museum. Journalism felt vital and risky, so I decided to abandon my Rolodex of contacts in painting and seek out my first new contact in print. I was back to square one. (Hat tip to Stephen Strauss, my first print contact).
Several years later, my Roladex was stuffed anew with the names and numbers of magazine editors, but this time I didn’t change, journalism did. And I was back to square one. Again.
At this stage of my life and career, I should probably be more settled, but I’ve come to realize that I prefer feeling like a newbie. The pressure to master a new skill — especially intense in digital media — means I probably won’t become a veteran in anything. “Veteran” implies several things: a well-oiled machine, skills on the verge of atrophying, honorary degrees, and paths so well trodden that no new grass or flowers grow. Nor will I be asked to give the same talk again and again to different audiences, what I like to call “The Ted Baxter It All Started in a 5,000 Watt Radio Station in Fresno, California” speech. That’s ok.
Being a newbie is an endless cycle of experimentation and financial risk-taking. And while the latter is sometimes exhausting and pretty consistently upsetting, experimentation is exactly what I wanted when I set out on this journey two decades ago. I can’t deal with monotony, but I can deal with upsetting. I got up early this morning to write this, after all. And now I’m not upset anymore.