… I didn’t know any better. I wanted to get a start on my life. I’d graduated from college three months prior. I was living closer to Mexico than to my hometown. Literally. The offices of the first newspaper I worked at were 11 blocks from the border of Mexico. I was 2,000 miles away from home.
As I watched the FX series “The Bridge” earlier this week, I saw images of the border town I once knew – dusty, bilingual, foreign yet familiar.
It was strangely comforting. And then I realized something: Has it really been 15 years since I took my first job out of school?
Yes, it has been. The first job didn’t come without its struggles.
Sure, I thought about quitting, about a month into my job, when my editor pulled me aside and told me in so many words, “you’ve got to prepare better for this, because clearly, you’re not.”
I drove back to my apartment and cried. I wondered if I could hack it. I thought about going to the news side. Duh, I told myself, this is what you love, you’ve come this far, why go back? Then, I went home and got a good night’s sleep, and took my editor’s advice to heart.
I was 21 years old, and at the time I didn’t realize it, but it was constructive criticism. Andy ended up giving me a lot of that, which in the long run became valuable to me. Years later, Andy tracked me down after I moved to New England and told me how he saw talent in me, but that at the time it was green.
I don’t know what happened to Andy – arguably one of the best editors I ever worked with. I sent him an email after I moved to the midwest but never heard back.
I have a lot of good memories from my first job out of school. I met two of my closest friends, David and Rose, and met a reporter, Emma, whom I still consider one of the best reporters I’ve ever worked with – and who is still doing the damn thing all these years later.
Two of the funniest Emma moments ever:
*When all the computers went offline in the spring of 1999, and Emma was outside smoking a cigarette. Someone complained and Emma said, “and it’s happy hour!” Marcial, a city reporter answered, “Well there’s a bar down the street,” and Emma didn’t hesitate.
Four of us grabbed our bags and hustled to La Oficina, and drank wine coolers and listened to Tejano music. The computer system was still offline when we returned.
*Emma was on the phone, trying to get a response out of an official. Emma did that a lot. She was very reasonable with people, but I could tell the call was starting to get out of hand. Emma, a classy lady who knew when to pick her battles, kept her cool and ended the call in professional fashion. As soon as she hung up the phone …
“WHAT A PENDEJO!”
I died laughing.
“WELL HE WAS!”
Emma didn’t make excuses for who she was or what she did.
Of everyone I worked with in the newsroom, only a handful of us are still in newspapers. Several have gone onto bigger papers, and some have stayed in the area, on the border of Mexico. They didn’t just have jobs there, but they had lives and families and genuinely loved the area.
I didn’t get that at the time, when I was 21, because I really saw it as a springboard for the rest of my career, and for the rest of my life. And I feel differently now, that I’m in an area I like, and the fact that I have to think about two people now instead of just one.
The first high school football game I covered in South Texas was Lyford against Brownsville St. Joseph. Tomorrow I’ll cover an FBS program. I realized this as I was driving to run an errand the other day.
“Shit,” I said to my husband. “It’s been 15 years since I first started covering football for a newspaper.”