As I reflect on some of my successes and failures over the past several decades, the one thing that has remained constant, steady, and solid is my passion and love of the written word and journalism. For as long as I can remember, and probably most of my family and friends will attest to, pens, newspapers, books, and a copy of The Writer’s Digest magazine were permanent fixtures on or near me from grade school onward.
A long-term and successful career in journalism–with plenty of bumps along the way–was inevitable. It had to be since it was the only thing I ever wanted to do—except when I was about 10 or 11 and wanted to be a Roller Derby star. I’ve had plenty of part-time jobs and temporary gigs for more than 30 years. Out of boredom, but most often out of necessity, the side hustle always—directly led back to my journalistic roots.
For example, there was a time when I worked as a medical insurance biller for a group of psychiatrists. With an endless supply of antidepressants and mood-altering drugs available,—thanks to complementary samples from dozens of “Gotta make a sale” pharmaceutical drug reps that came to the office–the job was crazy (pun intended) and a hoot at first. It was also a then depressed, stressed-out, and anxiety-challenged young Black man’s foggy paradise. Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, and Ambien were the wonder drugs at the time and readily available for sampling. The worst part of the job was having to listen to one of the shrink’s wives whine and nag everyone in the office–her screechy voice was an annoying mix between a persistent whistle and the squeal of a pig. She was indeed the epitome of every awful story anyone has ever heard about a doctor’s wife. I worked there for nearly three years. I ended up writing more than a dozen articles about the experience —including one story that landed on the cover of a national magazine and led to me receiving multiple offers to write a book. I also got to interview late author Elizabeth Wurtzel. She is the author of ProzacNation—a bestselling book about depression. Ah yes, pass the Prozac!!
Another less exciting yet memorable job was when I worked as a foreclosure specialist for a mortgage company. My job was to process the paperwork to evict people from their homes. On a couple of occasions, I was required to accompany sheriff’s deputies to a foreclosed property. I’d oversee the process as movers’ put a family and their possessions out on the curb. On one occasion, I saw a group of people swarm and rummage through the belongings of an evicted family. The job was just as depressing and humiliating as it sounds. I lasted for less than a year. I rebounded, and again, the journalist prevailed. I ended up writing and, more importantly–selling dozens of articles related to the experience to countless publications over the years.
At any rate, I celebrated a milestone birthday earlier this year; the serial moonlighting I’ve been doing for the past 30 or so years is over. Now, the main hustle, or should I say, the one and only hustle and true love—writing, writing, and more writing–is the permanent gig–without any distractions!