The Nation's Pulse

My Glorious Career

It's a mystery why things turn out the way the do.

By 8.8.08

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What a change in feeling!

I've been writing for years now about the frustrations of trying to get a kidney transplant, and about it not happening. Now it's happening. It is clearly happening. I have seven weeks of grinding health care chores in front of me, and when they are done, I will get a transplant. There is no more desperation.

One would think I would feel exhilarated. On the contrary. I feel glum and a little depressed.

I'm going to have to go back to work.

DON'T GET ME WRONG. I LIKE MY WORK. But in these past disabled years, I have looked back on my working life, and have had to realize that I have managed my career very poorly. I know how well I write: as well as anybody. And yet I have never published in the most famous or prestigious publications. Not that I haven't had chances. But when the chances came up, I always did something wrong.

This pattern has been such a torment to me that I have become an obsessive reader of successful people's commercial biographies. Here is a summary of Tony Snow's career from a July 12 story about his death:

After earning a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Davidson College in North Carolina in 1977 and studying economics and philosophy at the University of Chicago, (Snow) wrote editorials for The Greensboro (N.C.) Record, and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk.

He was the editorial page editor of The Newport News (Va.) Daily Press and deputy editorial page editor of The Detroit News before moving to Washington in 1987 to become editorial page editor of The Washington Times.

Snow left journalism in 1991 to join the administration of President George H.W. Bush as director of speechwriting and deputy assistant to the president for media affairs. He then rejoined the news media to write nationally syndicated columns for The Detroit News and USA Today during much of the Clinton administration.


Snow's career moved in a comprehensible straight upward line through various jobs on the editorial pages of increasingly influential newspapers. But then comes that mysterious leap, common to the career stories of successful people: "Snow left journalism...to join the administration of President George H.W. Bush as director of speechwriting and deputy assistant to the president for media affairs."

Damn! How do you do that?

Not that I expect to turn into some version of Tony Snow -- not in my sixties, that's for sure. But I sure would like to figure out -- or come to the realization -- how to make a success of myself when success is on offer.

I've got some ideas. If they work out, you'll be the first to know.

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About the Author

Lawrence Henry writes every week from North Andover, Massachusetts.