By Lindsay Steele
A few days ago, our advertising representative, Phil, asked me how I’m adjusting to my new job here. Before I had time to respond, he added, “Well, it’s been (about a month) and you have your own column already. You must be doing pretty well.”
I shrugged and said the column is just an attempt to reach out to younger readers. I told him I love working for The Catholic Messenger, and I’ll always be grateful to Editor Barb for giving me a chance.
But there’s more to the story than that. Just two months ago, I was seriously considering a career as a mental health counselor. Now I’m working at my dream job. It may seem confusing, but my journey to this point is mostly just a series of setbacks and hopelessness that eventually led to the right opportunity.
I became interested in journalism during my sophomore year at Bradley University in Peoria. I freelanced for a Christian music magazine, reviewing local concerts and festivals. I didn’t get paid, but I got free passes and got to go backstage and meet my favorite bands. As a 19-year-old teeny-bopper type, that was payment enough. And the writing aspect? I fell in love.
I started taking journalism courses. I discovered a passion for writing feature stories and taking photographs, and hoped to do both for a newspaper someday. The semester before graduation, I landed an internship at the Peoria Journal-Star. My career seemed to be on the right track.
Sometimes, though, things don’t work out the way we plan. The managing editor at my post-graduation internship said he planned to hire me at the end of the summer, but changed his mind due to budget cuts. My father became terminally ill that same summer, and I decided I wanted to stay close to home in the Quad-Cities. This severely limited my chances of finding a full-time writing gig.
After seven years of working in jobs outside my field, and waiting for a writing opportunity that I felt would never come, I started to consider alternative careers. Because of my interest in mental health advocacy, I decided to give Western Illinois University’s counseling program a try.
In my first course — career counseling — each of us students had to take a test to determine what our ideal career would be. It was intended to give us an idea of the types of tests we could use with future clients. First match on my quiz? Newspaper writer. “Tell me something I don’t know,” I thought to myself.
Then, a couple months ago, a friend told me that a spot was opening up at The Catholic Messenger. The job was exactly what I’d always hoped for — feature story writing with an opportunity to take photographs. I figured that, since I’d been out of the business for a little while, I wouldn’t be considered. But I prayed about it, and applied anyway.
Much to my surprise, Barb responded to my inquiry. She interviewed me. She gave me a test story. And, to my great surprise, she offered me the job.
When I think back over my journey to get here, I think of the words of my grandmother, Pat Schoon. She always says that God will open the right doors and close the wrong ones. I feel like that was the case here. What if I had gotten that job the summer after graduation? Would I have been as happy as I am now?
Even though I’ve had pitfalls, I realize now that if I hadn’t had those hard times, I wouldn’t have been in the position to apply for the job here. I wouldn’t have had the chance to write positive, inspiring stories for people of faith.
So, am I doing alright in my new job? Only time will tell, but one thing is certain. I feel very lucky.
(Editor’s note: Lindsay Steele is a reporter for The Catholic Messenger. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (563) 888-4248.)