October 31, 2014

Life’s wild ride

9/6/13

If there is one thing I’ve picked up on, you just can’t predict how your life is going to turn out.

As a little kid, my mother tells me my grand dream was to work for the now-defunct Nintendo Power magazine. My grandpa also liked to insist to me that I should be the first man on Mars, or a football player (though when it became apparent I was going to stay slender, he eased up on the latter). I won’t be writing for Nintendo Power anytime soon since it closed down last year, though I guess there’s still time to go to Mars. Probably not so likely I’d find the little green men there Gramps insisted that I would, though.

Once I hit high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do after graduating. For a time I considered getting into computers, since I could just pick up a two-year degree and find work, but I didn’t have the patience or the drive to really get far in those courses. Astronomy interested me, but I wasn’t keen on the idea of going to school for the better part of a decade (which I ended up doing anyway, as it turned out).

After changing up majors something like three times, I finally hit on journalism as something I really enjoyed doing and decided to stick it out with that. After getting that long-delayed two-year degree, I moved on over to Wayne State University for a B.A., snagging that after two years of classes. Coincidentally, I graduated right into the middle of a recession, which was a ton of fun to try and find a job in.

At the time of my graduation, I was working part-time in a city library, where I’d started a decade before, while freelancing for a local newspaper. I ended up doing that for another two years while job hunting, a period of time that saw me feeling ever more useless and frustrated over being stuck in a dead-end position at one job and nominally on the payroll at another, with no prospect of getting hired full-time there.

At one point, I even considered dropping the whole journalism thing and going back to school for engineering, but shortly after beginning a calculus course, I realized that journalism really was what I wanted to do. With a renewed desire to stick with it, I started emailing some of the local news outlets asking the editors for advice on how to get the ball rolling, and their advice was clearly good for something — a few months later, I started working here at the Independent.

I’m not going to say this was what I expected, either, given that I grew up in a suburb of Detroit and kind of expected to stick around cityscapes. I knew it was an excellent opportunity, and figured it would be good for me to get a new perspective on the world. After all, even if more than half of the world population is in cities, the vast majority of the land on the planet is either rural or wild, and the people there have their own concerns and viewpoints worth learning about. I also have friends who have made similar moves overseas, so I was able see firsthand just how new experiences can flavor your worldview.

If you’d told wee-child Kevin, or even nerdy-teen Kevin, all the twists and turns his life would take, he’d probably be pretty dismissive of it and go back to reading a book. But if there’s one thing I’ve picked up on, it’s that you can plan all you want — you never quite know how events are going to play out after you’ve made a decision. The best you can do is influence the outcomes. I mean, I’ve got a cousin who just had a baby boy with his girlfriend, and he’s very excited about this… but I doubt he expected that to happen a few years ago when he was finishing high school.

Basically, my best advice to kids and teens growing up who aren’t sure what’s going to happen to them down the line is to just come up with an idea, see how it goes, and also be respectful and open-minded of people and ideas different from your own. You’d be surprised what you’ll learn about the world and yourself!

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