I got into television for all the wrong reasons. I wanted to be wanted.
This was painfully obvious in July of 2004 when I was told that my contract for co-hosting Nickelodeon’s U-Pick Live wasn’t being renewed. In other words, I was being fired.
For the previous two years I had soared in New York City on the high of live television. Every day I lived out a dream by mingling with celebrity guests, signing autographs for kids, and attending various awards shows. I had a purpose. I was needed. Well, until I wasn’t.
When the Executive Producer broke the news that my tenure was complete, I felt paralyzed. It took everything in me to hold back a massive panic attack. My thoughts were, “You too? Why don’t want me either?”
My mind flashed back to my small town Michigan childhood. I thought about the countless nights I would stay awake waiting for my mother to return home. Sometimes she would, others she wouldn’t. This is where I first experienced abandonment and not feeling wanted.
Fighting back the countless questions running through my brain, I thanked my boss for the opportunity he provided me to live out my wildest dreams. As I stumbled out of his office and into the sticky July heat of Times Square, my mind went into algorithm mode and I made a rash decision.
Within two hours, four years of dreadlocks were on my apartment floor. A month later, I was living in Los Angeles.
Starting this new chapter in Los Angeles wasn’t beginning a brand new life, though. The book was still mine. It was still a story built by a kid who moved to New York City with $600 and a dream, a strong work ethic instilled in him by his father, and the resilience of his mother.
It was during this time that I began to view my mother in a different light: a light of appreciation.
For years the story I created was that she was someone who emotionally abandoned her child. I played the victim role all too well while ignoring what it must have been like for her to raise and provide for three kids on her own. Or, what it was like to survive a physically abusive relationship.
The irony is that I would never have made it to NYC, let alone a successful television career, if it wasn’t due to the independent person and problem-solver I became due to her periodic absence. I appreciate and love her for this.
The experience of being fired, which I once viewed as tragic, actually allowed me to expand my vision of what is and what could be. It allowed me to reconnect with my mother, and myself, on another level.
A year after arriving in Los Angeles, I found myself back in NYC attending the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. It was here that I would learn how to tell stories that matter. Many of these stories over the years have focused on the vulnerable and abandoned.
Today, when I watch old videos of myself from my Nickelodeon days, I barely recognize that kid. But I am so thankful for that chapter, because that chapter is part of my book.
If you’re dealt a setback today, I ask you to treat it as an opportunity to get curious and learn about the experience. You won’t always know exactly where the chapter will head, but you’ll know that you’re moving forward with lessons learned, wisdom gained, and experiences to share.
Like it or not, our book can’t be written without multiple chapters. Turn the page, exhale, be thankful for the things you do have in your life, and start writing. Your story is going to be a great one.
Antonio Neves is a career coach, speaker and award-winning business journalist. He is the founder of THINQACTION where he works with young professionals to produce exceptional results in their careers. Via his blog posts, videos and speaking engagements, Antonio’s goal is to empower young professionals to create their own luck. For more on Antonio visit his website, FACEBOOK or TWITTER.
May 31, 2012