After my mother convinced me at age six that I was a genius, I was busted down many times over the years.
First by my mother. When I was a sophomore in college and referring to myself as a writer before writing, reminded me, "You have to write to be a writer."
I also received an F on a college journal because I thought my English professor would, as I did, equate vulgarity with literary-ness.
But I As in creative writing courses, and my girl housemates used to like sitting on my bed and hearing my poems. And by my senior year, my English advisor had estimated that I was perhaps "the best writer at Kent State University," and I figured that meant I was better than everyone at the University of Akron too.
So it was with considerable confidence that I arrived in Chicago, and after some well-documented thrashing about, I landed a job at Ragan Communications. Where I suggested, only a few weeks into my time there, that I share a column with Larry Ragan, who had been writing it since 1960. "I'm pretty creative," I remember suggesting brightly.
"Callow," was the word that got whispered back to me. I had to look it up. "Lacking experience of life. Immature."
Nevertheless, Larry made me editor of an eight-page newsletter on employee relations. Soon he was pulling me aside to tell me, "Dave, you're putting too much of yourself into the publication." (How could a 23-year-old poet be putting any of himself into an employee relations newsletter?) Magnanimously, I told him he was right. "It doesn't matter that I'm right," Larry said with a gentle gruffness needed for bossing young people.
Then I went off to Europe for two months. Right before I left, the editor of the flaghship publication, The Ragan Report quit. The Ragans offered me the job and told me I could go to Europe and it would be there for me when I got back. By the time I got back they despised me, and while another young colleague wrote The Ragan Report, I languished in a series of assignments so bad I was dubbed "Bastard Project Boy." Who called me that? That's what I called myself.
Two years later, I was still there, still pulling down $17K and writing an utterly unread magazine on education—and cranking out the weekly Ragan Report: well, all of it except that front-page column I had volunteered to do three years earlier. Somebody else wrote that.
At one point in here my dad asked me gingerly, "Buddy, do you think maybe you ought to move on from there?"
Finally I found a job in Boulder, Colo. at a PR agency and announced I was leaving. The Ragans halved my workload and doubled my salary and gave me that front-page column and just like that, my callow youth was over. And suddenly it didn't seem like it had been so long and painful. But it had.
Maligners of Millennials: Did you not suffer such frustration as a fresh, bright young worker in a restrictive organization? Did you not make your bosses suffer, too? Or were you actually pleased to spend the energy of your youth doing whatever the the old fools on high stools had in mind for you, and advancing at whatever pace they saw fit?