My palms began to sweat and my face turned white as I made my way over to my newsroom editor after being cursed out by an enraged reader.
When I accepted the internship at the newspaper, I had visions of being surrounded with excitement and the desire to bring justice and positive change through ink. I was a rookie, but I was hungry.
And today was the day I received my first cussing from a reader. I made a mistake. The error was all my fault. Call it a rookie mistake. But it was a mistake and a big one to boot.
My editor knew too. Looking down from her eyeglasses, she bellowed my name across the newsroom. It was as if the entire operation stopped to watch my journey to her desk.
I was embarrassed, but I still managed to hold my head up.
Approaching her desk, I was not asked to sit down. Instead, I was given a lashing I deserved.
But it cut.
After getting called to the carpet in front of my peers, I made my way to the restroom. I felt all eyes on me as I made my way to the hallway. This time, my head was low, looking to the ground and praying that I didn’t trip over my own feet.
I made it into the restroom, the only room in the building where I felt alone. Placing my hands as if in a hug around the sink, I looked into the mirror. As the tears began to fill in my eyes, it all came out.
Seconds later, my back was against the wall where I slid down into a seated position. On that tile floor, I let out a good cry. I felt like a failure, and that failure was sprawled out on a bathroom floor, face wet with tears.
I managed to clean myself up and returned to my desk. I completed my day’s work and left that afternoon with a low spirit.
Driving home with the windows down, I began to doubt myself. There was no radio; only the sounds of wind and defeat.
I am not made out for this business. This is too much pressure. I can’t handle the load. I am a complete failure.
Those thoughts circulated through my head as I made my way back to my mother’s house. I spent the remainder of the day in my room, working out in my mind how I was going to tell my editor I wasn’t ready to be a reporter.
Saying a silent prayer, I went to sleep with the weight of the world on me.
But then the sun came up. It was another day. Ironing my one of my six work shirts, I got ready for the day.
And as I walked into the newsroom, I made my way to my desk and got to work.
There were no tears. There was no doubt. There was no question of where I was supposed to be.
And that day, my skin grew tougher, and my spirit grew stronger.
It was a failure, but one that I needed. Everyone needs to be knocked down one really good time in their lives. And this was one of many for me.
I wasn’t going to let an honest mistake drag me down. I was going to use it to motivate me not to make the same mistake again. I vowed that I would never, ever make the same mistake twice.
And I didn’t.
That same newsroom editor who rung my bell hugged me when my internship was over. She told me I had a lot of work to do but that I had a drive she admired.
Years later, that same editor would offer me a job.
But the lesson I learned that day in the restroom remained with me. In fact, another editor made the comment, “I never have to tell Jamie the same thing twice. She never makes the same mistake twice.”
Failure was good for me. It made me believe in myself. It made me develop a bigger vision. I developed a thicker skin. I have been cursed out since, but it just comes with the job.
And the sun comes up every morning. And every day, I pull myself up.
Rock bottom is rough, but it’s steady ground for the leap of faith required to pursue your dreams.