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Friday, August 12, 2022

Lessons learned in college shape columnist’s journey forward

Win big. Lose big.

Four years in Gainesville have given me plenty of opportunities to make mistakes, and I’ve made my share. A comparison between me on my first trip to Gainesville and me on my way out might yield some interesting changes.

I learned how to procrastinate. I found out how poorly I could manage my time. I missed deadlines. I bombed a test here and there. I made poor decisions with money. I saw what it felt like to be incredibly lazy.

Essentially, I had a pretty damn good time.

For a guy who will admit to having impossible expectations of himself, I have disappointed myself quite a few times. It couldn’t have been healthier.

Learning how to fail is probably one of the biggest lessons I’ll be taking from UF. As Michael Jordan said in a Nike commercial several years ago, failure will be why I succeed.

The best choices I have ever made have entailed taking risks, and that includes how I started my path to writing this column.

Back in the fall of 2006, an e-mail was sent out on the j-school list-serve by the St. Petersburg Times looking for freelance writers to cover high school sports in Citrus County.

The gig had its obvious downsides — the pay barely would cover the two-hour round trip from Gainesville to Citrus County. The sports teams were pretty terrible, and the assignments weren’t particularly glamorous.

I was the only one who applied. I still almost didn’t get the job.

I had no experience, and even if the assignment was small, the St. Petersburg Times doesn’t have much work for people completely new to journalism.

I persisted and succeeded, thanks to a woman named Dawn Reiss giving me a chance.

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She was the contact for the job and had told me no experience meant no-go. I offered to do a trial run: drive to Citrus County on my own free will, cover a game and write a story.

I did it and wrote the worst piece of journalism that was probably ever created. She somehow saw promise in it, gave me some tips and threw me out into the wilderness soon after to cover my own high school games.

I made my own luck.

Give me a joke.

You’re probably wondering why my column name is different today. Consider it my own kind of thank you to my friends and those who think they know humor better than I do (Yes, those groups have near identical memberships).

You’ll also notice three phrases in italics throughout this column. These have somehow become part of my persona, and yes, I realize they pretty much make no sense

See, if you’ve never met me in person, my friends like to tease that I hate to have fun.

And I’ll admit I’m a pretty conservative guy, usually not one to push my boundaries.

I have at times decided to make choices in hopes of a decent night’s sleep and an acceptable test grade or avoided pranks that seem more like the actions of fifth-graders.

Sometimes, I take things too seriously and act like a 40-year-old. But hey, if they didn’t care, they wouldn’t tease, right?

And in the end, making a difference in people’s lives is all I’ve ever wanted. It is one of my core mottos — making the lives of those around me better because they knew me.

Listen, I could get all serious and sappy, but that would probably cause even the five of you who have made it this far to stop.

Most of us have experienced tragedies or been close to someone who has.

I don’t need to describe how I’ve almost lost the two most important people in my life. Just do yourself a favor and live every day to the fullest.

And with that, I tip my cap to all my readers. Thanks for coming along for the journey. If I made you love me or hate me just once for even a few seconds, then I did my job.

Keep it real, Gainesville.

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