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This must be the place: It’s a good life that comes upon you now and then

While waiting for my coffee to be brewed in the back of the newsroom this past Tuesday, I stared blankly into the abyss. 

Looking around the small nook, there were memos on the wall, sink filled with cups and dishes, small fridge in the corner and stacks of office supplies on the shelves. The coffeepot burped and shook me out of the trance. 

I turned my attention to the contraption itself and realized that I’ve had that same coffeepot since college. Originally, it was the extra coffeemaker in my parents’ house in Upstate New York. But, it also found its way into my truck when I left for school in Connecticut and took off for newspaper gigs in Idaho and North Carolina. 

Wandering down that rabbit hole of thought, I soon thought of when I packed the coffeepot into my old truck and left for Idaho, a decision that was made with my heart of my sleeve, my eyes aimed forward in search of adventure. And to think, I almost didn’t chase that horizon in those early days. 

After I graduated college in 2007, I applied to any and all journalism gigs. Every corner of America. I was ready for whatever was next. In October 2007, at age 22, I had one bite on my resume from a newspaper in Vermont, just across Lake Champlain from my New York hometown. 

I went to the interview in a nice button up shirt and dress pants. The back-and-forth questioning went well. Then, out of nowhere, they sat me down at a desk in the newsroom and gave me a story assignment. It was to call up this World War II veteran and chat with him about financial challenges facing the local American Legion. 

I felt like I had just been thrown in the deep end. But, I winged it, did the interview, wrote the article and submitted it before I left the building. A couple of days later, the editor called back. They liked the article and offered me the staff writer position. 

But, for some reason, my intuition signaled this wasn’t the place for me. I wanted to leave my familiarity that is the North Country. The job was great, but it just didn’t sit right. Somewhere inside my soul, I felt there was something else around the corner. 

To the dismay of my parents, I turned the gig down. Not much longer after that, I was offered a reporter position at the Teton Valley News in Driggs, Idaho, on the backside of my most favorite place on the planet: the Grand Teton Mountains. That opportunity and time out there forever changed my existence.

Skip ahead to 2012. The economy tanked in 2008 and I had left the Teton Valley News, ready for the next step. Turns out the exact day I left the newspaper, Wall Street began to crumble. That night of Sept. 15, 2008, I was day one in my return trek from Idaho to New York. Staying at a cheap motel in Miles City, Montana, I turned on the TV to see the news: Lehman Brothers had collapsed.

So, for the next few years, I was back in Upstate New York, this time struggling as a freelance writer, to which I was substitute teaching in my old high school to make ends meet. But, it never once crossed my mind to leave journalism: this industry is my passion and lifeblood. 

Well, there I was, now 27 years old, sending out my resume to publications across America. One newspaper on the coast of Maine got hold of me. It was in a town I ran around every summer as a kid and young adult. Beautiful seaside community. 

So, I drove up to Maine and went to the interview. The newsroom was right above the in-house printer, with the place smelling of ink and chemicals. It was nauseating. Then, in the interview, the editor said I would have to wear a shirt, tie and dress pants at all times, even in the depths of summer. Yikes. 

Oh, and the editor also informed me that I’d mostly be covering school board meetings and cops and courts. Sure, these are important and interesting subjects. But, I’d already been in those trenches and wanted my next gig to be writing about what I absolutely love: the arts and people. 

Before I crossed back over the Maine state line, they offered me the position. I had the entire drive back to New York to think about accepting it. By the time I got home, I realized once again this wasn’t the place for me. 

I remember several close friends and family members saying I was downright crazy to turn down the offer: “The economy is shit and you’re telling them ‘no’? What’s wrong with you?” It didn’t matter, I knew deep down there was something else coming down the pike. 

Not even a week later, Scott McLeod, the publisher at The Smoky Mountain News, called me and asked that I come down to North Carolina and interview for the gig. Well, some eight years later, I still reside in that dream job, a position I continue to harbor sincere and overflowing gratitude for.

Folks, the moral of the story is this, and only this: follow your heart. Your intuition is there for a reason, whether it be a job or relationship, or any decision for that matter. Follow the energy of the beating muscle in your chest and it’ll never lead you astray. 

Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all. 

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