All this week, I thought today was the anniversary of my last day at my old newspaper, but this says no. Now along with multiple other things I’ve forgotten, I can’t remember the date of my last day at Mother Courant.
I guess that’s a good thing. It means I’ve moved on, sort of.
I wanted to leave my newspaper years before I actually did. If you ask some of my colleagues, I was threatening to leave pretty much the day I got there, but most of that was just me being mad about stuff. I was pretty sure, there at the end, that it really was time to go, but I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do, post-journalism. Writing for a newspaper was the only job I ever wanted, and I’d never thought to develop a Plan B.
I’d been an adjunct professor for years, but lacking a doctorate, adjuncting was as about far as I’d ever get in academia, or so I figured.
I don’t remember the date, but I do remember the walk out to my car. I didn’t feel free or scared or excited. It was too surreal to feel much of anything. I carried my walking papers to my car, and drove home to sit on the porch and watch television, I think, which is not something I do a lot of since they took “Hill Street Blues” off the air. I watched television and only occasionally allowed myself to think, “OK. Who am I now?” For years, “OftheHartfordCourant” was my last name, as in “Susan Campbell, OftheHartfordCourant.”
When people congratulated me on my retirement, I was quick to correct them. I didn’t retire. I quit. After all those years of threatening to, I pulled the trigger. Yay. Me.
I tried to work at a non-profit, but I wasn’t very good at it. My colleagues were mostly patient, but I had no taste for meetings and my attitude about fund-raising was, “Fine. You don’t want to give? Fuck you.” (Maybe that approach works for others. If you’re one of those people, call me. I’d like to know your secret.)
Ironically, I could see my old newspaper building from my new desk.
Although I felt at sea, I never thought to go ask for my old job back. For one, they wouldn’t give it to me, and for two, there’s this Bible verse about a dog returning to its vomit that seemed pertinent. And weirdly, at that non-profit job I wasn’t very good at, I learned a great deal about housing and homelessness, and realized I could incorporate some of what I’d learned back into something I’m good at, which is reporting and writing.
Teaching positions kept presenting themselves, first at Central Connecticut State University (love that place) and lastly, at University of New Haven, which is, as the old commercial goes, the toughest job I’ve ever loved. (That’s my ID photo from UNH, above (why will no one ever tell me to mash down my hair, or fix my shirt collar?). Funny enough, I’m wearing the same clothes I wore for my Courant ID photo, taken years ago, there on the left. I really need to buy some new clothes.)
I still write — yes, every two weeks for Mother Courant (Dog? Meet vomit.), but also for WNPR and CT Health Investigative Team and occasionally other publications. I’m finishing a book. I get asked to come speak sometimes, though I’m never sure I’m saying much.
That is not a humble-brag. I am honestly stunned that things turned out as they have. I’d worried that post-newspaper job, I’d have to scramble for the rent money, that I’d lose my edge, that I’d get bored.
Turns out, I’m mean as a snake — meaner than I was as a full-time journalist. There is a certain amount of scrambling, yes. If I didn’t have a calendar on my phone, I would just walk around in slow circles. On some days, I’m scheduled back-to-back until dinner, and sometimes, even after dinner.
But you know what? Don’t feel sorry for me. I make my own schedule, especially now that school is out.
And I’m never bored. The best part is that I have discovered that, once again, my grandma was right. God watches out for fools and sinners and, as Grandma Marrs used to say, I’m fortunate to fall into both categories. If any one were to ask my advice — and few people do — I’d tell them what I finally had to tell myself. Just jump. Push off from the edge, and go do what you think you need to do. Push off, and know that you may hit harder than you expected, but hell, the thrill of the fall is pretty much worth it.