A Blessing or a Curse?

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He had scissors for hands. After being discovered by a local townswoman, he arrived and stayed at her home. While there, he crafted sculptures from ice and trees. The townspeople were impressed by his talent and idolized him. His name was Edward Scissorhands.

My new role was another chess piece to my board game of getting into law school. It was a check off on my well-rounded application to a top 30 law school in the United States. Graduate schools emphasized the importance of having leadership roles so I aimed for one on my college newspaper, The Tartan. After working on it for a year, I ran and won the position of the Managing Editor. I was the least experienced person who was voted into this position but that didn’t scare me because I was a step closer to that perfect law school application.

After being elected, I swam in the perks that came with the position. I had my own office, which happened to be at the center of my college campus. This allowed me to have a small radius proximity to printers. Mind you, the ability to conveniently print things was very desired. I was also proud to be in the credits section of the newspaper where I saw my beautiful name in italics-Smart Sexy Soon To Be Ivy League Law School Student. And to top everything off, I had unlimited access to pens as well as two free slices of one-topping pizza once a week, the night of newspaper production. I also took pride in taking more responsibilities for the newspaper that was known for its journalism quality, a century of history, and smart, hard-working, talented staff. I was blessed, I was lucky and I enjoyed that initial excitement, that pride and the belief that I was on a fast lane to a perfect, calculated future.

That Sunday night was my third week as the Managing Editor; it was also the night that the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl for the 2005 season. Madness filled my campus. Celebratory riots occurred, mobs of students shouted in excitement and the paper’s photography team ran around, capturing the visual excitement. Forward to 7 o’clock that morning, roughly five hours past the printing vendor’s deadline, was when I sent the finalized paper to the printing company. The company had a late policy: every time we were late, we had to pay a fee. This fee was calculated by how many hours we went past the agreed deadline and the downside to this was that this late fee would only increase and never decrease. Therefore, if the last late fee we paid was $500, then the next time we were late again, the fee would be an x amount on top of the $500.

The school gave us money to fund the newspaper but we also worked hard to fund it ourselves, which was through advertising revenue. The money pressure was low because even if we went into debt, we could expect the school to save us. However, financial autonomy was important to us so we could hold our own voice rather than the voice of the school administration. I felt most pressured since my main responsibility was to make sure that all staff met deadlines. But that Super Bowl night was not going to meet deadlines. I had three weeks of being a Managing Editor under my belt and I had no idea what was in line for me. There was nothing I could have done to prevent the five hour lateness. My counterparts told me that because it was the Super Bowl there was not much I could have done and gave me a few other reasons why I shouldn’t be so self-penalizing. But, I knew other people on the newspaper thought differently and were waiting for me to fail, and I had to prove them wrong.

I stopped putting schoolwork in front of my extracurricular work. I let the position consume me because I wanted to prove to myself, to those who believed in me, and to those who did not believe in me that I could do this job and could do it well. As someone who only worked as a seasonal writer and photographer for a year, I was setting the bar high. I began to be late to my Monday classes or did not make it to them because I’d stay up late on Sunday nights dealing with issues I had never previously encountered. I was not a college student but a college newspaper employee. My social smoking quickly evolved into occasional tobacco inhaling and eventually took a toll on my overall health. This toll was also a byproduct of alcohol consumption since my college had a drinking culture. Yes, Carnegie Mellon, I wanted to throw you underneath the bus.

A year passed. I proved to myself and to others, probably still not to the few who wanted to see me fail, that as someone with limited experience, I was able to handle the job and handled it well. My two counterparts and I received our end of the year feedback from the staff and I was satisfied with the compliments I received as well as the criticism. Nominations for next year’s executive board followed. I was humbled to see that I was re-nominated for the same position as well as higher leadership roles, which was a validation of my efforts and results. For weeks, I thought about my next steps-should I accept the nomination to my current position or challenge myself and accept a higher position? The answer came slow but when it arrived it was quick: reject all nominations. My decision was simple because I was not happy. For that entire year of working on the newspaper, I sacrificed time away from my friends, social activities and school work. I was so focused on proving myself that I didn’t even realize that I was not happy. I wanted it back and I knew I wasn’t going to get it back by continuing to be on the newspaper. I ate my last two slices of one-topping pizza, packed up my belongings, took some pens, wrote my last article and decided to become a vegan.

K.W., a Director, Editor and film Producer got his big break early in the game. He went to New York University to study film and directed, wrote a short film for his senior project titled, The Waiters. The film was shown at several festivals and won awards. A Creative Director from a television channel happened to see it, liked it, contacted K and hired him as a Producer. This position usually took a recent college graduate several years to get to, let alone a few weeks after graduating. When K arrived at his new job, he was not welcomed by some of his colleagues because they envied how fast it took him to get this job. K said this fast big break was a blessing but a curse at the same time because his goal was to direct films. Since he began his career in short form production, it might have limited his opportunities to direct. Eighteen years later, K launched his first feature film, Serious Laundry. He said maybe if he hadn’t started as a short form producer, he would have directed his second film earlier. K landed a Producer job right after graduating that would have taken years for others to get, but was this big break a blessing or was it a curse?

Edward Scissorhands fell in love with Kim, the daughter of the townswoman who brought him to her home. Even though she had a boyfriend, Jim, she soon reciprocated Edward’s feelings. One day, her boyfriend startled her while she was dancing to the snow that fell from Edward’s ice carving. She accidentally cut herself with Edward’s scissorhands. Jim blamed this on Edward and started to fight him. At first, Edward refused to fight back, until Jim struck Kim. He cut Jim in the stomach which caused him to fall through the window of his second floor mansion and died. The townspeople saw Edward as a monster, not someone they once idolized but someone whom they were afraid of. Edward decided to stay at his mansion and never returned to town.

Edward’s scissorhands brought him out of isolation, to a town where people praised him and liked him because of his unique hands. They led him to meet his love, Kim. But his hands that were made of scissors were also what pushed him away from Kim and away from a town that no longer accepted him. Were his scissorhands a blessing or were they a curse?

What was your cursed blessing? What was your blessed curse?

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