Sunday, October 16, 2011

Life Ain't Nothing But a EQ of Highs and Lows (c) Big K.R.I.T.

There may not be a line this year in hip-hop that summarizes how I feel more than KRIT's.  Maybe you feel the same way too. You have great high points balanced out by moments where you feel low. It's almost like you have to keep yourself pumped up because if not, the quarterlife crisis (or wherever you are in life) will threaten to overwhelm you. 

The last two weeks, I've had great moments where I felt high. My college homecoming was an incredible ride where I felt like I was coming back accomplished among my peers. Yet it comes at a time where I've questioned what exactly I've accomplished in the grand scheme. 

I spent 4 years at a newspaper as a sports editor. On the surface that is something worth celebrating but beneath I feel like an underground rapper. I busted my butt to be a great writer/reporter, worked hard to know enough about a lot to start and keep conversations on topics and I have national awards to prove it. I still write weekly for a great newspaper and I've freelanced for a branch of ESPN three times in a year. I love covering high school sports and that's my passion as much as tutoring. 

Yet I still feel anonymous outside of the HS sports scene because 1) I worked at a weekly Black newspaper and both of those factors can't be overlooked in terms of being recognized and 2) I believed my work/presence would speak more than networking in an established club. 

Let's go back to No. 1 cause I don't want to make excuses. I worked for the #1 Black newspaper in Los Angeles that was known by people/companies/folks who matter and had a sizable readership. Yet in the news business, being a weekly paper takes a back seat to daily papers, television, radio and popular websites. Throw in the fact that I didn't cover pro sports and occasionally went to college games, I didn't help myself out. 

But in the end, I left the LA Sentinel because I wanted to see what I was worth. I was tired of toiling anonymously and I wanted to see where I could land. I feel like I’m back to square one but I’m happy because I have the freedom I didn’t have at Sentinel.

Yet I do feel bad because for someone who’s spent 5 years in the media business, I feel like I’m still anonymous. And that’s No. 2. My plan to be that way backfired because instead of quietly earning my respect, I’ve quietly built up a resume that enough people who matter don’t know. I believed when you step into a new situation, you move quietly, observe, be seen/not heard and eventually you work your way in. I’ve connected with reporters but how many movers and shakers?

By 23, I had been to USC, UCLA, Dodger Stadium for a Barry Bonds game, interviewed Oscar Robertson and doing things most 23 year olds would dream of. I was rightfully intimidated as well. I have face recognition with several Division I players and perhaps one national reporter but in local media, I’m still low on the totem pole.

Yet I learned something important. It’s not just how good you are and proving yourself in your own corner, it’s who you know to give you a leg up to prove yourself. It ran counter to everything I was told/trained to believe in high school and college so it forced me to rethink my philosophy.

So when I follow other reporters/local media figures on Twitter, I tend to feel insignificant at first. Like my resume doesn’t mean jack when others have gotten their name on more things or have a bigger profile. 5 years and my vision of working anonymously and slowly earning my rep to eventually become a public figure and where exactly has it gotten me? Who have I connected with?

It’s ultimately my fault. I had a noble strategy but for the wrong era. Not for the era of meet, self-promote, hustle by networking and working.

Hence why I feel down. But yet I also feel up because when I counter old faces from my past, it reminds me that I have come far. I ran into one of my HS teachers today at an assignment and in 10 years we both have improved our place in the world. We caught up for about 15 minutes and mostly I had smiles explaining how I’m grateful for what I have accomplished.

It’s the same feeling I got at homecoming. I saw more old faces at the games that I had met on previous assignments and it was good knowing that relationships have been forged over years. Those feelings are the highs. It’s the looking outward part that bring the lows.

Funny how that works. Privately, you can see yourself climbing a mountain but looking out, I see folks way ahead of me that I may/may not be more talented than. Yet if I look down, I realize that I’ve indeed climbed a monster and I’m a lot further up than some.

So I guess the lesson for me is to learn to ride the highs and create more of them when the lows try to pull me down. Also, I can’t compare myself to anyone else because everyone’s paths to their dreams are different. The best way to downgrade yourself is by getting nosy. I have to appreciate what I’ve done and what I’ve done is pretty dang fantastic.

There’s more that I can do though. It’s never too late to start networking and you can be nosy for inspiration not self-degradation. I eventually could stop second guessing myself.

Big K.R.I.T. was right so I have to work harder and stay balanced. I have to fight this envy and self-criticism and use it as fuel to translate to greater success with a new plan. 

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