I earned my first paid byline at age 15 (a 1,000-word feature about a Boy Scout challenge in the Adirondacks). It was the first taste of an addiction that would cripple me, raise me up from the depths, and make me feel like a rockstar.
In the perfect world, I would write. I would write every day, be paid handsomely for my work and live lavishly upon my words.
It's not a perfect world.
While I don't believe that one's vocation or career defines them, I am happy to be labeled "writer."
I remember every byline and interview subject, from the blind wrestler at my rival high school to the vice president of student affairs at St. Bonaventure University and his cunning way of never answering a question. I don't remember every word I've tapped on a keyboard, but the people that inspired them are as much of my genetic code as my DNA. I am the student-athletes that I prepared for interviews, the advocates I have coached to deliver their stories of caregiving and devastation, and the donors who pour their souls into fundraising for a cure to a feckless disease.
I am the teachers, like Laurie Bumpus, Amy Pento and Richard Fitzgerald, who kicked my butt in high school and made me realize the potential I was not using. I am the late nights at the college newspaper, working as a team to fight sleeplessness and publish a paper. I am my editors and mentors, like Maria Welych and Steve Mest; people that guided me and helped shape my skills. I am the professors like Amber Smith, Jim Martine, Sam Kennedy, and Steve Masiclat, who challenged me to get out of my own way and achieve. I am the marathon Sundays compiling football statistics and swimming times, the graphic design students that taught me as much about the field as I taught them and the colleagues who I work with each day on a common cause. I am the friends that help me laugh at the same stories we've told for the past 20 years. Most of all, though, I am a husband and a father.
I went to college to become Mike Lupica, the most read sports columnist in America and, after four years at the college paper, I graduated without ever writing an article for the sports department. I did, however, intern in my college's athletic department, the Liverpool Central School District, and the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council. Along the way, I strung for the Associated Press, The Virginian-Pilot, The Post-Standard, The Toledo Blade, and countless others.
My path took me to graduate school at Syracuse University and a two-year appointment in the athletic department's communications office. I left sports, joined a local corporation, lost my job in the post-9/11 economic downturn, and reemerged on the staff of a growing nonprofit.
In an effort to achieve creative balance, I have taught college writing and graphic design, managed a mildly successful food blog and landed in the role of restaurant critic and craft beer writer.
So, if you're keeping track of industries, that's college athletics, education, agriculture, newspaper, corporate, and nonprofit. But, no matter what project emerges or social network demands attention, there is one thing that has remained true for nearly a quarter century.
I am a writer.