A long time ago I read a quote from Conan O’Brien that took such a hold on my heart that it would pop into my mind at random on days when I was struggling at work.
I was in my first job in Mississippi and dealing with the challenges of learning a new career on top of the challenges of being a youngest child in tight-knit family who moved away from everyone on her own.
A lot of those days were hard. While I was learning more about my own identity and proud to be maintaining my own grown-up businesses, I was lonesome and sad and wishing I’d recognized that I could’ve made the growths a little closer to home (though I’m not entirely sure that’s true).
Conan said “Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get, but if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”
It wasn’t a quote. It was a mantra. The words hit me in a way I hadn’t known. I knew feeling alone in Mississippi wasn’t exactly what I thought I was going to get, but I also knew I had the ability to work hard and be kind.
In moments when I was completely lost, concerned that I wasn’t cut out for the job I was doing and wondering if I had any marketable skills, I knew there were two proven things I’d done in the past and could always do again.
Be kind was a mantra of mine long before I knew the word. That’s not to say I’m the world’s nicest person or even in a top percentile, but to give credit to the people who surrounded me growing up and taught me the value of seeing and sharing goodness in another person.
Over the past few years I’ve done a few different jobs and a million different shifts. I struggled for a while to make my job in TV work itself into what I wanted to do. I had moments when I felt stuck and moments when I knew the person above me didn’t believe I could do the things I wanted to do.
So I jumped.
After a period of frustrated and frantic searching for ways to get out of journalism, I ended up staying in, but in a new capacity.
I was reminded, along the way, of my two most marketable skills — an ability to be kind and to work hard.
I never saw the rest of my mantra coming, but it has. I wake up most days feeling like an amazing thing has happened. I get to go to work and do something I love, surrounded by people who inspire me to do it better.
Every day that could be spent sitting at a desk in a room without windows is now spent out and about meeting new people and writing about the stories they share.
Every day I have a chance to work hard and be kind.
I don’t even watch Conan O’Brien’s show. I never have. When I visited NYC for the first time in 7th grade there was an exhibit inside the NBC store that let you be in a video beside a fake Conan O’Brien as he drove a car through space (or something… it’s fuzzy) and that is the extent of what I know about Conan O’Brien, aside from the fact that some cheesy thing he said years ago still pops in my head on a regular basis and inspires me to just keep doing what I know I can.