I couldn’t wait until I could say the experience was worth it.
On frigid, late December mornings in Toledo, Ohio, my alarm went off far too early and far too often, because my Christmas breaks were not breaks at all. In order to pay for my high-school tuition, I had to work with the janitors mopping floors, scrubbing toilets and generally undoing the irreparable damage done to the school by 800 teenage boys, the only wild animal you legally are not allowed to keep in a zoo. In addition to being a part-time janitor after school, I manned a shop-vac for most of my should-have-been free time on Christmas break, spitting its repulsive contents into a urinal, then wheeling it into the next classroom until all of them were clean.
It was grueling, unpleasant work. I would say I looked as if I were attending a funeral, but that would be unfair to funerals, which are more enjoyable. Bleary-eyed and miserable, I thought about how I couldn’t wait to have a job that I wanted to do.
For me, the first of those jobs was at The Rocky Mount Telegram. I graduated college a day before my 22nd birthday and started work three days later in Rocky Mount, about which I knew two things: 1. It existed; 2. The sports editor of the newspaper there had liked my clips.
Three years later, I’m grateful for the experience. This area has been good to me and the people I care about, and for that I am thankful. I might have been called “Yank” a fair bit, but I met more good people in Rocky Mount than I possibly could name in a column. I consider it a great victory that many people here now can say a long, Polish last name besides Krzyzewski. Na zdrowie.
I would like to thank my colleague Justin Hite, whose desire to be accurate should be intrinsic in all journalists, and whose selflessness should be emulated by anyone in any profession.
It is a right-of-passage for a Telegram sports writer to be harassed on deadline by content editor Gene Metrick, and by the sheer number of times I found myself listening to a story about his fantasy basketball team at 11:05 on a football Friday, by God, I must have been pretty good. I’ll miss his stories, his inclusive personality and his dedication to this place. It would fall apart without him.
My career wouldn’t be the same without sports editor Jessie H. Nunery, who took a chance on some skinny kid from Ohio University and let him write 40-inch soccer stories, and not just because we have nearly the exact same taste in music. He always was fair and measured, and he made me better without once being abrasive. His leadership has made me a more temperate person, a lesson I needed to learn. I never wanted to let him down, even if the Mets always do.
Ironically, I’m headed back home to Toledo – which I said I’d never do – to cover University of Toledo athletics for the newspaper there, The Blade. I will not own a shop-vac.
I’m not sure where my career will take me, but this job made the work worth it, and I’m glad to say that. I’ll always remember my first “real” job was in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. I’m happy it was here.