Back in the day, I had a couple of really surprising career opportunities nearly fall in my lap as a result of my side projects. The opportunities were incredibly impressive, the kind of things you dream of when going into journalism.
But they didn’t happen. And I’m OK with that.
I think in some ways, they put me on an idiosyncratic path where I better understand the value of my words and my desire for independence as a writer.
I remember one particular experience well: I found myself sitting in a restaurant with a reporter who was transitioning into an editor role, and I was nervous as all get out—I had run across town to take the meeting. He was interested in my mixture of design and writing, which had gotten a bit of attention around this time, but completely unaware of my day job—which, at the time, was at a traditional media outlet. (That’s right, my side project got my foot in the door.) Soon enough, I found myself going to New York to interview at the big publication where this guy was headed. I shook some pretty big-name hands that day.
And I’ll be honest: I really wanted that job during that week, but it didn’t happen in the end. And ultimately, I’ve come to the realization that it was a good thing. Cat hates New York, and that move might have been a pretty hard sell; we got married a year later. Plus, they wanted me to shut down my site if I went to work for them, which I still admit to feeling weird about, in part because there were other contributors at the time, and in part because it was something I created and was very passionate about.
I ended up going for another job a few months later that was a little more low-key, but that welcomed the fact that I was going to be working on wild side projects in my free time. Nearly nine years later, I’m still there—and I still get to weekend warrior it up.
I still think of the kind of journalist I would have evolved into if I quit my passion project and went for the big gig with the big name when it was put in front of me. Would I make a career of it? Or would I burn out in a matter of months? It’s that imposter syndrome thing, right?
But in many ways, the situation was one of a few things that ultimately gave me a bit of an independent streak that I carry around to this day. I can carry that independence with me.
The great thing about missed opportunities is that the next one is around the corner. Learn from the ones that pass you by.
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