The Newsroom And the Kid

A newsroom. I was in my mid-20s. Unruly red hair. Big nose. A necktie that was suffocating me. Don’t ask me how, but I had a job interview. I was pure nerves.

I had no business being there. But then, I have a well-documented history of being in places I shouldn’t be.

“No journalism degree?” the editor said, squinting at my resume which read like a Hardee’s breakfast menu.

“No ma’am.”

“So, what’s your degree in?”

I explained that, at the time, I was in my ninth year of community college. And I was showing true potential as a promising liberal arts major.

“Aren’t you a little old to be applying?” she said. “What exactly is it you want, here?”

Her question paralyzed me. I didn’t know how to answer. She waited. I made no human-like sounds. She asked me to leave.

Goodnight, John Boy. Thanks for playing.

I loosened my necktie. I ordered three tacos from a Mexican dive downtown. The tacos came doused in a red sauce that would forever burn the protective lining from my lower gastrointestinal tract.

I sat on a curb. What DID I want?

I saw a group of young men, walking the street, wearing suits and neckties. They did not look like me. They were cleancut, perfect teeth.

They probably had vocabularies which did not contain words like, “y’all,” and “twelve-pack.”

It was at this moment that I was interrupted.

Across the street, I saw a young woman struggling to lift a wheelchair from her trunk. I approached her and offered to help. She asked if I’d lift her sister from the vehicle and place her into the chair. I did. I sort of had to bear-hug her sister to lift her out of the passenger seat.

And this did something to me. I discovered what I wanted.

And I’ll share it with you, if I may:

First: I want my friends to feel important. I want children to feel loved—all children. I want dogs to follow me for no reason. I want my mother to be proud.

I want to fish during the summer. I want to go entire decades without washing my truck. I want to leave my family in better shape than I found them.

I want to notice anyone who feels invisible. I want to make sad people laugh. Hurting people smile. I want to eat too much peanut butter.

I want to meet kids who’ve lost fathers—just like I lost mine. I want to tell them that there’s life after death.

I want pop-stars to get less money. I want kids with cancer to get more. I want young folks to know that success is a myth. I want people who claim they’ve attained success to stop claiming they’ve attained success. There’s no such thing.

You buy a 10-bedroom mansion, you immediately want 25 bedrooms. Being a millionaire might make you feel like a bigshot for a week, but then you’ll meet billionaires.

I want my funeral to be well attended. I want it to be a bonfire party, a baseball game, and I want my friends to eat barbecue.

That day, I want people to sip beer and say to themselves, “Wasn’t he a mess?”

I’ve always wanted to be a “mess.”

And not that you care about this, but I’m no journalist. The truth is, most of the time I don’t know what I am.

But I do know what I want. I want this pandemic to be a memory someday. I want to hug people again, instead of video-calling them. I want to be someone who treats the homeless like royalty. I want to help women lift heavy wheelchairs.

I want you to know that your life matters. I want to be the one who puts those words into writing.

And most of all…

I never want to wear another necktie again.


  1. Christina - January 3, 2021 7:07 am

    This is what makes you special Sean!

  2. garwyoming - January 3, 2021 7:29 am

    Your words improve my day, thank you

  3. Susan Parker - January 3, 2021 7:52 am

    Take it from someone who’s been a mess for 61 years, and has been told that often, in affectionate tones….you are definitely a mess. In the finest, most mischievous and friendly way!
    The list of things you want is so much like mine! I’m ahead of you on the peanut butter, though.
    A funeral barbeque! Wouldn’t that just be something? I like that idea! When my time comes, I always said I want somebody to put a pair of cheap high heels in the casket, lol.
    Keep doing just what you’re doing, Sean! Your words, your heart, your talent shines!

  4. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - January 3, 2021 8:41 am

    Sean, you have a long list of “wants” there. I hate to break it to you, but at least one is not possible. You cannot eat too much peanut butter. There is no such thing as too much peanut butter. Other than that, your list seems about perfect.

  5. Joe Dorough - January 3, 2021 10:40 am

    Great article! We all got a life’s lesson and I’ll bet a few found themselves!😀

  6. Sandi. - January 3, 2021 11:29 am

    I remember reading this last January, as well as in January of 2018, but it is still quite good. Third time’s a charm!

  7. joan moore - January 3, 2021 12:00 pm

    You make me want to stand up and cheer! Somewhere is an editor who was not a good judge of character…

  8. Marilyn Ward Vance - January 3, 2021 12:15 pm

    I think what you are saying, Mr. ‘Mess’, is that you want to make a difference in the world. You have…and that IS success!

  9. kerryrainey - January 3, 2021 12:40 pm

    I want you to recognize that you are a huge success despite your distaste for that ideal. I want you to eat more boiled peanuts. I want you to get hugged so much that your ribs are sore. I want you to smile when you meet a new mess of a character or think of one you already know. I want you to feel God’s love more. I want you to live out the words you write so well. I want you to think about death less and life more. I want you to see the Crimson Tide win another National Championship 1/11 (actually, that is a little selfish since that is what I want). I want you to be more confident. But most of all…I want you to have your wants fulfilled.

  10. Kyle Viertel - January 3, 2021 12:52 pm

    Sean. Well said. You have succeeded today. You make me smile. I look forward to your posts every day. You encourage me to consider all others needs as more important than my own. That is not my nature, but it is my objective.
    Thank you for reminding me.

  11. Gary Fleming - January 3, 2021 1:18 pm

    There are successes in life that never achieved wealth. Mother Teresa has to be considered a success. My Uncle Jack who lost his right arm as a young man, learned to do every thing left handed, achieved a master’s degree, lived in a 2 bedroom house that looked like it had been cleaned once a decade, taught 4th grade science and loved to fish and hunt, was a success. The best definition of success I’ve seen is knowing you have a life of abundance – love, friends, health, family.

  12. Susan - January 3, 2021 1:24 pm

    I am so thankful for you. You know, our non-Southern friends probably don’t know this particular meaning of “a mess”, but I think you’re a beautiful mess, and I love you and your family for all the joy and thoughtful, caring inspiration you share. Boy, that sentence was too long, but maybe I made my point.

    Keep doing what you’re doing. We need you.

  13. Ann P. - January 3, 2021 1:41 pm

    Thanks again, Sean! “Here’s looking at you, Kid!”

  14. Sue Cronkite - January 3, 2021 1:48 pm

    You are my kind of journalist, Sean Dietrich! Have a fantastic 2021. Keep writing. Make people feel good about themselves. Give them hope with your words.

  15. Pat Morgan - January 3, 2021 1:59 pm

    Sean, you may not have a whole lot of formal education, but you are brilliant! You are like a shining star, bringing a little joy and kindness to those of us who crave an uplifting word. Thank you.

  16. Sydney - January 3, 2021 2:14 pm

    I am profoundly blessed by your words today. Thank you.

  17. Ernie Kelly - January 3, 2021 2:19 pm

    Based on your own list, I’d say you’re a resounding success. Thanks for sharing your success with the rest of us. It is a powerful source of hope.

  18. Jan - January 3, 2021 2:27 pm

    One of your best … of course that is a long list! I want what you want – to help those who need help, to make people feel better and to enjoy each moment as though it was the last moment. You are a resounding success at writing but more importantly, at living life!

  19. Charlie Mathers - January 3, 2021 2:33 pm

    I want someone to want to hug me as much as I want to hug them. I want to go back 55 years to being a grunt in a jungle somewhere pretending to defend someone from someone else. I want to help children laugh and play. I want to help grownups laugh and play! I want every day to be one continuous dog adventure. Driving or walking, makes no difference. I want everyone to have a cup of clean water whenever they want one, especially children! I want to rest in the quiet of a forest or a beach with no noise except what the universe supplies. I am really tired of being a disappointment to everyone except my dog. Maybe that’s enough. I hope so.

  20. Lisa Sanford - January 3, 2021 2:42 pm

    Am forwarding this to my sons because this is what I want for them.

  21. Susan - January 3, 2021 3:00 pm

    Truthfully the way we all want to be remembered…

  22. Deborah L Blount - January 3, 2021 3:17 pm

    Sounds like you know what’s important. You rock!

  23. MR - January 3, 2021 3:23 pm

    I’m glad that Newspaper lady didn’t hire you . . .because if she did, we probably wouldn’t be reading this post!

  24. DAVID A WILSON - January 3, 2021 3:30 pm

    I want what you wrote above!!!

  25. Tom Faircloth - January 3, 2021 4:02 pm

    Sean, your experiences, your words, your life-lessons and your images that each conjures up provide such important inspirations. I look forward to your ‘gentle sermons’ each day…Thank you for what your writings mean to me and to all who are fortunate enough to read your daily thoughts.

  26. Becca - January 3, 2021 4:04 pm

    You always know what I need to hear to have a good day! And I too want everything you wrote above! God bless!

  27. Debbie g - January 3, 2021 4:07 pm

    Inspiring. Thank you!!!!

  28. Bebe - January 3, 2021 4:13 pm

    This is everything that I feel. How do you do it? it’s like reading my mind.
    Thank you!!!

  29. Karin - January 3, 2021 5:13 pm

    I start every morning reading your essay, Sean, and even though most days I cry as I read them (because of sentimentality or self-recognition or whatever), I feel like my days are better because of you. You ground me and remind me of what’s important. So let’s make 2021 the year of the hug (when it’s safe, of course) because there are so many people who need a hug and so much more. I can’t wait!

  30. Kathy - January 3, 2021 5:43 pm

    Now someday up in glory
    Well, I’ll weep and tell the story
    To someone who will smile and say,
    “You’re a mess, but you’re my child.”
    – Emmylou Harris

  31. Celia Bass - January 3, 2021 5:55 pm

    Every day if I read your blog while my husband is close by, he chides me for crying and says I will be in a bad mood. I struggle to explain to him that it does the opposite. It makes me feel better, in spite of my sentimental tears. It lifts me up. It makes me think of so many small things that can so easily affect others. And it gives me hope…hope for mankind during these stressful, depressing days of our current world. Hope for a better, happier, healthier tomorrow, and many tomorrow’s to follow. Thank you sincerely. ❤️

  32. MAM - January 3, 2021 6:20 pm

    I guess I’ve always been a “mess,” too. Took me many years to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I was 58, an editor took a chance on me when he said: “I know you can write.” Fast forward 20 years and I’m my own writer/editor/founder/owner of a digital newspaper that gets more than 140,000 reads a month. Success is in the eye of the beholder! You are a resounding success at keeping all of us entertained EVERY day! Happy New Year!

  33. Linda Moon - January 3, 2021 6:23 pm

    Yesterday I turned down some Mexican food offered to me by folks I love because of that tract-thing. Share away, Sean. I’m reading your words. I like you, Mess. I know and love lots of messes, including myownself. You have Royalty in your writing, Your Majesty. Gosh, you matter to this commoner, me.

  34. Mary Louise Griffin - January 3, 2021 6:26 pm

    Well, I’m not sure how you’re doing with the peanut butter, (a laudable goal in my opinion) and I want the funeral to wait a good LONG time, but I’d say you’ve about nailed the rest. Thanks for all the good and thought provoking things you’ve given me. I appreciate it. Stay away from the ties. You’re perfect just the way you are.

  35. Deena - January 3, 2021 6:47 pm

    Loved your post today. I want most of your exact things too. I’ll try harder this next year to do the things that will make them happen.

    God bless you, Sean, for touching so many of our hearts. May you never have another depressed day, hour or minute. You are loved. 💖

  36. Anita Bosley - January 3, 2021 7:19 pm

    For a great story about serving the homeless, Sean, contact Don Lupo at City of Birmingham. And he can also tell you about the Firehouse Shelter in Birmingham. Read his daily updates on his Facebook page. He writes a lot like you do.

  37. Tammy S. - January 3, 2021 7:52 pm

    Sean, thank you! You do all these things you write about here, and so much more!! You see people! All the people! Not just ones deemed important by others or by any kind of accomplishment, but just because they are another human.

    That newspaper gal can be counted in with the whole upper team of “professionals” at Blockbuster when they turned a new fledgling company called Netflix’s down. She missed it. She didn’t see you. But we all sure do!! Again, thank you!!

  38. Kaye Stephens - January 3, 2021 9:00 pm

    Just met you through your Christmas book I received from a friend. I just love your spirit and your all-encompassing generosity. Kaye, Adrian, GA

  39. meg widmer - January 3, 2021 10:54 pm

    After a long and uneventful day, other than the usual happenings, it was a pleasure to read not just your post, Sean, but also all the readers who contributed to a collection of what we humans are all about. Thank you for making it possible for us to express our hearts and minds to others and bring us closer in these times.

  40. Dale & Carolyn Milita - January 4, 2021 12:38 am

    Fantastic. I want to be what you want. You say so much in between the lines that make me feel as if I will have no regrets.
    Thank you

  41. Bill - January 4, 2021 1:07 am

    Success is relative. What is success to you is not necessarily the same for others. So when you ay you are successful, I’m happy for you. Further success is not a home, a car, or money. It’s a feeling. A feeling of helping someone or doing something for someone. I can’t really explain it, but when it happens, you will know it.

  42. Jon Dragonfly - January 4, 2021 1:19 am

    You want to be the catcher in the rye.

  43. Jon Dragonfly - January 4, 2021 1:21 am

    I want at least one person to say with his last breath, “You’ve been a good friend.”

  44. Christie McRae - January 4, 2021 2:39 am

    You’re a mess. A well loved mess. A mess who makes people smile & feel loved. I’m glad you exist because you brighten every single day.

  45. Ann - January 4, 2021 2:41 am

    I love your wants….they are refreshing, simple and hopeful

  46. Joy Dollar - January 4, 2021 5:33 am

    Lordy mercy, Sean! I’m in tears again…but it’s because this is so good. You may not be a “journalist”(who cares?) but you sure can express yourself, and some of us, too. I want the same things, and I pray for just that! Thank you( I believe I’m going to have to start reading your posts earlier in the day, ‘cause late night is giving me puffy eyes😳

  47. Bob Emery - January 4, 2021 1:22 pm

    Mr. Deitrich, (salutation meant to show you are respected and loved by many).
    Your writing is inspirational, informative and humorous.
    This article is 99.9% relatable (for me) with one personal exception (quote from the article: “I want my funeral to be well attended”). I’m hoping to visit with friends and family while still alive – I’m not even planning on having a funeral but certainly hope that everyone finds a way to party.
    Carry on Mr. Dietrich

  48. kontaktpatricia - January 4, 2021 4:04 pm

    Before I started reading your stuff, Sean, I thought I was a writer.
    Thank you so much for the inspiration you give us every day, your soul-baring honesty that touches a nerve in even the hardest-shelled person and makes us remember what it is to be human. Some might think it wonderful to be adored and thanked by so many people every day, but I think it must be terrifying because it means your next piece has to be at least as good as the last one.
    When you find drops of blood falling from your brow onto that keyboard, don’t worry.
    It will be.
    It always is.

  49. Belinda Crowell - January 4, 2021 4:41 pm

    I truly believe you have reached your goals, dear Sean. ❤️

  50. Anita S Johnson - January 5, 2021 1:04 am

    I wish every high school student could be read this daily. Maybe just maybe this would be a kinder world. God bless you and your talent! Thank you for sharing with us.

  51. Susan Wold - January 6, 2021 9:06 pm

    Way to go Sean! You may not be a journalist but you are a writer, a damn good one too.

  52. Julie - January 31, 2021 4:59 pm

    I want to be more like YOU, Sean! Anyone who reads your column already knows that you are making YOUR Life Matter!! That will one day become your Legend, and I hope one day it is also mine.💕


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