I wasn’t a standout student in high school. Being painfully shy, I was happy to blend into the sea of boisterous classmates, decorated lockers and school spirit posters. When I played, I didn’t excel at football or wrestling. When I graduated, I was mostly relieved to have that part of my life behind me.
It was during high school, however, that I figured out how to apply my talent for writing to something that I believe in and love.
It was during my first year of newspaper class that I discovered my passion for journalism. I had ink in my blood.
These days, when I’m asked how I got into the newspaper business, my short answer is that there was really no other choice — it was all that I was really good at.
Having to meet deadlines taught me focus and responsibility, high school and college teachers taught me to write succinctly and clearly, and editors taught me the importance of fairness and accuracy. I found my comfort zone among other reporters with a dark sense of humor and same desire to be responsible journalists.
Early in my career, which I started in the newsroom at the Whidbey News-Times, then-Editor Fred Obee shared some advice: You live in a small town. You can write the tough stories, and not everyone is going to like them, but you have to be able to look the people you’re writing about in the eyes.
Throughout my career I made a point of looking everyone in the eyes, especially those whom I’ve written about. I could do that because I knew I was fair. The facts of every story must speak for themselves. What I think doesn’t matter.
My point is, we all find our paths in life. Those of us who are lucky manage to find our callings. There are always bumps in the road, especially when there are people who enter your life who don’t have the faith in you that you have in yourself. I once had a college professor tell me in a restroom after I won my first professional journalism awards, “I never thought you’d amount to anything.”
That moment taught me that not everyone is rooting for you in life and that it was up to me to be in charge of my own successes.
If I were to be so bold as to share a message with this year’s sea of graduates, it would be that it’s up to you — not your parents, school, friends or teachers — to discover your passion and chart your direction in life. Graduates, you alone will determine your success. Sometimes that will come with support from others, but it may also be in spite of those who lack faith in you. Whether you get straight A’s or C’s, excel or tank miserably at sports, never allow anyone to diminish your potential to succeed.
Congratulations, Class of 2016.