78: Beginning at the End

78: Beginning at the End

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings

Beginning at the End

This weary ol’ workhorse is a unicorn, my friend.
~Jareb Teague

My writing career had been going well. No, I hadn’t landed that elusive publishing deal, and literary agents weren’t knocking down the door. Instead, I was writing a weekly personal column for a small community paper and another column about several local communities for the major paper in the city. A couple of magazines had used some pieces I’d submitted as well. Sometimes I even had the chance to write a feature. The small amount of income that I received helped pay a bill or two.

Most important were the contacts I made. Both columns had developed a healthy readership. I met wonderful people who indicated that they looked forward to my columns each week, and I learned many new things about the area where I’d lived for all my life except for a four-year hiatus away at college.

For more than three years, I was blessed with those opportunities. However, a new editor with the large newspaper cut my column for what she claimed were budgetary concerns. I protested that folks in my area would no longer have coverage of their events, but the editor assured me that one of the other freelance columnists would take up the slack. She also offered me another position covering new businesses in the area. I agreed even though the loss of my original column smarted.

For the next few months, I sought out business to highlight each week. Finding them became increasingly tougher as the economy slipped further in the tank. Added to that was my inability to please this editor with my writing. From the outset, she picked my work apart and asked endless questions, many that were answered in the piece I’d written.

Writing had become a chore. I submitted stories and waited for the snide comments, questions, and chastising to begin. No lead or angle for a story ever met her approval. The new assignment began in January, and in March, the editor killed the column. She ended my column and affiliation with her small kingdom in a curt e-mail that told me I could submit pieces to other sections of the paper.

Bam! Suddenly something that I’d enjoyed so was taken from me. I was cast aside and my work replaced with question and answer pieces about pets. Self-doubt set in as I wondered if my gift for writing had disappeared. The question popped into my head as to whether I’d taken writing for granted. The support and encouragement of my wife Amy sustained me, and she prodded me to continue to write. She ended by saying, “Don’t look at this as a loss. God has given you a talent, and this is the end of one road that will lead to another.”

I kept that in mind and spent much of my time in front of the computer. A collection of personal columns came to life, and a new book was begun. I’d recently retired from a thirty-year career as a high school English teacher, and any extra time was devoted to playing golf and completing a “honey-do list.” In no time the sting of being let go by the editor and the ensuing bitterness over it disappeared.

In June Amy met with her two cousins for lunch. Both were working for another small paper in the area. Carol asked what I was doing since leaving the other paper, and when Amy told her nothing, she asked if I’d be interested in working with her employer. I agreed to meet with the publisher of the paper, and Sandra hired me. My job was to cover the same areas about which I’d written for the last three years. In addition, I would be named the community editor. Ironically, this small paper was distributed as an insert in the very publication for which I’d previously worked.

I was ecstatic with the opportunity. Not only could old relationships with the communities and the people who lived in them be renewed but the prospect of producing a section that would outshine the one of my old boss was also possible.

Some might call it karma, that idea that what goes around comes around. I prefer to believe that Amy was right. The good Lord had decided to use me in a new way. I was blessed again.

The work hours are longer now, but I don’t mind. Sure, I lost a job, one that I enjoyed tremendously. What I gained was a new and broader chance to write. Most of all, I awakened to the fact that endings always lead to beginnings. That fact means that a loss is never more than a change in direction. Faith and patience help make that clear.

~Joe Rector

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