Thankful: Perspective.

When we were young, we knew everything.
We were merely freshmen.

I’m thankful for perspective.

As I build my business, trying to do fulfilling work for a roster of clients whose businesses I care about and whose success I’m invested in, I often feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants with every Skype call and coffee meeting, every new proposal I write.

It’s not just me — I think it’s something a lot of people feel, at least among my friends, like we’re all just making it up as we go along.

 

I flew back to Kansas City a few weeks ago because I’d been invited to speak at the University of Kansas Journalism School’s J-School Generations event, which brought alumni back during the week of Homecoming to meet with students and talk about their real-world experiences.

How I was selected to join these alumni is and will always be beyond me, but I’m never one to turn down an invitation to talk about myself — especially to an audience of impressionable youth.

That audience ended up being a lecture hall with 350 freshmen in stadium seating, wearing hoodies and dragging their feet as they turned in their writing assignments for the week. The class: Journalism 101, Media & Society.
(How well I remember it! I started late, having abandoned a semester-long dream of being a family therapist and smacking my forehead when I flipped through the course catalog and realized I should have been focused on words all along.)

Bits of what the three of us alumni said during class would be on the exam, the professor said. The others, one who owns her own PR agency and another who works at Google, even taught me things, but I shudder to think any “words of wisdom” I shared could end up fodder for the final.

I said my piece on trade publishing (where I spent three years before fumbling and bumbling into my own business); I talked briefly about my serpentine career path. I cursed more than I should have. I laughed at my own jokes more than I should have, too — it’s part of my charm (…?) — but for the most part, the students were laughing, too.

Then they started asking questions.

And I realized, somewhere between explaining exactly what I do to a student who wanted to do something similar and wanting to fall down crying when a girl in Uggs approached me after class just to say, “You’re amazing”…

Shit.
I’m the expert here.

Somewhere along the line, I had to create a LinkedIn profile from scratch, and it was all brand new to me. (Hell, in 2004, Facebook came to campus and all we did was poke each other. I never would have guessed I’d be getting paid to help businesses “engage” there eight years later.) And suddenly, I was standing there talking to hundreds of students with no idea what LinkedIn is (who grew up with Facebook and have so much more to learn), realizing I’m not making it up as I go along. I’m picking it up as I go along.

I didn’t come back to Chicago suddenly having all the answers, but I did return with a confidence that I know a hell of a lot more now than I did as a fresh-faced pimple-faced first-year student at the University of Kansas, or even a graduating senior ready to storm the tiny world of North Kansas City community newspapers — then New York and eventually Chicago.

I mingled at a cocktail reception with professors whose knowledge I marveled at just a few years ago, feeling closer to an equal than I ever imagined.

I actually know more than I give myself credit for. We all do.

Life isn’t a lecture class with a textbook; it’s a big, weird book club reading a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. So far, my plot line is advancing pretty nicely. But I have stumbled, and I will again…and half the fun is turning back a few pages and seeing how you fare the next time around, knowing that one move or another just didn’t quite work out.

I learned a lot in college, but the number of things I’ve learned since then — without even knowing it — is pretty astounding.

That’s perspective.

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11 Responses to “Thankful: Perspective.”

  1. Johnny Angel Says:

    I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I. You’re all you’re about. Period. #client

  2. Anna Says:

    I absolutely love this piece! Thanks for sharing! You were so awesome and class, and you continue to inspire me everyday! Thanks for your insight and thanks for coming to our class! Best class period I’ve ever had with Mr. Volek 🙂

    • paigeworthy Says:

      Thank you, Anna! I’m so happy to have met so many of you that day — good luck as you wrap up the semester, and know that I’m looking forward to your tweets and watching you throughout the rest of your time at KU!

  3. Dan Heinz Says:

    Learning things on your own and through life lessons, will always be the most valuable education.

    “A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”- Mark Twain

    • paigeworthy Says:

      I’ve never heard this quote before, but rest assured I never plan to carry either of my cats by the tail — that’s not the kind of lesson I’m interested in.

  4. Renita Marjan Says:

    The older I get the more I realize two simultaneously true things:

    a) every adult is to some degree faking it
    b) we all know more than we think we do

  5. Leslie Forman Says:

    Listening to this song on repeat. In Chile. Where I’ve recently taken on a similar role, explaining my rocky and serpentine career to people considering a similar path. Lately it’s been mostly in the form of an online course I wrote and a book I’m starting to write, but I also teach college students from Europe who remind me a lot of me circa 2005, when I came to Chile on an exchange program. They’re tan and curious and go camping on the weekend. Just like 21-year-old me. But now I’m pale (a characteristic I value more having spent four years living in pale-worshipping China) and exhausted and spend many weekends with my boyfriend’s family in the countryside. Perspective. You’ve articulated it well. Hugs to you!

  6. Traci F Says:

    The great thing, I think, about college and other youthful periods of life is that you don’t always know that you don’t know. The scary thing about adulthood is that you do know that you don’t know. This is a nice reminder that as you learn along the way, you have permission to use it for confidence. Thanks!

  7. Taking a Look at Your Business From the Outside In Says:

    […] Perspective. (paigeworthy.com) […]

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