I am not a one-trick pony
I really feel no one can own me
I really feel nothing can hold me
Nobody can control me
Nobody can conform me
Nobody can disown me
— Nelly Furtado, “One-Trick Pony”

By the time I graduated from college, I knew I was going to be a journalist for the rest of my life. I’d worked on the school paper all four years, and written for the Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal and even spent a summer as editor of a weekly paper back home on Long Island.

Journalism was my major, along with concentrations in history and Spanish. History, because those who do not know it are doomed to repeat it, and Spanish because it was smart to have a second language – and in the U.S., Spanish was the most useful second language to have fluency in (sadly, I’ve lost that fluency, though I still have a working understanding and can muddle my way through a few sentences). Spanish became especially useful when I moved to South Florida after graduation.

Jobs were few and far between then – I graduated into a recession, and afternoon newspapers were closing all over the country in the early 1990s. I freelanced for a couple months and then got a job as a “clerk-reporter” at the Miami Herald.

As far back as high school, I remember trying to think about what job I could do if I left journalism. I was never able to think of anything. I mean, I know I could do public relations or marketing of some sort, but it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. I wanted to seek the truth and afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted and all those other cliches.

I spent a couple of decades in newsrooms across the country, watching my beloved industry contract and expand and contract multiple times. The expansions never made up for the contractions, though, and eventually those stopped and the contractions kept coming. Local newspapers were no longer local – they were regional, which didn’t satisfy anyone, really.

Classified ads left for Craigslist and huge revenue stream left newspapers, never to return. It was the first time these corporations really understood the seismic shift that was happening. Buyout offers came and went, and each time, the offer seemed to be worse than the last.

But if I took a buyout, what would I even do? I had no clue. Finally, the buyout offer was so poor that I said, half-joking, “They’ll have to make me take it.” I knew it was a distinct possibility. How many rounds of buyouts and layoffs had there been over the previous year or so? There had been two already that year – 2008.

The day finally came where I got my metaphorical pink slip. I wasn’t surprised, but it was a shock. To spend so much of your life in one profession only to find one day you’re no longer wanted or needed or maybe just too expensive is jarring.

What now?

I thought of the famous F. Scott Fitzgerald quote, “There are no second acts in American lives.”

He was wrong. In fact, American lives might have more second acts – as well as third, fourth and fifth – than any other lives. We love to build people up, tear them down and then watch them rebuild.

I would have a second act. And I’ve had third and fourth acts since then, as well. My biggest problem, in fact, may be that I’m not a one-trick pony. I spread myself in so many directions it’s sometimes hard to pin myself down to what I actually want to do.

It’s rather freeing, though, to be able to remake oneself time and again.

What is the next incarnation?

I can’t wait to find out.

Photo by Flazingo Pictures via Flickr Creative Commons.

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