Big, dumb dreams

lol wtf they just canceled sports

Today was supposed to be the first full day of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. I usually take PTO on this day, when I’m lucky enough to have a job. But you might have heard that they uhh canceled sports.

Two weeks after I launched a newsletter about sports, they just canceled sports.

I didn’t know what to write about.

Other people had some good ideas. For her paid subscribers, Lindsay Gibbs over at Power Plays did a thread of women’s sports video clips to watch while we wait for games to resume. At SB Nation, Natalie Weiner wrote about that incredible Mississippi State buzzer beater against UConn in the 2017 Final Four. A lot of people wrote good stuff about living without sports. I liked this angle from Hannah Keyser at Yahoo Sports about people who depend on baseball to make a living. Alex Kirshner, a badass male sports writer who’s just as good as any female sports writer out there, wrote the newsletter I wish I’d written, about which men’s basketball teams could make a good case for calling themselves 2019-2020 national champions (the right answer is obviously Kansas).

The Athletic responded to this unexpected dearth of sports news by asking its writers to choose their favorite piece of writing, which would then be unlocked from the paywall. Lindsey Adler chose ‘Man, I don’t know if I’m good enough for this’: Yankees players reflect on the moments they came closest to quitting baseball. So I decided to write about quitting.

Pause here for a picture of Lavender

I think about quitting a lot. Like everything Brandy Jensen writes, this absolutely surgical defense of quitters and quitting a couple of weeks ago hit me right in the gut. “Quitting does not deserve its current reputation,” she writes, “and I would urge everyone to join me in a project of rehabilitating giving up on shit that sucks.”

I’ve quit a lot of things: dance classes, tennis, swim team, Couch to 5K, tanning beds, cigarettes, dieting, and several jobs. I’ve been known to abandon boring books less than halfway through, walk away from TV shows three seasons in, and turn off lopsided games when there’s still time for a comeback.

But, since I was 12, I’ve had one big, dumb dream: to be a journalist, to tell the truth. That dream evolved from investigative reporter to copy editor to sports editor, but it was always the same dream. The first time I gave up on this particular dream was in 2014, when the Iowa City Press-Citizen laid me off. My husband (at the time) and I moved into his mom’s basement in Wichita and he immediately found a job there. So I took a marketing job because the local paper had no openings and relocating for a job wasn’t an option. My focus was on fighting for the survival of our family.

By 2017, we were doing okay and I turned my fighting energy to being a journalist again. I pitched and wrote my first freelance article — and a couple of other things for MEL and Racked (RIP) that I’m kinda proud of. I started copy editing part-time for SB Nation, and even though I had to negotiate my pay up to $11 an hour, I felt like part of a real newsroom again. Between my two jobs, I was working 60 hours a week. I’d never been happier or more exhausted. 

My marketing job eliminated my position, but I had hope that would clear the way for some kind of full-time journalism work. I thought working with SB Nation would open some doors. Then a few months later SB Nation eliminated all but one copy editor. That’s when I thought I’d given up for good. My life fell apart in a thousand other ways, then started to come back together with a stable non-journalism job that paid well and didn’t stress me out. I got to write things and interview people; it was close enough to what I wanted.

This is a lot of text so please enjoy another photo of Lavender.

Then the Express job opened up, and for the first time in my career I had the freedom to move wherever I wanted without considering a partner’s job. It wasn’t a great time, financially, to move across the country. I still had three months left on my lease in Kansas City and was trying to get my credit card debt under control after a long bout of unemployment the year before. But if any newspaper is worth the risk, it’s the Washington Post, right? The one owned by the world’s richest man? So I took one last shot at this big, dumb dream.

Y’all know what happened five months later. My fifth layoff in six years. Since then, the decision to give up or not give up is a daily one. Some mornings I wake up ready to fight for it again. Other days, it’s all I can do to fight for my basic survival. Maybe this dream will have to wait.

[You can hear more about how repeated layoffs have affected me personally and journalism as a whole on this episode of The -30-: The End of News, a podcast about the crisis facing the news business.]

A major part of adulthood is learning when to follow Jim Valvano’s advice, “don’t give up; don’t ever give up,” and when to walk away from things that aren’t meant for you. To put it in Happy Gilmore terms, should I be giving up on hockey or persevering in golf? When it comes to chasing down the career I’ve always wanted, I’m still not sure.

So I’m shifting my focus from persistence to resilience. Persistence is an action, the relentless pursuit of a specific outcome. Resilience is a skill, the ability to withstand the things life throws at us. I take comfort in the knowledge that I can always change my mind. I can go to bed defeated and decide in the daylight to retract my surrender. I can do marketing copywriting to pay the bills and tilt at windmills on the side. And I can give up without giving up hope.

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