Reg Henry showed me the way. Or maybe he took my dream job. Either. Both. Whatever.
Who’s Reg Henry?
He used to be the Deputy Editorial Page Editor of the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette.
That’s your dream job?
The Deputy Editorial Page Editor of the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette is probably an important position. And a nice culmination to a career. It’s got a ring to it—maybe not an intimidating ring. It lacks the jaw-dropping grandeur of, say, Editor of the New York Times. But it’s infinitely cooler and more impressive than being the Finance Manager of the Adams County Library System.
What did Reg do all day at work? I’m not sure. I’ve never really thought about it. Select Op-Eds that further the mission and relevance of the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette? It doesn’t matter, that’s not the part of his job I want.
Over the years, my intersection with Reg was slim. Every Saturday, the Gettysburg Times published a weekly column he wrote. Each week, Reg vomited five-hundred words of opinion. It wasn’t concise, and his points weren’t necessarily clear. He rambled. He bitched. He moaned. He strung together essays about what was going on in the world coupled with his very personal criticisms and complaints. He was an opinion maker, yes, but mostly he was just fun to read. No one grumbled like Reg.
Gettysburg’s publication of Reg’s columns coincided with the beginning of my writing career. While still working at the YWCA, I was asked to sometimes write a Gettysburg Times column discussing the happenings at the Y. Probably few readers here know this, but the mission of the YWCA is not only Empowering Women, but also Eliminating Racism. My column often talked about fitness and child care, but sometimes I wrote about social justice, too. I was quickly branded in my small, conservative town as one of the liberals.
Embracing that label, I began writing Op Eds, too. Without the constraints of workplace correctness, I was free to air my grievances and point fingers with the best of them. I channeled my inner Reg. I wrote on topics like healthcare reform, environmental disasters, intrusive technology and everything else wrong with the world. Complaining about everyone and everything… except me.
Emails and phone calls rolled in. Not a lot, but enough to encourage me. People—the other liberals in town—liked what I was writing. Slowly my dream job formed. I could write a weekly column, much like Reg’s, about anything I wanted. People all over the country would read it. I named this hypothetical, future column Curmudgeon.
Curmudgeon (noun): a bad-tempered person, especially an old one. Crank, sourpuss, old trout.
How do you apply for a job like that? The Gettysburg Times published anything I sent them, but they weren’t going to pay me. I didn’t have any credentials to get published anywhere else.
So of course, I started a blog.
Six years later, I’m living my dream. No, I don’t get paid for it, but I write about anything I want. I unapologetically spew my thoughts, opinions, ideas and goals; and people read them. Not just all over the country, but all over the world. On Christmas day people from twenty countries visited my blog.
I’m not really a curmudgeon, I’ve learned that people don’t want only complaints. They want solutions, or at least suggestions. It’s been years since I read one of Reg’s essays. I may not have noticed it at the time, but I’m certain his stories always contained a ray of sunshine at the end, an upbeat element of hope. Otherwise, they would never be published.