This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This post’s topic is “Enemies.”
I should have been editor of The Daily Mississippian.
At the end of my sophomore year at Ole Miss, I decided to run for the editorship of the student paper.
I was the only person who met the qualifications to be editor. They allowed two other candidates to run. Next, of the three of us, I was the only one to finish the test demonstrating competency to be editor.
Then there was a meeting of the editor selection committee, composed of students, journalism professionals, and members of the university staff. I could relate the stories I heard of what happened in that meeting, or of the outside factors that supposedly biased the selection, but they really don’t matter. Long story short, I wasn’t selected.
I was upset.
In fact, I was bitter. Bitter against the system I felt had cheated me, and bitter against the candidate who won.
I left the official student publication and launched my own local entertainment publication. By any reasonable measure it was unsuccessful, lasting only four issues, but it succeeded in the important area of letting me spread my wings and get experience I couldn’t have gained at The Mississippian.
Over time, my bitterness faded. The selection committee most likely did me a favor. I had potential; I needed discretion. Losing the editorship earned me some personal maturity and pursuing my own publication earned me some professional maturity that I would have missed out on had things gone differently.
The candidate who was selected was a different matter. She hadn’t done me any favors. She got something that I had worked hard to be qualified for and she wasn’t. She squandered the opportunity she’d been given. That bitterness was harder to let go.
I saw her once, a couple of years later, at a wedding. Her gang and my gang avoided each other.
Over the years after that, there were only the occasional rumors, friends who had brief contact or had heard news. I didn’t really keep track, but listened when people had something to say, especially if it was bad. I wanted vindication. I wanted proof that the wrong choice had been made.
And then came Facebook. To her credit, she put in the friend request to me. She doesn’t use it much, so we don’t have much contact, but seeing her profile allowed me to catch up a bit on the intervening years.
I’ll admit, I’ll admit that, for a brief second there, I experienced a moment of schadenfreude that her life hadn’t turned out the way it seemed to be going way back when. And, making it even worse, some of it wasn’t even about that vindication I’d talked about. No, she wasn’t in journalism anymore, so there was that. But part of it was things in her personal life.
Ultimately, though, what I saw on that page was this — we’re both just people. We both weren’t who or where we were 17 years ago. She wasn’t in newspapers anymore. Neither am I. Her marriage had ended. So had mine. She’d found new things to make her happy, to fill her life. So had I. We really weren’t all that different. And the editor selection that seemed like such a big deal all those years ago really wasn’t. And the bitterness that seemed so worthwhile really wasn’t.
I’ve prided myself on not having enemies. I mean, sure there are probably people in other countries who would gladly kill me and all that, but I’m talking personally. There are people who I’ve been at odds with, and there are people I believe have done me wrong. But I’d like to think that I’m pretty good at not holding grudges. I’d like to think I’m pretty good at not letting bitterness influence me.
But if I were to be honest, there are probably people out there that I still carry bitterness against. And that Facebook experience was a good reminder that somethings just aren’t worth carrying.
For my 30th birthday, I had a secret birthday party for myself — I planned a reunion of many of my DM fellow staff members that weekend, telling no one that there was an occasion behind it. Back then, I was too petty to invite the person who became editor. If we ever do it again, I hope she can make it.