I took a leave of absence from my work as a newspaper reporter to serve as a union organizer for The Newspaper Guild years ago. I had helped to negotiate several contracts at the Pottstown Mercury, and only took the job when I was overlooked for being made a copy-editor at the paper.
Spelling and grammar were never my greatest skills and the guy they promoted was a lot better than me in both categories. It hurt never the less, and I guess I used that sense of failure to search for another outlet for the few skills I had developed.
I surprised myself in agreeing to take the job as a union organizer with no experience under my belt save a few songs I seemed to recall about the labor movement. (Woodie Guthrie comes to mind and so does the song about Joe Hill!)
I failed at the one and only National Labor Relations Board election I was able to piece together out of some 25 papers I canvassed over a year-long period. The election was held in Reading for the joint newspapers made up of The Times and the Eagle.
It hurt badly to lose and I used that feeling to go to law school and get a degree to help the union movement and the working class people that I grew up with in Philadelphia.
I wanted to become a labor lawyer.
Surprise, I got a D in labor law and took it as a sign from God to alter my aspirations!
Once again, I used that feeling of failure to seek another avenue for a new career and I went into criminal law, figuring I’d be comfortable with the those types of miscreants, several of whom I had grown up with. I became a public defender, once representing a fellow from Brewerytown that years earlier had got into a fight with and continuously bad-mouthed my oldest brother. I represented that criminal to the best of my ability despite my loathing for him and the crime he was accused of committing.
I went on to complete a 20-year-career at the Philadelphia Defender Association, trying more than a hundred jury trials and winning more than half of them. I felt I finally found my true calling after so many different paths along the journey.
It’s funny how a sense of failure can spur a person on to accomplish something completely different in one’s life. One could believe there is a divine guidance in the Universe if one just opened to it.
A sense of failure doesn’t seem so bad looking back nowadays.