Lost Words

What did I say in that first meeting?

As you’ll read in Brad King’s introduction to my Invictus piece, I managed to do everything in my power to start off my relationship with Brad as poorly as possible. The worst of which was my apparently utterance that technology somehow wasn’t important.

But that still never adds up. I’ve always enjoyed playing with new tech and see what can come of it. I was enamored by the first computer I got to use in the first grade. By age 10, I was designing basic websites and learning basic coding. I loved dabbling in it, usually to the detriment of my classwork, which I found pedantic.

While I hadn’t kept up with my technology training through the years, I hadn’t rejected it either.

So what did I say?

My best guess is that it was either some sort of defense of the newspaper industry, saying it’ll survive and not need to make as many adaptations as everyone was saying.

(Of course, if I did say something that silly, I’m not surprised Brad instantly hated me. I had no idea what I was talking about. Collaborating with other copy editors and working at a newspaper right now, it’s amazing how they cling to their newsprint, in abject fear of taking the effort to learn new things and improve both themselves and the product they work for.)

When I left that first meeting, I was feeling fine, not realizing the blood-boiling rage I had left Brad in. The subsequent months of copying and filing were tedious, but barely registered as a punishment. The class of first-year GAs I was shoved into an office with had no idea of what we “should” be doing — best indicated by the deteriorating relationship we had with journalism front office over the course of two years. No one seemed to be doing anything particularly noteworthy at first (not that we talked about it too much either), so hours of copying seemed like a normal task.

He wasn’t even the professor I feared or tried to impress the most. I was far more concerned with the approval of Dr. Dustin Supa, who I had two classes with that first semester when I thought that getting good grades would be my ticket to success in graduate school.

It’s only after the fact, these 22 months later, that I realized how poorly my relationship with Brad began and how I could have had an even better experience if I had come in with a different attitude.

Sigh, what the hell did I say?

* * *

Joining The Invictus Writers was partially an obligation and a leap of faith. Working with Brad, I felt that I almost had to join when asked. And while that’s not necessarily the best reason to undertake a major project such as this, it also kept me on the path when frustration set in.

But I also knew that joining Brad in a project, even if it seemed a little far-fetched at first, would pay dividends. The things I will hold most cherish from my two years in the Department of Journalism, the majority of them come from working with Brad.

And the Invictus writers. Like any group, it takes time for a bond to develop, but we certainly united through the project. The Saturday mornings, as we discussed the project over pancakes, were just one part of that connection. The true bond formed late at night, as we worked on our words, lamenting the state of our stories.

On Saturdays, we were a group of students. At night, we were a group of writers.

As the book’s copy editor, I had the honor of being one of the first people to read each story before it was released to the public. Whenever I reflect on the group of seven, my first thought will be of their words and the emotion each expressed in his or her journey.

* * *

Barring a disaster and after navigating the hiring process, I will return to ESPN a little more than a year after I was there as an intern. I will be a copy editor for ESPN the Magazine.

While I enjoy copy editing — being one of those chosen/crazy few (take your pick) to relish the hunt for clean prose and actually caring about dangling modifiers and the difference between farther and further — one of my first questions about the job was whether there would be opportunities to write as well.

(We haven’t even discussed pay. I may curse Brad’s name over this.)

That request — to get the chance to create, to tell stories — is due to Brad’s influence. Without him, I would have floated through graduate school and life, developing as a copy editor but never really scratching the itch that brought me to journalism in the first place. Brad not only showed me how to tell a story, but he made me want to write, want to narrate, want to express.

My working relationship with Brad hasn’t ended yet. We’re still trying to complete my thesis, a process that will stretch into the fall.

Even after that is complete and my degree is in hand, I know my ties to Brad won’t disappear. He’ll still check in on me like he does all his students, both at Ball State and Northern Kentucky.

We may not talk every day, but the motivation he instilled in me over the course of four semesters will push me in his absence. I will reach goals because he showed me how.

And we’ll keep an eye on each other through our antics on Twitter. I’ll know who or what has pissed him off that day, and he’ll see what I’m up to — where I’ve been, where I’m going.

We’ll always be connected through that “useless” technology.