This article also prints in the Find It section of the Press Democrat on Friday, October 19.
by Crissi Langwell
My boss came up to me a couple weeks ago and congratulated me on a full six years working for The Press Democrat, mentioning all the departments I’ve worked in on my way to where I sit right now as I type this column for you to read.
“I hope I’m as successful as you one day,” he said in all seriousness, something that might have been funny to hear since he is the one who signs my paychecks. But the truth is, I am simply amazed when I think of where I’ve come from and where I’ve gone from there.
I started at The Press Democrat as an assistant in the real estate department in advertising sales. I had never worked in advertising before, but was fairly familiar with real estate. My father is a real estate appraiser and was training me to join the business just before the housing market crashed and all its related professions took a turn for the worse.
When it came time for me to look for something different, this one position advertised in the newspaper screamed my name. I was never meant to be a real estate appraiser. But being a writer by nature, it had been a childhood dream to work for my local newspaper. In the end, it was my background in real estate that got my foot in the door and helped me to stand out among all the other applicants.
Of course, my first position at the PD had nothing to do with writing whatsoever. Instead, I helped to put together ads for real estate agents, typed out countless addresses for our Guide to Open Homes, and put out fires with frantic agents who needed their house to sell yesterday. The job was only 25 hours a week, and as a single mother on a tight budget I was barely scraping by. Some days were better than others, sometimes I questioned my reasoning for keeping on, and almost every day I thought about my ultimate dream to be a writer at the newspaper.
The changes in the economy were affecting almost everyone at this point, and real estate wasn’t getting any better. Soon, it became apparent that my job was close to being eliminated and I needed to make a move quickly if I wanted to remain employed. Fortunately, a position opened up in page layout, the department that lays out the ads in the daily newspaper and its periodic magazines. I applied for and received the position, a move that resulted in an increase in hours as well as a raise.
There was another chapter of my life that was beginning to unfold around this time. A man who worked as an advertising account manager at the paper — we’ll call him Mr. W (for Wonderful) — had caught my eye. He was handsome, charming, sweet, and occasionally guilty of giving me ads to fit in the newspaper after deadline. After a few months of back and forth flirting, Mr. W asked me out on date.
From the very first kiss, it was crystal clear this was different from every other romance I had experienced. At first I kept my heart guarded, afraid to fall too deeply and come away disappointed. He was also afraid to be hurt. But with time, we both were able to trust that this was the real thing, and we fell deeply in love.
It wasn’t that long after this that I was contacted by one of the newspaper’s online managers. They had just started a new website for parenting called SantaRosaMom.com and my personal blog at winecountrymom.com, a place where I wrote stories about my family, had come to their attention. Apparently they loved it and wondered if I would be interested in continuing these writings for the new family site. Of course I was.
While I continued my duties in page layout, I used my free time to share stories about my family and about being a single mom. Soon I was packing up my desk and moving to the newsroom so I could do what I love and get paid for it: write for the newspaper.
But that’s not the end. You know that romance between Mr. W and me? As you read this we are enjoying the final days of our honeymoon in Costa Rica. You’ll also notice my new last name in my byline.
I often wonder about that childhood dream of mine.
Did my desire to write for The Press Democrat serve as a career to strive for? Or did all the puzzle pieces of my life fit this perfectly together to lead me to Mr. W? Does it matter which one it is? I have a job I am passionate about, a new husband I cherish every day, and together we are raising a pretty incredible family. It’s amazing how life works out.
Thank you for sharing the journey with me.
Crissi Langwell is the moderator at SantaRosaMom.com, an online community for parents in Sonoma County.