Meet September sponsor Jeff at Mutiny on the Bonty

15 Sep

Today, I’d like to introduce you to Jeff Bonty, a September sponsor and blogger over at Mutiny on the Bonty.

I met Jeff at my last job. He was one of the folks who was nice to The New Girl Just Outta College from the start. Once up on a time, we planned on taking a Winnebago across country, just for funsies.

Jeff — or J-Bon, as I like to call him — just turned 50, and he’s got some life lessons for all you Snap Crackle readers. Be sure to stop by his blog and say hello!

A month ago, I turned 50. (OK. Enough with the snickers out there.) I admit to be a grizzled middle-aged jack wagon (I go to sleep before 9 p.m. a majority of nights now), but seriously, I have found the number easy to take.

Now on the other hand, the reflective stuff has blown me away. The difference between where I was in the mid 1980s and where I am now is stunning, and I have realized I have learned much on the first half of this journey journey.

In my 20s I wanted to rule the world — or my own newspaper chain. I knew it was going to be exciting. I was out on my own and keeping the public informed. I started as a general assignment reporter, covering a hodge podge of stories instead of being assigned a beat like “city government” or “education” in Monticello, Ind. The paper had a staff of four. I moved on to the sports department, which consisted of me, at Mount Vernon, Ind. In September of 1986, I came to Kankakee, Ill., as a sports writer.

One thing that helped during the 20s was having great mentors. Wise beyond their years, they knew when to reel me in and smack me down, like when I wrote a good column. It was a long column, though, too long. My sports editor told me in a curt way. I remember that lesson each week I write a column. I may not have listened as much as I should have, but I filed the advice away for a later time (like 20 years later).

Parenting took a prominent place in my 30s. Even though I was divorced, I enjoyed my two daughters and their journey. I remembered all the crap I gave my parents. The kids pulled the same stuff with me. They tested the limits and got away with some stuff. Wow. This is the hardest job you will ever love, if you choose to be a parent.

It was also a time I thought I wanted to move on in my career, but I decided I had a good thing going with the people I worked with. When the chemistry is right, sometimes that is better than “bigger and better.”

Don’t get me wrong, advancing the career can be an interesting experience. Moving from writer to assistant editor was a step that I felt comfortable with. I had watched a couple of co-workers do it. I learned a lot from them: I learned how to cultivate my beats for feature stories that I could use at any time. But I was anal, and my organizational skills helped lead me to an editor position.

Now the jump from assistant editor to editor in sports was a different story. I was not a good manager of people. I expected things my way. I forget: Not everyone is as crazy as me. I want them to dig deep and grow, but I have a prickly demeanor when it comes to how things should go. When you have talented people and they decided to go rogue, prickly is not good. When a reporter thinks he is better than you, there is a problem, especially with a young arrogant reporter who has so much to learn.

I ended up trying to do more than I was capable of doing, working long hours and picking up the slack where the other staff was not strong. In the long run, I burned out. It was sad to burn out — so sad I stopped writing for several years.
The shiny side was I moved on to designing pages and copy editing (reading stories, correcting errors, plugging in holes.) It was fun to be around people who wanted to do stuff. They had ideas and want to expand their horizons. They wanted to make it fun to read a newspaper.

In my 40s I did not mind change. It has been something that excites me to this day. I embraced it and ran with it. I learned new traits and expanded my versatility.

Changing has helped me to continue to have a love affair with writing. Recently I dug up a column I wrote in 1992. It was about a senior on the soccer team of a school. He could not play anymore due to a medical condition. He still wanted to be part of the team and was like a coach. His sister wrote to me for a copy to give to a girl she knew was going through the same struggle. I read the column and could not believe how good it was.

Nearly three years ago, I started writing again, something I had given up when I became an editor. I write a weekly column and a blog where I post at least five times a week. It is great to be back in the saddle. And I see growth in my writing.

For many years, I blew off people who said I had a talent to write. In the past year, I have learned to embrace the compliments and accept the gift I was given.

The older you get the wiser you can be, if you allow the Yodas of the world to guide you.  In my early days as a sports dude in Kankakee, I interviewed a guy who had been to the state basketball tournament for like 50 years. I thought it was awesome. He turned out to be boring.

My editor told me some times you are going to hit a single rather than a home run. It’s OK. You will get another at-bat.

Remember, you will be older.

So, class, in conclusion, kick back and get ready to have the time of your life. There will be good days. There will be bad days.

You will never know unless you try. Failure just means you are trying to make it work. You give a damn.

Enjoy.

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