College for me was supposed to be a stopping point on my way to international stardom. I grew up in a suburb about a half hour outside of Pittsburgh and spent most of my senior year in high school and all of the summer dreaming about getting the hell out of there and to the city. It didn’t matter that Pittsburgh wasn’t New York, it was a first step on my way to New York where real culture presided. My plan went something like this, spend a semester commuting to college and getting the lay of the city,move to the city for the second semester and then, by the end of my first year,at most my first year and a half be reaping the rewards of national and international fame as a world renowned artist/writer/musician (I hadn’t really thought out for sure what discipline I was going to follow, I wasn’t as concerned with the horse as I was the buggy.)
As a result of this well thought out and executed plan I didn’t spend much time on my classes at my college of choice. I became a journalism major, not so much because breaking the next big story interested me but because I figured it was a great start to a career like Hemmingway and Kerouac. I read “No One Here Gets Out Alive” about Jim Morrison and the Doors several times and decided this was a fabulous road map to success. The way I read it, Jim Morrison showed no interest in being a singer until after college, he did write before that but up until graduation had never sung on stage. By starting with writing and a plan in place I assumed I was three ahead of his schedule and should have been able to breeze right through the rest.
As it turns out, things didn’t go exactly as planned. I was writing, I did published in the college literary magazine, did do several readings and slams both on campus and around campus in the local coffee houses that were buzzing at the time. That’s where the plan stalled though. I wrote a couple of poetry collections, attempted to get them published and was shocked when I was turned down by every publisher. I know what you’re thinking, I had no name for myself, had no actual experience, did almost no work towards my goal…I get it, but still, I was me.
If you know you’re the smartest person in the room but no one recognizes it but you are you at fault or are they?
With my literary career grinding to a halt two things happened—1.) I partied a lot! I figured that was part of the plan anyway, I mean what artist/writer/musician didn’t party right? 2.) I started compromising on my goals. OK, if I wasn’t going to be an international superstar I’d be a local superstar, the easiest way to do that radio. I threw myself into the college radio station and began interning and working at most of the stations in the market. In fact, I worked hard at radio, harder in fact, than I had at most of my other hair brained schemes. When my friends were going out and partying I was working the 2 a.m. shift at a local A.M. station.
Growing up, one of my favorite shows was “thirtysomething.” I know it’s hard to believe that a kid in high school loved a show about yuppies but I did. In one of the episodes, the main character Michael is talking to his business partner Elliot about how life is a series of small compromises. You aren’t going to be an artist but you work for an ad agency, it’s just a small compromise right? In the end it’s all the small compromises that create your life. Actually that last sentence wasn’t the point of the conversation but it’s my point.
You see, I’ve made a lot of small compromises in my life that brought me to where I am now. The first was realizing that I’m not going to be an international superstar and should probably look to something more realistic. Radio became a small compromise. I’ve had many more along the way. I left radio after working in the field for about a decade went to work for a CD distribution company. I figured it was the music business, would get me closer to my original goal of international fame, etc. That didn’t work so I settled for working really hard for the distribution company and learning the record business game. Compromise. I left to go work for a smaller distribution company that let me work from home. Compromise. When that job dried up I had one goal, to work somewhere that would allow me to wear jeans, a rock
band t-shirt, sports coat and engineer boots to work each day. I wear a suit and tie to work each day. Compromise.
I’ve only spoken about my employment history but every person’s personal life is filled with these compromises as well. These compromises look a lot darker than they are. Truth be told, I’m extremely happy with my life. I’m not a world famous rock singer but I do play keyboards and guitars both in a band and on my own; I’m not a world famous poet but I still write and occasionally submit the odd work (secure in the knowledge that when I die my son will be able to live off the unpublished works for decades as an adult after I pass away); I don’t live in New York but I love Pittsburgh. I think it’s the best medium sized city in these here United States with more amenities than any city it’s size and several larger ones as well.
My point and this is where I’ll leave it is that on the road to becoming an adult I’ve learned that compromise isn’t a bad word. In fact, it can be one of the best words. If I didn’t compromise I never would have the life I have now and in truthfulness, it’s the best life I could ever want. When my son or wife look at me and we laugh at something together I’ve never once looked back and thought compromise. I’ve only thought joy and happiness.