MILLS' MUSINGS: Living a public life

I’m still about a month away from my one-year anniversary working for the Times-Tribune. I remember after getting the phone call saying I had gotten the job last summer, and after the initial shot of adrenaline, I soon caught a case of the “nervousness.” I think it’s normal for most people who are taking the first step in a new direction in life or starting a new chapter to be nervous, but I could tell these butterflies were developing in a different cocoon.

There’s always the initial worry of whether or not you’re making the right decision when you first venture into the unknown. The only thing is you don’t really know if you’re on the right path until after you take those first steps and then a couple more. Thankfully, and I never had much doubt, my first steps into the Times-Tribune were the perfect ones for me.

The last 11 months or so have been a whirl wind. And although certain months in the past year have seemingly taken a year to complete themselves, my time at the paper feels like it has gone by in a flash.

I knew that by taking this job, I was opening myself up to public opinion. Whether it be about the kind of stories I wrote, what I included in those stories, or my ability to write, I knew that when you’re in this line of work, you open yourself up to pubic criticism.

The same can be said about politicians, celebrities, and athletes. Of course, I’m not saying LeBron James and I share the same potential for public backlash. He could tweet something completely innocent in a rush and have 100,000 people mad at him for 50,000 reasons. I can take my time, craft the world’s best tweet, and only end up with two likes. It’s all about perspective and relativity, but nonetheless, the point remains.

I had a second shot of this worry when I began writing the first edition of this column. It’s one thing to simply put your writing out into the world. It’s a completely different thing to put your own opinions and beliefs into writing for the world to consume and stomp to death in the comments section. But like I said, I knew public reaction was a part of this job coming in and complaining about it now would be of no benefit to anybody.

Thanks to social media, we’re all living more public lives. Whereas before criticism and backlash was reserved for family members and those who gossip about you, now with Facebook and Twitter, your whole friends list can now tell you exactly what they think about you or any of your opinions anytime they want.

And then there are those of us who invite those comments, by posting every thought we’ve ever had online. I’m not judging those people, that would be super hypocritical of me given everything I’ve just written, but to say I understand their motivations or line of thinking would be a lie.

I suppose that is wherein lies my problem. Deep down at my roots, I am a private guy, who is working and living in an ever increasing public world. I avoid shopping online, I’ve never once used Siri, and if there’s an Alexa in the house, I hope you know sign language because I ain’t talking. I know none of it makes sense because I carry a cellphone around in my pocket everywhere I go, but at this point, that’s become essential and not everything we do in life makes sense.

And while I continue to walk the fine line of public and private, I know that at the end of the day, this is exactly what I signed up for. All of the negative comments and assumptions aimed at me and the paper are just a very slim piece of the pie that make up my work life. There are so many positives and words of encouragement we get that keep me going on those off days we all have.

I am always grateful for those who leave words of encouragement, just as I am those who may disagree and offer criticism rather than hate. While I am a fan a constructive criticism, I believe the best bouts of personal growth are reached through criticism and failures, I will never let the comments that are negative for the sake of being negative dissuade me from writing more.

Jarrod Mills is a staff writer at the Times-Tribune. You can contact him at jmills@thetimestribune.com.

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