Plan for the worst, hope for the best and take a moment to thank your mom

Russian Christmas 2020 with the puppies.

I have a penchant for dread, for overthinking things until I’m paralyzed with indecision, for letting worries about the worst cloud my vision of the best.

When I was a kid, dread made me awkward, self-conscious and unsure of how to approach people. The source of dread changes. In middle school, it was girls. In high school, it was college (and girls). In college, it was career pressure (and mice — they lived in the ceiling right above my lofted dorm room bed).

These days, I try to focus on taking what comes along without wasting bandwidth dreading things that haven’t happened yet. That’s part of the appeal of journalism — new stuff comes along every day. New people to meet, new questions to ask, new stories to tell. No time for dread (okay, just a little time, but let’s not worry about that).

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not prepared for the worst. When the worst comes knocking, I’ll probably be in a panic. My flight instinct will kick in and override rational logic. I’ll probably be thinking — man, I should have planned for this.

The moment when dread becomes all too real, and the best is beyond hope? I’m not ready for that. I’m dreading that moment — and here I go again, dreading.

I’m not very good at hoping for the best, either. Not to say that I’m not optimistic — it’s just that the best often seems very unrealistic. It’s easily dismissed. It hardly feels worth hoping for.

No, I’m a day-by-day kind of person. There’s room for a little hope, a little dread, but mostly just the here and now. It’s not like I don’t plan ahead — I like to plan just enough that I know I can keep living one day to the next. Planning for uncertainty — that’s what lets the dread in.

I’m blessed, yes. I have an ace in the hole, something I can fall back on when the worst knocks me down, a constant like no other in my life.

She’s tough, no doubt. She pushes me — pushes my buttons, pushes me to be better, pushes me over the edge of dread and into action. She probably dreads too, somewhere deep down, but you’d never know it. She projects strength, like she’s ready for anything.

So when the worst comes, she’ll probably be saying — man, you should have planned for this.

Let me be clear — she’s not a genie, granting wishes to magic away the worst. She’s not a get out of jail free card. In fact, she often tells me not to bother calling her from prison. Pushing me to grow up was her full-time job for eighteen years (and then some), so I’d say she’s earned an early retirement.

When I say she’s my ace in the hole, it’s because all the best parts of me are from her. Sure, her writing could use some light edits now and then, so I’ll thank my dad for that one. If we wanted to have some fun, we could make a list of other things to thank my dad for.

Back in college, even as I settled on pursuing journalism, I couldn’t help but dread the career path. It’s not a particularly hopeful time in the industry, and I dreaded — scratch that, I dread — that it’s not putting me on the strongest financial footing to prepare for the worst. I dreaded that I’d regret not going straight to grad school. And I dreaded that she shared my dread.

But I hope it makes her proud to know that she’s with me on the job. When I get an unexpected call and abruptly shift into people-person mode. When I start to get suspicious, when I’m connecting the dots and my spidey senses start telling me there’s a story afoot. When I’m asking tough questions and piecing together tough answers.

Yeah, that’s all her.

And nobody knows my penchant for dread better than she does — she’s spent my whole life fighting it. Plan for the worst, hope for the best and take what comes along, she’d always say. I think we can thank her dad for that one, and I should probably apologize for not taking his advice more seriously. Sorry, Pop-Pop.

But who I am today, a journalist doing what I love, in a place I care deeply about, serving people who deserve no less — I can thank her for that.

Thanks Mom. Happy Mother’s Day. I love you.

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