Behind the beard, that kid from 30 years ago is still around

01/16/2014 9:07 PM

01/16/2014 9:07 PM

The card is still in my wallet.

Weathered and worn, just like me, it has outlasted quite a few wallets since it was handed to me three decades ago.

It is my original Kansas City Star employee identification card and it was issued 30 years ago today.

It hasn’t been all roses and sunshine, but on balance, snagging this gig — and more importantly — hanging onto it for so long has been the ninth best thing that ever happened to me. My wife, six kids and that European sojourn of my youth being the top eight.

Oops, I almost forgot that long weekend in Tijuana where ... on second thought, let’s not mention that.

Back to Jan. 22, 1984.

When I first stepped into this venerable brick fortress at 18th and Grand, I was hired as a copy clerk. It’s a job that no longer exists.

Basically, I was a phone-answering, errand-running gofer. And I was paid accordingly.

But my foot was in the door, and through dedication and hard work, including a two-year stint on the obituary desk, I worked my way up from the bottom rung of the ladder to the second from the bottom rung of the ladder.

And there I remain today.

Not that I’m complaining. If you are a regular and long-time reader, you know that the last few years have not been kind to the newspaper industry, and the fact that I’m still here is amazing to me (and probably to many of you).

Being born and raised in Kansas City, I grew up reading The Star and The Times. You old-timers may remember this was a two-newspaper town way back when. My first job was delivering the paper before and after school. I wrote for my high school and college papers.

As long as I can remember, my only professional aspiration was to be a writer.

So 30 years ago, landing a job here was quite a rush. When I stop and think about it, I can almost feel that sense of nervous awe and disbelief that came with the realization I was actually here, and the fear that I would fail in a spectacularly humiliating way.

I’ve gotten mostly over those twin feelings of excitement and dread.

But there are still some days when the moon is full and the printer’s ink flows warm in my veins, and the thrill of nailing the story resurrects the killer instinct of that cub reporter from so long ago.

And I’ve never quite lost the nagging feeling that humiliating failure is bubbling just below the thin sheen of my journalistic competence.

That kind of thinking definitely keeps you on your toes.

And on your toes is where you need to be when the words you write today will be read by hundreds of thousands of people tomorrow.

No matter how much longer I get to do this, I know how lucky I’ve been to have had the opportunity in the first place.

That’s especially true when I consider the photograph of the scruffy young man adorning that old ID card.

Man, what were they thinking when they hired that guy?

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