A Quarter Century and Counting
by Christopher Heagy
My life is in crisis.
On Tuesday, I turned 25. It's one of the big birthdays in life, and the most difficult I've faced. Ten was great, my first decade. At 18 I reached manhood - of sorts. At 21, I could buy beer, legally. Now it's 25 and I'm wondering, where did all the time go? I guess after 25 years, I should have something to write about.
I decided to take stock of my life. To see where I have been, where I am and where I want to go. I'm pretty sure I know where I am. I don't exactly know where I want to be. And wherever there might be, I have no idea how to get there.
Somehow between 16 and 25, I lost all the answers. But I still hope I can figure them out again.
To compare my passing youth, I asked around the New Bay Times office to see where some of my co-workers were at 25.
I started, as I usually do when I'm thinking about an article, with the Queen of New Bay Times, managing editor Sandra Martin. I posed my question to Sandra and together we meandered through the winding roads of her life.
We ended up in inner-city St. Louis in the late 1960s. Sandra had recently earned her master's and was teaching English as a second language at St. Louis University. She was a young mother and housewife living in a multicultural neighborhood in the "cutest little house you've ever seen." Sandra painted a picture of the time that was more beautiful than a Chesapeake sunset.
For Sandra, life at 25 was filled with possibilities. She loved what she was doing, got to meet interesting people and still believed that politicians and everyday people could cure the ills of society.
Boy, St. Louis in the '60s seemed to be a better place than Annapolis in the 1990s.
Filled with her memories and unhappy with my possibilities, I turned to the paper's general manager, J. Alex Knoll.
Between Alex's berating me for poor pictures of a clown, a bartender without identification and sweating the arrival of a picture for my latest story, I was able to pose my question.
Alex informed me that at 25, he was the youngest person he knew who had received a master's degree. With his degree in hand, Alex was ready to take on the world and would soon be tackling the Chesapeake with New Bay Times.
Wow, Alex was focused on his goals by 25. Why can't I be? A bit discouraged by my discombobulated lifestyle, I went looking for someone else to help me out.
I turned to that wily old salt Bill Burton. Yes, Bill Burton was once 25. Bill somehow gave me a few precious minutes on a "perfect day for fishing." After muttering something about having seen chum of more substance, Mr. Burton told me his story:
At 25, Bill Burton was covering the return of General Douglas MacArthur to the United States after MacArthur was removed from his command by Harry Truman. By age 25, Burton had fought in World War II, gone to college and become a seasoned journalist.
I think I need another 25 years to catch up with Burton.
By now I was hopelessly discouraged.
Maybe Bill Lambrecht could give me some guidance. As the co-founder of New Bay Times, Bill is often referred to as the man with the plan. Maybe the award-winning, environmental and political journalist might have a story to brighten my sinking mood.
Bill was a young reporter for the Alton Telegraph covering Illinois politics when he was 25. He was writing a weekly column and learning the craft of investigative reporting. But mostly he was "kicking butt and taking names later."
A local weekly paper wrote that Bill Lambrecht was the best political reporter in Illinois.
He had found his niche professionally, was working on polishing his skills as a writer and reporter and was having a hell of a time in the process.
So much for brightening the mood.
In the depths of my despair I sought a new perspective. I asked young Mark Burns, ace photographer, crack reporter and calendar pro - the man of a million events - where he hoped to be at 25.
At 25, Mark hoped to be on assignment in Asia for National Geographic while still finding time to moonlight as a humor columnist. He wants a loyal golden retriever and to spend his free time living in a swinging bachelor pad in downtown San Francisco.
Ahh, the daydreams of youth. It doesn't seem that long ago that I had those sorts of dreams. I always thought I'd have made my first start for the Orioles by the time I was 25, but many of my dreams didn't work out.
Looking back over the last 25 years, I've accomplished a few things and I've missed some opportunities. But I've grown up and hopefully matured, and most of the last 25 years have been fun.
My life may not be in crisis, but if you had asked me 15, 10 or even five years ago, I don't think I would have put myself here. I would have come up with some wild answer, in hopes I might have reached a little higher or gone a little further.
Maybe that's what I miss most, the wild dreams of youth and the innocence to believe that they might come true. Recently I realized there are still many things to do. I still dream about what the future might hold, even if I try to temper my dreams with reality.
But right now, I'm trying to enjoy here. My view is good and 25 doesn't feel so old after all.
| Issue 25 |
Volume VII Number 25
June 24-30, 1999
New Bay Times
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