Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Tall Sunflowers - and the Dissolution of a Dream

Tall Sunflowers
Oil on bi-fold door, 14x80. Can hang vertically or horizontally
Please click here to email me about price and delivery options

I'm taking this opportunity, at the start of 2013, to tell some of my story here on the blog. Many of you have suggested that I write a book, and in these blog posts, I'm hoping to work out pieces that could become that book.

After losing my mother, my boss and my job, and finding my way to painting, I finally found a job as the editor of a newspaper in Rhode Island. 

Let's just say that I should have known better. 

I was 30 when I started in journalism, at The Westerly Sun in Westerly, RI. About two hours into my first day, I decided that I wanted to be the editor. That's where the fun was, that's where the power was, that's where you could make the most difference. 
I set out to become the editor, and 10 years later, I was hired into my first editorship. 

It did not go well. 

The publisher and I did not see eye to eye, and that's putting it mildly. My staff and I produced excellent work, but to my vast horror, I hated being the top dog. 


I'd worked hard for 10 years to get there. I'd moved Peter and me from Rhode Island to Idaho to Maine and to Virginia to win this prize that I so thought I wanted. I was horrified to find the job so completely unlike me. 

But bad things had happened during that first editorship. Peter's mother had died. Our beloved Pekingese had died. My boss and I didn't get on. So maybe it wasn't the position. Maybe it was everything else. 

I took a job, then, as the editor of The Westerly Sun, the paper where I'd started my career in journalism. It was a little better, but not much. 

Day by day, I realized, with increasing clarity, that this was not the job for me. I was not corporate enough to unquestioningly support the publisher, and press upon my staff ideas and dictates with which I disagreed. 

Inevitably, in top-dog meetings, I was the only one who would voice disagreement, or question those dictates.

I hated driving my staff to do things that I thought were wrong. I also hated being the target of blame whenever something went wrong, or some staffer - disagreeing with what he or she perceived as a senseless dictate, would fail to follow it. 

In short, I was miserable. And I sought and found refuge in art, taking a pottery class at the Stonington Community Center, and then throwing myself into pottery with a passion. In a matter of months, I was teaching, and then, running the pottery program. I think that this is perhaps the first time that art saved me. 

At any rate, I took the job in West Warwick, RI, knowing that I probably shouldn't. But I needed a job, and they needed an editor, and so, with trepidation, I accepted. 

Without going into great detail (I'll go into newspapers and their death spiral in later chapters), let it suffice to say that it didn't work. A year or so after I started, I quit. 

I'd been painting, and I'd been selling paintings, and what I knew was that those two things made me happier than anything I'd ever done. 

So on a Thursday, I left full-time employment. On Friday, I packed my car. And on Saturday, I set out on my very first painting journey, to Wisdom, Montana, which was - at the time - my favorite place on earth. 

1 comment:

Bobby said...

Wow, an incredible shift in lifestyle! It sounds to me perhaps you have what it takes to be top dog (despite the bad experience) but it comes down to leading a team with values that fit your own. Either way good luck!