Budding Writer, 1979: A paladin for God?

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About this series: I revisited my journals from my first year as a freelance writer and found they told a story of their own. In this series I get the rare opportunity to give myself, and other writers, career advice with nearly 50 years of hindsight. Enjoy!

I should have realized that a part-time newspaper job would not pay as well as a full-time job in the newly unfolding field of computer engineering, which my two friends were entering. Still, it was a shock to learn that I was taking home only one-fifth of what they were earning.

To make matters worse, June 10, 1979 was Dartmouth’s commencement. The college’s first woman valedictorian spoke about cultural narcissism — of being concerned only with one’s own goals and interests, and not reaching out to serve others. President John G. Kemeny spoke on public service and ended his address with “Women and men of Dartmouth, all mankind is your brother, and you are your brother’s keeper.”

“Needless to say, all this did little to lift my pensive ‘What am I doing here’ mood,” I wrote in my journal. “… I still have the feeling of stagnation.”

At dusk I set off from the fraternity for a long contemplative walk along familiar paths. I started out by thinking about my friends there over the years, where they were now, where they would be in the future. How did I fit in? Would I measure up?

As I walked, I talked with the Lord. Perhaps “to” him would be more appropriate, for indeed it was a Socratic dialogue (or monologue) for it drew out answers from my own questions. As the night grew darker and the path grew narrower, I somehow knew I wasn’t lost, that I could find my way. I did — and I believe that, too, was an indication to me, a message.

My conclusion was the somewhat simple thought that had entertained and sustained me in recent works, now tested and tried. At this point, economic independence is more important than financial security in the form of big bucks. I have achieved a slightly better than break-even income. This is ideal in that it sustains me, yet gives me incentives to learn my craft in order to better myself.

Also, given that, I must be here for a reason. I believe that God directed me here and to the newspaper, which right now is in a crisis of core personnel much like the one Phi Tau went through when I was on execs. I have the skills — editorial and administrative — to help out here … I’ve been brought in to bridge the gap — a paladin (both knight-errant and “Have Gun Will Travel”) for God. And no doubt, He’ll take me elsewhere too.

Journal, Volume II
10 June 1979

That passage may come on a little strong. I’ve never been an overly religious man. But throughout my adult life, I have had the sense that something is guiding me along a path, with different assignments that flow from one to another. I suppose that’s more a matter of faith than religion.

This isn’t the first time I mentioned the feeling of being directed. But it’s not necessarily by God. It might be time itself, as I explained here:

There’s a theory about time and space that time is not linear, moving from one point to another. It’s more like a fabric, with a ball moving along the surface as gravity pulls it down. Any movement of the fabric, from any direction, will move the ball without touching it. If time works like that, then changes in our life paths, and in world history, don’t always come from the past. They could be course corrections resulting from an event in the future, something that needs to happen to get us there.

In Other Words … , “Week in Review: Week 49”

The path I chose to follow — and my thoughts as I did — may have stemmed from the valedictory speech and President Kemeny’s remarks. Or they may have stemmed from future events, perhaps even my decision to revisit my journals here.

Or perhaps neither. Or perhaps a bit of both.

Time will tell.

Blue false indigo and sanddune marigolds bloom in a garden in North Hero, Vermont, June 3, 2023. By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

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