If something tragically fatal were to happen to me tomorrow – say, I slip on spilt Mountain Dew and tumble into the path of a subway train – the following obituary would be a fairly uninteresting item. If the pattern of 22 years proves consistent, I am fairly sure the photograph would be unflattering. It would note the basic facts – my birth in Annapolis, Md., my graduation from the University of Maryland with degrees in journalism and government and politics, my involvement with various campus activities, my work experience since graduation – and perhaps mention, in no more than a line, my aspirations in the field of journalism.
The problem with obituaries is that they don’t include potential. You never read an obituary that reads, “John Smith could have been something big, relatives say. His mother was sure to note that he had some ‘special’ qualities that led people to a vague, indescribable feeling that Smith was destined for greatness. Had it not been for the small nip of a neighbor’s rabid toy poodle, friends say, Smith could have ‘really made a name for himself.’”
I believe I have the potential to succeed as a journalist and a writer. I have worked to build up the experience I need to eventually void the possibility of such a lackluster death notice. I’m not quite there, of course. No one is going to run an 84 pt. font headline screaming about the untimely demise of a former reporter and columnist for his university’s paper, or run a special op-ed to recall the contributions to society made by the editor of a small business-to-business trade publication. But I think I’ll get there.
Then, hopefully, as the blaring Metro train bears down on me, my only regret will be that I wasn’t more photogenic.
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