A few weeks ago, we ran a story about a 1981 North Carroll High School graduate Tod Lippy who had returned to his alma mater to do a music video for a song he’d written called “Ambitions.”
I watched it and enjoyed the nostalgia of seeing the inside of the former school once again. When I realized the lyrics were taken from his yearbook from four decades ago, when students had written about their ambitions, the song became quite poignant to me.
“I was struck by the pathos of being 18 and asked to predict what your life is going to be,” he told us, having used his classmates’ goals of becoming a therapist, cosmetologist, veterinarian and so many other professions in his song. He looked many of them on Google to see what they wound up doing with their lives and told us, “it was nice that so many people … ended up being just that.”
That is nice. I can relate.
Unfortunately, my high school yearbook had no such ambitions section. (We could write whatever we wanted and 18-year-old me wrote something in code that must’ve seemed clever and hilarious at the time; not so much in retrospect). But my ambitions were always pretty clear, as I’ve written before.
The son of an English teacher mother and sports-crazy father, both of whom read two newspapers every day, my career goals formed early. I remember creating a rudimentary newspaper when I was 7 or so and taking it around the neighborhood, trying to get a quarter for it. It did not sell well. Later, I wrote in a sixth-grade paper I unearthed during a move years ago that I wanted to cover sports for a newspaper and write about the Orioles. I had done exactly what I wanted by the time I hit 30.
Regardless of how clear one’s ambitions are, however, no one gets there without a lot of help and encouragement. From family, friends, teachers, mentors, colleagues, supervisors, employees ... and even people you barely know.
I’d been the sports editor on my high school newspaper, but when I got to college I had some aspirations of being Woodward and/or Bernstein. So at the first meeting of prospective reporters for the Radford University Tartan, I was torn. We were told to go to one side of the room if we wanted to do sports, the other side for news. While I was making up my mind, a tall, good ol’ boy from southwestern Virginia gave me the push I needed, slapping me on the back and saying, “Let’s do sports. It’ll be fun.”
It sure was. In college and for more than 25 years at the Times and Baltimore Sun. Reporting on more amazing high school, college and professional sporting events than I can remember, interviewing everyone from Little Leaguers to Major Leaguers, writing features, game stories, columns — everything I wanted to do when I wrote that sixth-grade paper.
Moving to news was not something I considered for most of that time. I just needed another push. At one point, a former Times editor said he thought I would do a great job in news. I never forgot that and when I had a chance, I took it. Going from overseeing reporters covering players and coaches to teachers and commissioners, going from writing columns about basketball and golf to politics and COVID-19 was a challenge I really enjoyed, largely because of the talented, hard-working, people who’ve been on this same journalistic journey, not just for the past five years but the past 30-plus.
Journalists don’t do it for the money, but because they’re passionate about telling stories and letting people know what’s going on. Thousands of “news desserts” have sprung up where newspapers once kept the community informed. I’ve tried to be unbiased in my job, but I’m biased on this one: Everyone should support journalism. For the price of a “venti” Starbucks drink, people can have monthly access on cellphones, tablets and laptops to what the school board is doing, what the county commissioners are doing, what their neighbors are doing. It’s a very small investment that pays dividends. I’m appreciative to the many, many readers who’ve made that investment the past three decades, allowing me to do what I wanted. Hopefully they got something out of the bargain, too.
I tell my kids, who now have career “Ambitions” of their own, if you can find something you enjoy doing, work with great people and make even the smallest difference for a little while, you’re lucky. If you can do that for more than 30 years, you’ve hit the lottery.
That’s how I feel — though hitting the actual lottery would’ve been nice, too.
Bob Blubaugh is the editor of the Carroll County Times. His column appears Sundays. Email him at email@example.com.