Searching for meaning deep into retirementPublished 9:56am Wednesday, March 2, 2011
It really ticked me off, when I heard a snitch, who was there, tell me a pseudo-public official told a room full of officials and their minions, “I guess I can say whatever I want, because thee are no reporters here today.”
My blood started to boil. I should have been there.
I was incensed. My dander was up. It would have been perfect for me.
Then, I opened my favorite newspaper: The Austin Daily Herald. Coincidentally, the only one I receive free of charge.
There it was, above the fold, the lead story of the day headlined, “Austin hungry for dose of fiber.”
I didn’t need to read anything else. The headline said it all.
I could have done that story had I stuck around. I had long suspected the lack of fiber was responsible for many questionable decisions in city government. You could tell by the look on their faces.
My reporter’s gut instinct told me they needed more apples in their diets. Maybe a case of Beefier too.
Alas, a little voice told me, “You’re out of the game. You’re retired.” With remote in hand, I leaned back in my recliner and thought about bygone days in journalism.
A reporter can’t write without passion for the pursuit of the truth and I was an observer only; not a participant in the search for truth and justice. Clark Kent without a phone booth to change into Supereporterman.
Actually my passion tank was growing empty in my final days as a full-time reporter. Every wordsmith wants to write intelligent, meaningful stories, but eventually there comes a time, when you wonder if you’re repeating yourself. Finally, you wonder if you’re going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.
It happened to me.
When this malaise struck, I tried to save my career by asking a trusted friend what was wrong with me and what could I do to change things.
He told me I lacked balance in my life. He said I needed to find inner peace, to always be cheerful, resist complaining and boring people with my troubles.
He wanted me to eat the same food every day and be grateful for it.
He advised me to take criticism and blame without resentment.
He insisted I get at least eight hours of sleep at night and take naps during the day.
When I thought about his plan, it sounded like a day in the life of the family dog.
I rejected it and decided to see a psychiatrist. I started by telling him my short-term memory was not as good as it used to be and then I told him my short-term memory was not as good as it used to be.
The psychiatrist asked me a few questions, took some notes, and then sat thinking in silence for a few minutes with a puzzled look on his face.
Finally, he looked up and said, “I think your problem is low self-esteem. It is very common among losers.”
That didn’t help.
At wit’s end about how to save my job, I got a ride into the country, where people care about their neighbors, where they are willing to lend a hoping hand, where they know simple truths that change lives.
First, I went to Taopi, but it was after 9 p.m. and the town was closed.
Then I went to Adams.
I stopped a man sneaking out the back door of the Legion Post.
He looked cheerful carrying a six-pack to his pickup.
I told him my problem, about how I didn’t know if I could ever again be a hotshot reporter.
He listened carefully and then said, “It sounds like it’s the end of the world for you. I think you better move to Taopi. That’s where I want to be when the end of the world comes.”
“Taopi?” I replied incredulously. “Why Taopi?”
“It will lengthen your career by 20 years,” he said. “Don’t you know? Everything happens in Taopi 20 years after it happens in the rest of the civilized world.”
He was no help.
I went home despondent. The next day I told the publisher I was going to retire.
He looked up from a pad of pink slips and said, “Is this a joke?”
I told him, no, it wasn’t.
He didn’t have to do cart wheels in his office on my way out. Probably too much fiber in his diet.