"Live a good life, and in the end, it's not the years in the life, it's the life in the years."

A career saved by a simple sentence

By on August 24, 2019 in Columnist with 1 Comment
Mike Cassidy

By Mike Cassidy

Editor

Somewhere in the last century, I landed my first non-farm job by working part-time at a small rural Western Washington daily newspaper, helping the sports editor cover high school and other local sports.

This was a great job for me, as toting heavy hay bales and shoveling muck neither suited my slightly-muscled frame nor my sensitive nose.

I was still in high school, but thought this might be the first step in my climb out of the farm laboring life. Yippee!

Except… in high school, I was pulling a solid “B” average — and in my high school, that meant I could be wrong on 12 percent of the answers on a test and still earn a “B” with an 88 percent score.

Newspaper work, even at small newspapers covering fairly inconsequential local sports, requires a higher standard.

If I spelled even 5 percent of the 40 names wrong in the local list of high bowling scores for the week I collected over the phone, (5 percent wrong would actually be “A” work at my school) — and I swear, all the best bowlers were Polish with impossible to spell, or even pronounce, names — my 300-pound sports editor by the name of Ken Martin (now there’s any easy name to spell), would fume, pound his desk, denounce the ability of my teachers and in general proclaim I was not fit to work indoors.

 This went on for a while until one afternoon when I came to work, Ken glared at me and said, “That’s it, Mike, I quit, I’m going to work in radio where I don’t have to put up with your errors!”

And sure enough, in a couple of days, he was gone.

It helps being a dumb kid, because I didn’t know what to make of Ken’s outburst and quitting. 

I kept showing up for work at my regular time, although realizing it was odd for my boss to quit rather than just firing me.

The editor of the paper — we all worked around a large desk (I said it was a small paper, right?) — had heard Ken’s comments. “You’re doing fine, Mike, Ken’s a jerk,” he told me, and began adding to my workload general news stories, with luckily fewer Polish names.

A new sports editor was brought in who leaned on me for local knowledge and I continued at the paper after school for the next couple of years.

Decades later, firmly entrenched in my career, by chance I came across the editor’s name, now at another newspaper. I wrote him a short letter, thanking him for those few words and for saving my love of this work.

I thought of this episode when I read Connie Nelson Bean’s story on page 7 in this issue, and how she was both touched by teachers and she in turn touched students during her long career as an elementary school teacher.

There are times when a few words from a teacher, or editor or anyone in authority, can set a young person on the track for a good life.

If we ever have a chance to say those few words, we shouldn’t let it pass.

Pass it along, help someone else enjoy The Good Life.

— Mike

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  1. Connie Bean says:

    Thank you Mike—for mentioning me in your opening statement—I feel very honored. Thank you also for helping me do what I am loving—better and better as I learn from others. Connie Bean
    I loved the articles on why folks moved to Wenatchee–oh my how lucky we all were to take that big step. Of course I learn always from dear June—the BEST–always something to think on

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