A note of 2011 thanks
Many/most of you likely don’t know me personally, but this is something of a personal message, directed to you, anyhow. It’ll be brutally/embarrassingly earnest, probably tl;dr, but heartfelt.
Last year for me was, in a way, a year of being torn down. I’d been employed as a journalist for almost 12 years, and I’d been fortunate, because despite multiple rounds of layoffs at my longtime job in New York and several at my company in Nashville, I was still working. I might’ve gotten frustrated plenty, as talented friends and colleagues got shown the door and the job got more and more complicated. But I appreciated my good luck, I appreciated writing and editing every day, and I appreciated being gainfully employed.
In late June, I got a call informing me of my grandmother’s death. My mother died when I was 15, and in the years since, my grandmother and I had grown increasingly distant. My grandfather passed away a few years ago, and she and I had hardly talked since then. She died before I remedied that. I felt sad, and I felt guilty.
I worked for a certain large publication here in Nashville, and I spent that Tuesday in the office tying up loose ends before I had to fly home to New York for the funeral. We were told that layoffs were looming in the coming weeks. I was scared. The emotions surrounding layoffs are more complicated than that, but anyone who’s ever experienced the process knows that at the core, beyond everything else, you’re just scared. Your future is uncertain and you’re scared.
Wednesday morning I boarded a flight to Long Island. The plane touched down at MacArthur Airport and I powered on my phone. It beeped.
“First we want you to know how sorry we are about your grandmother — I know how important family is,” she said, as I returned the call. I thanked her. A beat. “We need to let you know that your position is being eliminated.”
My chest pounded and my head buzzed and after zombie walking to the rental car counter, I tried really hard to pretend I was a composed adult and not a lip-quivering, tears-fighting, scared kid. I tried to pretend at the cemetery, in front of the line of headstones: my mother, my two uncles, my grandfather, my grandmother. I pretended for four days in New York while we mourned, and then I came home to Nashville, and tried to figure out how I’d approach fixing everything.
Many people have had worse days. I’ve had worse days. But that week at least, I felt a unique kind of hopeless. I felt like a failure. I’d built my professional life on music journalism, and, well, you’ve met those two industries. There’s a sick kind of rabbit hole that your mind will tumble down as a newly unemployed person, particularly a newly unemployed music writer, if you don’t have anyone or anything around to help you redirect it. I’m, again, very lucky, in that I had and have both.
Some former colleagues took me out to a warm and friendly East Nashville dinner the week I got back. Both happy, stable freelance writers and editors, they encouraged me to believe that I could build something on my own — be it a freelance writing career or something else. This site popped into my head between sips of a Holland House Old Fashioned. I launched it a few weeks later, mostly just to refocus my mind, to channel hope, to make something I could love on.
I posted a single note on my Facebook page, telling my friends that it existed and that they could read it if they felt like it, like it on Facebook if they felt like that too. Five months later it’s still the only thing I’ve done to intentionally spread the word about this site.
The point of all this blubbering: Over the past few months I’ve received a bunch of encouraging emails and tweets and comments, from friends and from some of the 1,000-some-odd ENWL Facebook likers and 500-some-odd Twitter followers. Every single one of them has chipped away at my lingering doubts and worries, at lingering feelings of failure. Probably doesn’t seem like much to click “like” or “follow” or to read a blog post. But I can sincerely say that every instance offered invaluable encouragement to a person who very much needed encouragement.
This site — along with the wonderful folks who’ve hired me for freelance work — has made me look at 2012 with hope. It’ll be a year of rebuilding. More on that soon. But while 2012′s still fresh, I just wanted to thank you, for encouraging a friend or, in most cases, encouraging a stranger. Sometimes we all just need to believe that what we do has value, that there are people who want to see us succeed. Even if all you did was click on a link, you helped me feel that way. And it made all the difference.