Making the jump back to the sports after three and a half years on the education beat was more difficult of a choice than some might think.
Although I must admit getting punched in face on the job as a news reporter made the decision a little easier.
I haven’t spoken publicly about what happened to me, and I am certainly not making light of it. Not in any way. I just happen to use humor as a defense mechanism to protect myself and to make others believe that I’m doing just fine when I’m likely anything but fine.
I’m still dealing with the aftershocks from the attack, and — unfortunately — it has forever changed how I feel when I’m covering a public event. That includes games or races I’ll be at in the future as the new sports editor for the Record-Eagle.
I went back to work remotely the next day after the attack on Aug. 26, safe in my home. Not until the following week, when I went to cover the first day of school at Birch Street Elementary in Kalkaska, did I begin to realize the effect of what happened to me.
Innocence and the first day of school pretty much go hand in hand, but I instinctively couldn’t help but be on the lookout for people who might not want me there or who might want to do me harm simply because of my job.
I was so disappointed and sad that I felt that way. Not just because I now saw the world through that lens but because I allowed something out of my control to have control over me, and I couldn’t do anything about it.
The following week, on the first day of school for most of northern Michigan, the same group that held the event at which I was attacked scheduled a boycott of Traverse City Area Public Schools at a park off Cherry Bend Road. I knew I would have to cover it, and I definitely wasn’t going to let what happened earlier stop me from doing my job.
I was nervous. Probably even a little scared. My stomach was definitely doing flip-flops while I was driving out there.
So when the skies opened up that Tuesday morning and the rains poured down, boy oh boy, immense relief washed over me when I arrived at the park and did not see anyone at the boycott.
Then came the sadness and disappointment. The disappointment in myself for being nervous, scared and then relieved just sank me lower.
The anxiety attacks since haven’t exactly raised me up from the depths, but continuing to do my job through the anxiety and nervousness and sadness and disappointment has. I’ve only been able to continue marching on and moving forward because of the support of my family, my friends, my coworkers, my bosses and many Record-Eagle readers.
I knew moving back to sports was not going to fix what ailed me. Nor was it meant to.
When I moved desks, my newly gained issues moved with me. That was evident last Friday when I headed out to Rodes Field in Kingsley to cover the Stags as they battled Grayling.
Someone there recognized me as the media and said, “Better write a good article about us.” Now, that has been said me dozens upon dozens of times, and I’ve always brushed it off as playful and harmless banter that was more encouraging than anything.
But this time ... this time, I couldn’t help but feel a hint of a threat behind the innocuous comment.
Now, that is probably more on me than it is on that person. I have to believe that he did not mean for what he said to come across as threatening at all. Or maybe he did. I have no idea.
What I know is that I’ve never had to question it before.
But something really nice also happened that night when Kingsley football head coach Tim Wooer came up to the press box after the game. Tim and I knew each other from my previous stint in sports covering Traverse City West football when he coached the Titans.
I hesitated for a moment before tapping him on the shoulder. It took him a moment to recognize me before he smiled and said, “So they lured you back to sports, eh?” I responded with, “Well, being sports editor is a pretty tempting lure.”
Tim smiled, gave me a pat on the back and said congratulations. I didn’t have to question if it was genuine. I knew it was.
I’ve had similar experiences with Nate Plum and John Vermilya, who coach boys soccer for Elk Rapids and Buckley, respectively. I know I’ll have more as I get back into the swing of things and adjust my circadian rhythm to work the 4 p.m.-midnight shift.
I know I’ve been gone for three and a half years, but it’s nice to know there are some who are happy I’m back.
I’m happy, too.