This year marks a very special anniversary for me. March 28, 2014 will mark the 20th anniversary of the date in which my life was changed forever. On that date, I learned that my predecessor was leaving and that command of our campus newspaper was being given to me. As Assistant Editor, that was the standard for the chain of command and, having been elevated to the position of Acting Editor, I was hardly in a position to understand the journey upon which I was about to embark.
I was, after all, only nineteen years old.
The weeks, months, and two years and four months that followed would be a transformation the likes of which I could not have possibly dreamed. It inspired me, tested me and, in some ways, broke me. My integrity, my morals, my personal beliefs were tested, shattered and, in one form or another, completely rebuilt from the ground up. It was a boot camp of sorts; I was torn apart, piece by piece, painfully, thoroughly and ultimately, forced to make difficult choices in life.
Still, that experience offered me lessons in leadership I would never forget. It afforded me an opportunity to receive personal training in politics, management and conflict resolution. I was given the sort of education one simply does not receive in a classroom setting. Learning in a classroom is a controlled environment, much the same way a chemist controls an experiment in a laboratory. The lessons I received were given in an unpredictable environment, with constant variables in both reaction and planning. As such, I had to improvise, so was I also required to learn how to understand some of life’s greatest paradoxes.
Sometimes you lose even when you win. Not getting what you want can be a wonderful stroke of luck. The smarter you get, the stupider you can sometimes become and, of course, the fact you are doing something correctly doesn’t always mean you are doing things right.
I want to think, at least back then, I was a good boss, an effective manager, and a courageous leader. I wasn’t anywhere near as wise the second time around a few years ago, but hindsight is always 20/20. Yet I learned something extremely valuable from those bold first few months; sometimes walking blindly into a situation rife with risk is the most important thing one can do, because to be blind is to be immune to the fear which cripples ordinary persons.
March 28 will be a day I celebrate quietly, mainly through quiet reflection. As many of you who keep up with my writing know, my first 38 days as Editor of my campus newspaper is the basis for my novel A 38 Day Education, which I hope will find a publisher in the near future. That manuscript was originally written in 2008 and, 5 years later, I remain committed to the path I embarked on with said manuscript. I hope, I trust that, one day soon, my story will be shared with others in a way in which someone, anyone, will learn from my pain and maybe find a map in which they can chart their own course of transformation and leadership.
In the end, all I want to do is teach because, in reality, life has been my greatest teacher and I would like to share that knowledge with others.