This picture is five years old. I am 22 years old here. Fresh out of journalism school and a new hire at The Osprey Observer, a newspaper that no longer exists. I look bitchy in this picture. Cold and sinister. Actually, I don’t look like myself at all. My hair hasn’t been this long in five years and the Blueberry iMac I’m using expired shortly after this picture was taken. I’m wearing a pink button-down shirt from the Goodwill that I just recently donated, among other things, to The Salvation Army.
The Osprey Observer, though now defunct, was published by the same family-owned string of community newspapers I currently write for.
The guy who took this picture, his name is Adam. He married my friend Kat who also worked for the paper. They live in Laramie, Wyo. now and I miss them like hell. When none of us had families or spouses or boyfriends or girlfriends to spend holidays with, Kat and Adam would host dinner parties at their home in Bradenton. There’s this beautiful scene in the movie Funny People that reminds me of these dinner parties. If you’ve not seen the movie, rent it when it comes out. Netflix it. When you watch the scene, where a group of young aspiring actors gets together for Thanksgiving dinner at an apartment in L.A., you’ll know what I’m talking about.
My eyes are narrowed and my lips are pursed in this picture because Adam liked to say things that would piss me off. There were these little grommet holes in our cubicle walls that if you stared through them, you’d see into your neighbor’s cube. This was how I first met Adam: through a shared hole in our cubicle walls, his one eye peering suspiciously at mine like two office-dwelling Cyclopes.
I knew nothing of Adam, but I certainly knew Kat. My editor had mailed me a stack of Observers prior to my move so I could get a better feel for the paper. Her byline was everywhere. She had written a story about a chef on Longboat Key named Marcella Hazen that I read a dozen times on the flight from Buffalo to Tampa.
Behind that glare I am scared shitless. Although scared shitless is not an ideal place to be, it defines you and drives you. I remember driving back to my apartment at night and pinching myself because I couldn’t believe I had a job as a reporter in a town with a ballet, an opera, an orchestra, and a circus! I was a nobody from a town nobody had heard of, wearing my first pair of high heels, barely sleeping at night because my nervous system was so shot from the move.
My bones, my brain, my organs were in shock. I was a fish out of water, more determined to find my place than ever before. I’ve not experienced this kind of hungry ambition in years, which frustrates me because above all, I consider, or rather I considered, myself ambitious.