Happiness is grad school

Typically this space is reserved for my unsolicited rants on the malady that is Midwest football, the defense of an indefensible quarterback who wears black & gold, or other such frivoloties.

Ohio University's campus gate on a beautiful February morning.

Being a displaced sports writer who loved her job beyond words, I have tried to carve out a new niche — one in academia.

Friends and family ask me all the time if I’m happy. The honest answer is yes. But I have never been anywhere or done anything where I haven’t been, at least, mostly happy.

Take for example my first non-internship job out of college. It was in El Centro, Calif. working for the Imperial Valley Press. It was miserable. But looking back at it, I hardly remember the nights I’d lie in bed crying because I was so lonely and frustrated.

What stands out? 

The smell of onions growing in the endless fields as I drove out 86 with the windows down. Watching future NFL first-round pick Robert Thomas play football his junior year. Kids named Leah, and Michelle, who gave me their senior pictures because I covered their volleyball teams. Tamales in the newsroom on Christmas. My first (and only) quinceanera. My old friends Sergio Flores, and Lizette Wilson, and Brett Kofford.

Years later, I was slightly miserable working as the media relations director for the Seattle Storm in the team’s inaugural season. I remember feeling like I was swimming upstream in everything I did at work, but I also remember seeing Key Arena filled with fans on opening night and the tears springing to my eyes. I remember Lin Dunn taking us to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse after the draft, becoming best friends with Regan Freuen, and listening to the Dixie Chicks. I also remember all too vividly getting fired. As miserable as I was that day, it didn’t take long for me to realize it was my life’s greatest non-living blessing.

As I get further removed from March 2009, the P-I closing seems more and more like a death in the family — two years next week. I realize that sounds dramatic, but it’s true. It still hurts. I still long for it. And, well, it’s just gone leaving behind only memories and a way of life about which I can only reminisce.

I had wanted to be a sports writer as long as I could remember. That’s so rare — a kid that knows exactly what she wants to do when she grows up… and then goes and does it. But every day, there are these witty, brilliant young adults looking at me to help them do what they want to do when they grow up. And it makes me happy.

Right now I’m incredibly frustrated, highly emotional, and every now and then, a little lost. But I’m still mostly happy. While that sounds more like a defense mechanism, it is the truth.

Why? Because life is filled with BS — chauvanists, jerks, rejections, denials, lonely deserts, misunderstandings, people who hurt your heart, jobs that end, and greedy people that tear apart your government, your education and your hobby.

This is my all-time favorite picture. P-I photographer Josh Trujillo took it from a kayak on Elliott Bay shortly before the newspaper closed its doors.

What are the options? Let it all sink you to the bottom, or look into the eyes of those students and give them your best? Stagnate in bed in cry, or wrestle on the couch with the world’s funniest dog?

It’s almost the two-year anniversary of P-I closing and my heart still aches for the work, the colleagues, the excitement. It aches for my old life. I want to fill out NCAA brackets with Stacy. I want to be in Vegas with some of my friends next week for the first round. I want to meet Michelle and Casey for happy hour.

I don’t want to be worried about tonight’s presentation in my Qualitative Methods class. I don’t want to grade 34 features by tomorrow night. I don’t want to write two more 25-page papers, or worry about submission deadlines, or panic any more about how I’m going to be able to pay rent this summer.

But really, isn’t that just part of the BS?

While I joke and tell people I’m living the dream, I actually think I will be past this some day and it will be just like living in El Centro. I won’t remember the anxiety attacks brought on by financial panic, or  some asshole people, or the heartbreaks.

I’ll remember getting to see my nieces grow up. I’ll remember that spring evening when the Bobcats beat Georgetown in the first round of the tournament. I’ll remember how I felt when my friends and family all showed up to celebrate my thesis defense. I’ll remember these students, these young adults who have given me some inspiration and who I actually enjoy being around. I’ll remember Kirby’s whole body wiggling on the top of the couch when she sees me walking down the driveway.

They say it’s all about attitude. I disagree. But it really is in the details, isn’t it?

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