I don’t remember much from my classwork as a school of journalism undergraduate at West Virginia University. Perhaps that’s because I viewed earning a degree as merely the price I paid for having such a swell time outside the classroom.
One class I do remember was taught by Frank Kearns, former CBS foreign correspondent, purported CIA ‘connection’ and distinguished professor of journalism at his alma mater. While Kearns’ classes were popular, mostly for the gritty stories he told about his former global exploits, what stuck with me the most was his answer to why we impressionable students should want to write. He simply said, “Because you have something to say.”
I suppose I’ve always had something to say about… whatever, but I didn’t realize how much until North Forty News offered me the opportunity to provide periodic content. Inspiration comes to me easily via everyday observations of people and processes within the community, often ‘things I just don’t get’. So, no chicken or egg conundrum here; having the medium opened the floodgates for the messages of formerly dormant commentary.
With Professor Kearns’ raison d’être criteria now met, where’s my motivation to write originate?
I suppose I write to address the irritations, frustrations and disappointments I sometimes encounter—therapy of sorts. Now for those who know me, you’re saying, “What could possibly be troubling a totally together guy like Phil, someone who appears to have an idyllic life, who doesn’t concern himself with keeping up with the Joneses, but rather, is the Joneses?”
And in fairness, other than losing my parents before their time, I am truly blessed: I married a woman who shares my interests, can out-everything me athletically and puts up with my many foibles; career-wise, I had 10 progressively more rewarding jobs without applying for any of them; I’ve remained healthy, other than 5 orthopedic surgeries, the result of trying to stay that way; I heeded Dad’s advice that I save well and invest better and didn’t heed it about driving Studebakers; and I have many loyal friends who seek my guidance on everything.
But in fact, there are conflictions aplenty, past and present, prompting my seeking solace in the pen—the PC actually—since I’ve discovered that outlet: Employment often meant choosing between going along to get along and compromising my integrity; some volunteer service endeavors went awry, either because I trusted others too much or didn’t trust my instincts enough; I can’t abide leaving well enough alone or putting social fabric ahead of sound business decisions; and as HOA president, it’s always a struggle pleasing all the constituents, all the time. I’m also struggling learning the drum part for Iron Butterfly’s 17-minute “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”, but writing about that won’t help.
Yet with all these other setbacks, writing about them is therapeutic. And when readers tell me they can relate to an often-satirical literary treatment of my own burdens, that’s validatingly adding to my ‘cure’.
The writing also justifies my parents’ investment in a college degree that I then didn’t use for 47 years (until North Forty News came calling). I’d give anything if my late mother and father could read my columns.
However, the main reason I write is just for the satisfaction of seeing if I can do it—how much I can stretch myself. I know my writing style doesn’t appeal to everyone—I favor metaphorical and analogical vagaries—but that’s my purposeful prerogative. I write for my own gratification, and simplistic composition just isn’t as challenging. Besides, I know from your comments that many of you still ‘get it’, and that makes it all worthwhile.
This column marks my first year as contributing writer for North Forty News, and I’d be remiss in not thanking Publisher Blaine Howerton for the opportunity to finally use my first college degree. And thanks as well to those of you from whom I hear regularly about my columns.
Phil Goldstein writes Tales from Timnath periodically for North Forty News. Phil is a 10-year Timnath resident who serves the Town of Timnath as chair of the Timnath Planning Commission. Phil is finally using his journalism degree after getting sidetracked 47 years ago. The views expressed herein are Phil’s only. Contact him with comments on the column or suggestions for future columns at NFNTimnath@gmail.com.