Friday, November 14, 2014

Sliding doors

This week's Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Junior had Sting on it! I mean, he is perhaps the coolest person to ever go on one of these genealogy shows. I was pretty excited, not that it takes much for me when it comes to this stuff.

Sting's real name is Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner and he comes from a fascinatingly long line of shipyard workers. This is just an interesting (to me) aside.

Anyway, it is impossible for me to ever hear of Sting or hear one of his songs without being immediately mentally transported to rural Alva, Florida circa 2002. I was paying rent to a 30-something reporter who, for God knows why, had moved from California to Florida and bought this terrible house on a canal. I was relegated to a loft room, where there was a window swamp cooler and, thankfully, a door to keep my roommate's cigarette smoke out.

Andi -- my roommate -- lived 16 miles from where we worked at the newspaper. So once we were home for the evening, we were pretty much home. I mean, I went out a few times, but it was a bit of a slog on a rather long, dark road, and after the sun went down, fog rose from the Caloosahatchee and covered the asphalt. So I'd stay in and join Andi on the couch for as long as I could tolerate the secondhand smoke, and she'd play Sting's greatest hits on repeat, and I tell ya what -- it grew on me! I ended up buying the same album so I could enjoy it later, once I'd moved back home.

And about that -- moving back home. I could have not. For a while, anyway. My editor offered to extend my internship and suggested it might lead to a permanent position. This was a few days before I was scheduled to leave, and I didn't plan to linger in Fort Myers, which I'd grown to hate quite deeply. He was a great editor (his name was Sheldon. What a great name.) and the paper was a good paper. I should have been honored at the offer, and any real reporter -- anyone who was dead serious about the profession -- would have accepted it gratefully and hunkered down in that friggin place for a while. And by a while I mean possibly for frigging ever.

But my stomach dropped and I felt simply horrified. I was terribly homesick and really hated Florida -- every single part of it. And it turned out my passion for my chosen career was not as strong as I'd believed it was. And really, if you can't enjoy being a reporter in Florida, which has the frigging strangest news of any state and a terrific open government and public records laws that made doing the job quite a bit easier than it did in California, then you are probably not meant to be a reporter.

So I turned Sheldon down, and Sheldon was rightfully surprised. It was a great offer. Sometimes I think about what would have happened if I'd accepted it. I'd be living a completely different life, I believe. Probably a different husband (if I even would have married), different kid(s), different home in a much different town. Maybe I'd still be a reporter.

Or maybe not. Maybe there's a homing beacon that calls us all back to where we're supposed to be, if indeed we're supposed to be somewhere. Maybe soul mates are a real thing. Maybe we're on paths we can't avoid, no matter how many Sheldons appear with job offers 3,000 miles from home.

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