Failure was never an option…until now

Lost in thought a lot lately. Time for retrospective and more than a little second-guessing.

We came to Floyd County with so much enthusiasm and hope in 2004. After 39 years in journalism and politics, much of it on the road, I looked forward to a more relaxed lifestyle and a laid-back life in the country.

Well, relaxed I'm not. Laid back? Not hardly. After five years, I'm worn out, exhausted both mentally and physically and wondering, for the first time in five years, if Amy and I made the right decision to leave the hustle and bustle of Washington.

I'm sure there are more than a few out there who agree that we should have stayed in Washington. God knows I've caused enough trouble over the past several months. Made a bunch of people mad. Hardly a day goes by without at least one threat on my voice mail or an angry, hate-filled, anonymous diatribe via email.

Deciding to close our studio -- my second business failure in five years -- has brought on a deep funk. I try to lose myself in work but it doesn't help. Failure does not sit well with someone who has enjoyed success for most of his life. Amy, the eternal optimist of the Thompson household, tries valiantly to bring me out of this depression but even her ever-cheerful perkiness isn't working this time.

It's not just the closing of two businesses: They are just the culmination of things. I find myself extremely bothered the recent debate over an announced data center in the Commerce Park. Maybe I shouldn't care but I do. I certainly shouldn't care so much.

I worry that Floyd County may be losing its soul. Some of my friends say I'm overreacting. I hope so.

I've overcome a lot in my life: a 23-year-denial of alcoholism followed by a 15 year battle facing the beast; the loss of loved ones under tragic circumstances and enough exposure to enough death and horror to make Stephen King retch.

But the malaise brought on by the latest events and setbacks won't let go. Even 100 miles on my motorcycle can't put my mind at ease. I keep looking back, wondering where and why things went wrong and second-guessing the decisions that led our current situation.

It's not my nature to be morose or to dwell on the past, but lately I have been guilty of both. As age 62 approaches, the prospect of starting over scares the hell out of me -- and I've never been one to scare easily.

Doctors call it clinical depression. Amy calls it being human. I call it unacceptable and will, in time, work through it, so please bear with me until I do.

(Edited on 9/24/09 to amend some language)

Lost in thought a lot lately. Time for retrospective and more than a little second-guessing.

We came to Floyd County with so much enthusiasm and hope in 2004. After 39 years in journalism and politics, much of it on the road, I looked forward to a more relaxed lifestyle and a laid-back life in the country.

Well, relaxed I’m not. Laid back? Not hardly. After five years, I’m worn out, exhausted both mentally and physically and wondering, for the first time in five years, if Amy and I made the right decision to leave the hustle and bustle of Washington.

I’m sure there are more than a few out there who agree that we should have stayed in Washington. God knows I’ve caused enough trouble over the past several months. Made a bunch of people mad. Hardly a day goes by without at least one threat on my voice mail or an angry, hate-filled, anonymous diatribe via email.

Deciding to close our studio — my second business failure in five years — has brought on a deep funk. I try to lose myself in work but it doesn’t help. Failure does not sit well with someone who has enjoyed success for most of his life. Amy, the eternal optimist of the Thompson household, tries valiantly to bring me out of this depression but even her ever-cheerful perkiness isn’t working this time.

It’s not just the closing of two businesses: They are just the culmination of things. I find myself extremely bothered the recent debate over an announced data center in the Commerce Park. Maybe I shouldn’t care but I do. I certainly shouldn’t care so much.

I worry that Floyd County may be losing its soul. Some of my friends say I’m overreacting. I hope so.

I’ve overcome a lot in my life: a 23-year-denial of alcoholism followed by a 15 year battle facing the beast; the loss of loved ones under tragic circumstances and enough exposure to enough death and horror to make Stephen King retch.

But the malaise brought on by the latest events and setbacks won’t let go. Even 100 miles on my motorcycle can’t put my mind at ease. I keep looking back, wondering where and why things went wrong and second-guessing the decisions that led our current situation.

It’s not my nature to be morose or to dwell on the past, but lately I have been guilty of both. As age 62 approaches, the prospect of starting over scares the hell out of me — and I’ve never been one to scare easily.

Doctors call it clinical depression. Amy calls it being human. I call it unacceptable and will, in time, work through it, so please bear with me until I do.

(Edited on 9/24/09 to amend some language)

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13 Responses

  1. The Man upstairs puts us exactly where we are supposed to be in life. I always always questioned that until I lost everything with cancer, my job.my home, everything and one day I realized .This is so I can treasure it all more..Everyhting is better, more appreciated and grander to me now.

    some thing special will take its place.You have too much talent and also have such a graphic window on the world. Try to lean back and just suck in the beauty that is life. The other will come Sandy

  2. As one who is about to close in on my first anniversary as a member of the unemployed of the 2008 recession, I remember those first few weeks after the boot. It wasn’t fun. But I managed to work through it…Now I’m focusing in on the next stage of whatever life brings…And drinking lots of coffee as I work it through.

    Keep taking those long drives as long as the weather holds…they help.

  3. I was in town on labor day. Thought I saw you in the cafe above Harvest Moon. Well I thought it was you and a motorcycle was in the parking lot. I would have shook your hand for such great coverage of Floyd County but had a 2 year old to chase. I am only in once year and hope I can run into you some day. Its tough were I live too maybe we all will be working until we are 80 now.

  4. Doug,

    I wrote this letter to my granddaughter several years ago, at a time when she was an average 14 year old struggling with her identity and who she thought she was supposed to be – as all children do at that age.

    Regrettably, it was to no avail on my part, as I had neglected to realize my advise was falling on deaf ears – because it hadn’t dawned on me that, If one can’t, in their own mind, already see themselves attaining a goal, that goal can never be attained.

    To Wit:

    As a 20’s something we all begin to discover the reality that life IS Transition. A constantly evolving transition. What you were isn’t what you are and what you’ll eventually become in the future is yet to be determined by inexplicable forces, totally beyond our control. Shit happens and things change. Particularly when you least expect it. Sometimes for the good; sometimes bad. Life’s a bitch, money or no, degrees or not, then you die.

    It’s much more important to attempt to begin to define who you are, instead of trying to define what you are – or what you think you want to become. A job is a job (career) no matter what fancy tag we use to describe it. No one really likes it but, unless you happen to be born wealthy, we all have to spend a third of our lives eating a certain amount of shit just to pay the bills.

    College diplomas and degree’s are nice but, they’re not everything. In fact, many times, they’re not much of anything at all – if you’re not happy with yourself to begin with. I’ve know many “educated” and “papered” individuals who were a social and emotional wasteland. Smart as a whip at book learnin’ and dumber than a box of rocks about themselves, human nature in general and what really makes us tick as human beings.

    If you’re still young, do yourself a favor; slow down and smell the flowers. Stop to enjoy the people around you once in a while and turn the flame down under that pressure cooker before it explodes and splatters blueberry jam all over the kitchen walls.

    What you want will either happen naturally – or it won’t. Beating on your wants and dreams, if they are indeed even yours to begin with, with a bigger emotional hammer doesn’t normally produce the expected results to any acceptable degree anyway. That’s like getting pissed because a flower isn’t blooming as fast as you would like it to.
    Strange thing; those “careers.”

    For many a year in my youth, I fancied myself the builder of a better house; a more worthy taco stand or a straighter, smoother stretch of highway. Simply because my sweat, blood and smashed thumb nails were a part of it.

    But alas, it turned out that I was actually a restaurateur extraordinaire, whose mission it was to entertain – and sooth the public’s savage beast of daily thirst and hunger pangs – or so I thought at the time.

    Later, it became all too obvious that my calling actually leaned more toward being a salesman; a purveyor of all kinds of excitedly clamored after goods and services that the public might desire in their never-ending quest for the unreachable apex of nirvana.

    Only to realize in the end, that life wasn’t really about status, class or credentials and was much easier, and a lot less stress and pain, to just sit here at my computer all day and skim a little cream off the tops and bottoms of stock market moves.

    Of all the jobs that comprised the total of the first three “career” phases of my life – none did I actually like or enjoy. They were all a means to an end. The price one has to pay so as not to have to live under a bridge like a Troll.

    The forth is neither a job nor a career. It’s a Daily Joy. To be able to outfox those very people, with bunches of schoolin’ and book learnin’, who are so intent on trying to outfox me, as well as everyone else, out their hard-earned cash, lends itself to indescribable glee.

    My life has no degrees; no papers. It is, however, filled to the brim with ingenuity, common sense and a keen understanding of human nature and its inherent foibles.

    I have but one book in my library: Technical Analysis of the Futures Markets by John Murphy. (bought it used from Amazon.com for $15) It’s all about learning how to read, draw and interpret stock charts and their patterns.

    This is almost like theft without having to look over your shoulder all the time. Now I know why bankers, brokers and investment analysis’s always have that glassy-eyed, euphoric look on their faces all the time.

    And I sit here now and wonder why the hell I was so dumb and busted my ass all my life.

    Why? Because I had totally forgotten one of the first rules my old great granddad taught me at the ripe old age of five: Work smart; not hard.
    It is amazing. The older I get, the smarter he seems to get.

    …life is a wonderment; for sure.

    Failures are only failures if we label them as such. They are just as rightly experiments, experiences and adventures as they are anything else. It’s all in how you visuialize them.

  5. Hi Doug! I hope you are feeling better by the time you read this. My estimation is that you are a good person who knows too much about the fact that most people aren’t.

    There is no doubt that Floyd Co. has a lot of problems and corruption…sometimes I think the best chance good people here have is to plan a mass exodus. In the meantime please continue to help people open their eyes to what is going on behind the painted-on facades here that look so attractive to tourists.

    Gentrification and predatory practices toward farmers and artists are nothing new but bigwigs around here have a special flair for crafting these into something that is designed to resemble an economy. This, I believe, has a lot to do with both of our business “failures” at the Jacksonville Center and elsewhere.

    If your creative integrity is intact, no failures can happen. Only educational processes.

    -A friend

  6. We have been so focused on success in the Western world that we don’t give ourselves (or our children) “permission” to fail. The Bible says, “It is required of a steward that he be found faithful” (not successful) We are here to be stewards of whatever talents and opportunities we have, to make the best of the good AND the bad.

    Sometimes we follow our dreams and they dead end where we least expect it, not because we did a bad job, but because it wasn’t where we were supposed to be or what we were supposed to be doing. You have these amazing talents for both photography and writing, and for observing the world around you and capturing it for the rest of us to see through your eyes. Maybe a studio isn’t the best way those talents should be used right now. Often what looks like failure is actually a redirection.

    Someone scoffed at Thomas Edison having done a thousand experiments on the incandescent light bulb that failed. He said, “Failed? I found a thousand things that didn’t work!” He didn’t consider them failures, but part of the learning process on his way to the goal. No matter what our age or experience, there is always something new to learn, a new direction to try. You may be on the verge of the most exciting and fulfilling accomplishment of your life if you can let go of this experience to get to it.

    Grieving the loss of this second studio is natural. Maybe part of the journey is to go through this so you can be encouragement to someone else going through the same thing. In this crazy economy, a lot of people are shuttering their businesses and rethinking their future employment plans.

    Don’t bikers live by the creed that it’s not about the destination, but the ride?

  7. Doug,
    You deserve an award from all of us in Floyd for your tremendous investigative reporting. The fact that you don’t have a major paper or network standing behind you to fend off the bullies puts a heavy burden on your shoulders.

    Please know that when groups of enlightened Floyd citizens get together, your latest accomplishment in writing about the purported data center is often discussed, with great praise for you. Everyone appreciates what you uncovered and Floyd County officials are sadly misguided if they don’t appreciate your work too.

    I’m so sorry about your shop, but many brilliant millionaires have had numerous business failures. It happens and it is heart breaking, but you WILL move on to another phase of your life.

    I hope that phase will include Floyd, because if you leave, it will truly be OUR loss.

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