You don’t walk away from a job you enjoy unless you have a reason. And I did. I decided to stop teaching journalism at Ohio University in May 2019 once I realized my life was rolling toward its expiration date and I hadn’t squeezed as much out of it as I wanted to.
For as long as I can remember, I longed to be a man of the world. That’s more a pipe dream when you grow up, as I did, in all-black neighborhood that some folks might describe as the “wrong side of the tracks.”
Now, I wouldn’t refer to my neighborhood that way, because it had all a child could expect. No one was much wealthier than his neighbors. My family had all the joys of life we would want: friends, kin, sports and education. Perhaps, however, I didn’t take advantage of as much of it as I should have.
That thought drove me to the decision I made. Well, it didn’t do that alone. One more thing factored in my quitting: the death of a boyhood friend.
I heard about Jerome’s death from another friend, and I realized I hadn’t stayed in touch with Jerome for the better part of 25 years. His last years didn’t seem as if they were much fun. He had health problems, mostly related to a car accident in the 1980s that probably should have killed him. Jerome survived, but I wondered aloud if he lived.
It’s easy to question how somebody else lives his life, but you will do yourself no favor if you ignore your own. After all, your life is the only one you can live, even if you share your experiences with others.
Until Jerome’s death, I didn’t have as much to share as I thought I should. Sure, I had a fascinating career. I covered sports for more than 20 years, and then spent almost a decade in a college classroom. In both professions, I built wonderful friendships, and I mentored scores of men and women, hopeful now that some of them might remember me in their twilight years.
For I have remembered them: They have made me laugh; they have made me cry; they have made me smile; they have made me think; and they have made me a better man.
They gave me so much, and I wanted more to give to them. I also wanted more for me. I wanted to meet different people; I wanted to explore different cultures – here and abroad. I couldn’t do this if I were tied to a job and the commitments I had made to it.
So I did what many people of a certain age do when they are bored at work and not strapped for cash: quit.
Doing so afforded me freedoms I often took for granted. I figured as long as I managed my cash well, I had options galore to explore.
And I have.
I have traveled like a hobo, hopping around the world with a simple game plan in mind: see, hear, taste and enjoy.
That’s become an even bigger objective after I was laid up for a month with the coronavirus. Yet like so many things in my life, I had a good outcome. God spared me, and I think He did because He knew I had more to see, hear, taste and enjoy; He knew I had more people to meet; He knew I wanted to share more with the people in my life.
I wish I knew what tomorrow held for me. I’m no soothsayer, though. All I know is that I didn’t give up a job I enjoyed to sit around bored. I needed to find ways to squeeze as much out of life as I could.
Oh, and I think I have.