We aspired to big things, but often we settled on little ones — the latest kerfuffle at city hall, the fundraiser for cancer research, the weather’s effect on business in a nearby beach town, and so on.
When I started, we had a four-person newsroom producing five papers a week; when I left a year and a half later, we had two people doing the same.
Working there was a valuable experience, one that taught me how to write lots and write quickly.
But it was also incredibly stressful. After a few weeks, I began to feel as if my job were crushing my soul.
I rarely had the chance to write the kind of stories I wanted to write, and when I did there was never enough time to give them the treatment they deserved.
It didn’t take long to realize I could spend the rest of my life on this path — a path that would never let me do the kind of work that mattered to me — and something needed to change.
So as often as I could, sometimes late at night but more often on weekends, I would sit on a cheap folding chair in my basement apartment, using a TV tray as my desk, and tap away on my computer.
In moments my job couldn’t swallow, I wrote what was in my heart.
I wrote about things that were deeply interesting to me, in ways that demonstrated my potential as a writer.
I got honest with myself in ways I was could not be honest at work, and those small truths pointed me to a better place.
The better place was another, better job. Five months later it was to yet another job that was 10 times better than the last one.
But it also helped me understand it was no longer acceptable to spend 99 percent of life doing things that broke my spirit.
I needed to write about things that mattered, and that meant stealing time.
It meant writing my first book on evenings that would otherwise have been spent with friends or in front of the TV.
It meant being selfish, with the understanding my selfishness was also an act generosity I owed myself.
In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert says: “If I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something.”
This is what happens when we defer our dreams, or give up on them altogether. We ruin parts of ourselves, and then we go around ruining parts of other people because we can’t stand seeing them happy.
So, selfishness is generosity. It’s about you, but it’s also about everyone else.
If you don’t nourish your soul — a word I use to describe the person you truly are and hope to become — it dies.
I learned many lessons from that first job out of journalism school, but the most important was that I needed better, deeper more meaningful work than it could provide.
Much of that work takes place in my current job, for which I am truly thankful.
But some of it comes in the bits of time I steal for myself — never on the job, of course, but often in quiet moments that could be spent a million other ways.
The purpose of my life is to write honestly about things that matter and pass them along to others, hoping it will help.
Whatever the purpose of your life is, I hope you’ll be as selfish, generous and courageous as it takes to live it out.
Start small, and see how far you get.