Recently, I decided that I needed to create an online portfolio to feature some highlights of my journalistic career.
Okay, so I actually decided years ago that I should upgrade my file system from retaining photocopies of articles I’d written in three-ring binders, to displaying them in an online portfolio, but recently I made the decision to stop procrastinating and finally get it done.
Trying to decide what to highlight from a lengthy career can be a monumental task no matter which side one tries to attack it from as I discovered shortly after kicking off the portfolio project.
In the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus, the main character, who for simplicity’s sake is conveniently named Mr. Holland, sets out to write his definitive opus that sums up his entire career in one magical musical number.
While I have not yet entered the territory of trying to build a Mr. Holland’s Opus style career spanning master work, I must admit I can see the exit to Opus town from my desk, and if I hold my ear against the window, I am pretty sure that I can hear some faint sounds of oboes and French horns off in the distance.
What I first envisioned to take no more than a weekend to build has definitely multiplied and taken a life of its own as I now try to meet my revised goal of unveiling the portfolio by the end of the year.
Along the way, sprinkled in with the frustration of trying to choose the perfect background color for each section of the portfolio, I have been taken on a journey down memory lane by rediscovering some old stories that quite honestly I had forgotten about.
While there may have once been a time when I remembered every single story I had written, the truth is that as the number of years and number of stories grows one simply cannot remember every single article and feature story.
There are also a few stories that are not worth remembering. The want to forget stories usually involved an editor telling me to go interview so and so at such and such company because they just bought a quarter page ad in the paper.
My inner journalistic compass always hated those pay per play style stories, so they are ones I have tried very hard to forget. Thankfully there are only a handful of those type of stories in my archive.
Another discovery I made while digging deep into my archive is the realization that somewhere along the way between the time when many of the older articles were written and now, I quietly morphed from the young curious reporter fresh out of Journalism school who was determined to change the world for the better with my writing, to the older and wiser reporter going back to Journalism school and still determined to use my God given talents to make a difference in the world through my writing.
Or to put it in Big Head Todd and the Monsters language, “Rise and fall turn the wheel ’cause all life is Is really just a circle.”
Whether they are stored in dusty attics, in three-ring binders under a desk, on microfiche, or in online portfolios, newspaper articles capture a very definitive moment in time acting like a time capsule. It is easy to go back and read the articles and think that things remained constant like a proverbial snow globe capturing a single scene for all eternity.
And while some things may still be the same as they ever were, one cannot help but accept the fact that the hands of time are constantly turning and the people and events from the story did not cease existing once their essence was captured in print.
While many stories merely reflect a moment in time, sometimes an interview subject leaves a mark long after the story has gone to print as was the case with a story I wrote back when I was an undergraduate student at the University of Central Florida. I had the chance to interview a 75-year-old great grandfather named, Elmer Kundinger, who was returning to school after what he called a “50-year Spring Break.”
When our paths crossed, Elmer and I were in decidedly different phases of our lives, but in the years since that interview Elmer was one of those stories that I would often think about.
In fact, when I decided to go back to school to get my Master’s degree after a 20-year break, I thought about Elmer.
Back in 1995 when I asked him what motivated him to return to school after a 50-year hiatus Elmer responded by saying, “this is just a personal satisfaction goal that I have set aside for myself, and fortunately what the mind thinks about sometimes is what happens.”
At the end of our time together Elmer noted that “Some of the happiest moments of my life are going on right this second. Everything is really coming up roses. All I have to do now is stay alive.”
When I went searching to see what Elmer was up to shortly after my own return to school, I had feared that I would find his obituary, but was happy to see that he was now 101 years old and had even gone back and gotten a second degree since the time I had last spoken with him.
That is part of the magic of journalism, and in particular feature writing. Every single person has a story to tell that his just waiting to be discovered.
On the silver screen in 1995, Mr. Holland wanted to write his Opus to put a coda on his life and sum up all of his accomplishments with an epic orchestral number.
Meanwhile, at the same time on the campus of a college in Orlando, FL. in the real world, Elmer Kundinger showed that one is never too old to start new things, or to complete lifelong goals.
Personally, I would much rather live like Elmer always looking for new opportunities and ways to find enrichment and to enrich others instead of taking a self-centered Mr. Holland approach of thinking I can rest on my laurels if I create a single masterwork.
For me, creating a portfolio is a reminder of what I have already done and a way to reconnect with some old memories from interviews gone by while also leaving room for all of the things I am still yet to do.
There are so many stories left to write and new adventures to be had.
One might go so far as to say that the future is so bright I gotta wear shades.
Completing my online portfolio and continuing to bring stories to life is my own “personal satisfaction goal.”
Whatever your own goal may be, I wish you success in achieving it.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to finding stories to add to my online portfolio after I tell the person outside my window to stop playing the oboe so loudly.
Copyright 2021 R. Anderson