By: Mandy Mitchell
Last week I was sent on assignment to cover a story in my very first market. I had been back there once or twice since leaving more than a decade ago, but this was the first time I was really back where I used to “cover stuff” when I worked there. I was directly across the street from the old TV station and less than two miles from where I lived all of those years ago.
It was weird. I didn’t go in expecting it to be weird, but it was.
I started thinking about what I was like at 22 when I worked there. I thought about making 19 grand and how I wouldn’t have been able to afford to eat at any of the restaurants that had popped up in the area since I left.
I thought of how much I wanted to learn golf when I worked there. I believed, at the time, that golf would be essential to my professional life and “networking” as a sports anchor.
I thought about the times I dreamed of working for ESPN and always assumed it would happen “some day.”
I thought about the mistakes I made and the dumb decisions I made and how naive I really was. Thinking about those mistakes and dumb decisions made me feel bad.
I thought about how much I disliked that job and hard I worked on my resume reel on random Saturday mornings at the TV station when “no one would be there.”
I thought about how scared of failure I was. I was scared I wouldn’t “make it” and would never “live up to expectations.” I was scared of being laid off. I was scared my bosses didn’t “get me” and my enthusiasm was “misunderstood.”
Most of all I thought about how much I had changed. It has been 13 years since I started working there and 10 years since I left. I thought about how much I wanted to go back in time and tell the old me to relax and just be yourself.
So I will tell you that instead.
I eventually made more than 19 grand and can now afford to eat at restaurants.
I never learned golf because eventually I learned I don’t like playing golf. I learned that’s OK and you should never force yourself to do something just because you think you “should” or it would be “good for your career.” I am a runner instead and have gotten a ton of joy out of that.
I haven’t made it to ESPN yet and that’s ok. I think we all have that “ultimate goal” when we start out. That evolves as we mature. Over the years I have realized how much I enjoy storytelling and have chosen to focus more on that and less on trying to anchor Sportscenter. You have to listen to what makes you happy and try to do more of that.
I made more dumb decisions and bad choices. The key is learning from those mistakes and becoming a better person. I think I have done that.
Those lonely Saturday mornings working on my resume reel for hours never amounted to anything. I sent hundreds of tapes (yep–postage and all), but I left that station with no job and no hope of a job. I spent time unemployed and felt what “failure” is. Guess what? The world didn’t end. I eventually found work and have always appreciated having a job more since I had that experience. A little failure won’t kill you, so don’t spend your precious time being scared of it.
What happens in your first job, or even your second job, will shape you but it won’t define you. Try to remember that as you are stressing about what your next move will be. I never imagined my career would work out how it has. Like all things in life, some of it has lived up to expectations and some of it has been disappointing.
Just relax. One day you will be looking back at these days and wishing you could tell yourself it will all be ok.