A newsroom. I was in my mid-twenties. 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.
“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 do you want?”
It 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.”
I was interrupted.
Across the street, I saw a young woman struggling to lift a wheelchair from her trunk. I offered to help. She asked if I’d lift her sister from the vehicle and place her into the chair. I did. I bear-hugged her sister, then lifted her out of the passenger seat.
And it 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 congratulate 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 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 the hell I am.
But I do know what I want. I want to hug people instead of shaking hands. 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.
Faye from Virginia - January 20, 2018 7:55 am
Sean, what I want is to one day be able to forget I was the farmers daughter and how worthless my class mates made me feel. Thank you for reminding me my life matters, I am sad but you make me smile. Thank you.
Judy Riley - January 21, 2018 2:47 am
Faye, your comment makes my heart hurt for you. I grew up in a farming community. I was not the daughter of a farmer….but I always wanted to be! I apologize for all the pain you have endured…but know this….being a farmer’s daughter is the BEST. Please don’t be sad, your classmates were the losers…not you! And NO ONE is worthless! God is good every day…look to Him…always!!
Penn Wells - January 20, 2018 9:35 am
Everyday, you teach me —- and us. Who knew you were actually one of those personal life coaches? Love you, man.
Sue Cronkite - January 20, 2018 9:40 am
Sounds like a plan to me. What you want is exactly what I want. And I was a lifetime journalist. A real one who wrote good stories in newspapers. There are lots of those out there too, along with the fake ones.
Vickie Waters Roberts - January 20, 2018 11:01 am
Dear Sean, Thank you so much for your uplifting words to people. This helped me today. My oldest daughter Jennifer unexpectedly committed suicide on Jan. 1, 2016. All of us are still devastated. The pain will always be there. It changed the way we live our lives. I try to stay uplifting for my husband and children and grandchildren but it is hard most days. But I just repeat the phrase” Keep your heart open for the living”. That’s what you do everyday Sean, you keep your heart open for the living! Kudos to you! Your Dad is smiling down on you.
Vickie Roberts. Brewton Alabama born grandmother So I love your stories about Brewton.
sandysewwhatever - January 20, 2018 9:43 pm
Oh Vickie, this is so hard. I lost my brother ‘tragically’ (by his own hand, as they say) unexpectedly in 1998 – found 2 weeks after going missing. and then wow it really messed up more people in my family. Like a knife turning in a deep wound.
Sometimes I wish we could erase all that. But what I will say is that you don’t get over it or past it, but you eventually get away from it being the main thing in your life.
Biggest hugs from England
HRC - January 20, 2018 11:48 am
I feel better … good morning Sean!
janiesjottings - January 20, 2018 11:56 am
Sean, if I ever meet you in person I plan on hugging you, just so you know. Every day my husband will say, “What’s Sean talking about today?” Your blog is the first I’ve ever read to him. He’s one of those people who love tv. Not me, I’m a reader and you bless my heart every day with your heartfelt words. By the way, I wonder how many of those news reporters on tv are happy about reporting all that bad stuff.
Roger Harrelson - January 20, 2018 12:09 pm
jones - January 20, 2018 12:54 pm
An excellent want list…
Sharon Hand - January 20, 2018 12:55 pm
You really had me on the peanut butter. Thanks, Sean.
Steven P Bailey - January 20, 2018 12:57 pm
Joan Raines - January 20, 2018 1:09 pm
Dianne - January 20, 2018 1:41 pm
The world needs more compassionate people just like you!
Marilyn - January 20, 2018 1:55 pm
There is no better way to start my morning than a hot cup of coffee and reading your essays. I look so forward to your appearance in Decatur, Alabama on February 2, 2018 at the Princess Theatre! Anyone interested in tickets can get them at http://www.princesstheatre.org
Gigi - January 20, 2018 1:59 pm
Sean, your wish list should be everyone’s. If more people had your heart and compassion the world would be a better place. And since it seems like only bad news gets reported- maybe then we wouldn’t need so many reporters. And an FYI, I studied journalism years ago, but cancelled my newspaper about 5 years ago because of all the crap in it. However, your blog is the first thing I read every morning. So I guess you didn’t need that reporter job after all!
Alice cooper - January 20, 2018 2:00 pm
Yeah for peanut butter!
Debbie Taylor - January 20, 2018 2:05 pm
Love this, Sean! Helped me to truly be ok with believing God’s purpose for my life is simply to be kind and loving to others … to share my heart and my empathy. He didn’t put me on this earth to BE somebody, rather to give what He does with grace, and that is love.
Marsha - January 20, 2018 2:05 pm
I am so grateful for your writing, Sean. Makes me feel alive.
Sharon Reaves - January 20, 2018 2:08 pm
Sean, I laughed to myself as I read today’s article. I too want to do similar things. I was blessed to be a special education aide for seven years, until my husband’s job required our family to transfer. During the last four years, I have been unable to get another job as an aide, because I’m new in this small town. So I started cleaning houses and caring for senior citizens in my area and I have found the joy of my heart in caring for these older adults. I have adopted many of them as my “grandparents”. I have decided that I would like to be a home health nurse so, here I am at the ripe old age of 50 years old, beginning my first semester of nursing school.
I see hurting people all of the time and my heart goes out to them and I want to do whatever I can to make their day better, even if it is just to smile and say hello. There is a saying that “It cost’s nothing to be kind” and that is how I strive to live everyday. Thank you for your writings. They paint a familiar picture in my mind and often leave me with a lump in my throat.
P.S. Give that old hound dog a belly rub for me. We had to say goodbye to our 11 year old Golden 5 months ago and I miss him everyday!
Jody - January 20, 2018 2:08 pm
You are the best kind of mess. A true southern kind hearted mess.
Rita Loveday - January 20, 2018 2:20 pm
You humble your readers each and every day……and God knows we all need to be humbled. Like the others, I read your musings daily and doing so makes my day so much better. Thank you.
Shirley Northington (Skelton) - January 20, 2018 2:20 pm
Martha Moorer - January 20, 2018 2:23 pm
This world would be a better place if more people had the “Love Language “ gift of service. You definitely have it. Thank you for sharing.
Lulu - January 20, 2018 2:31 pm
You are a mess. A fine mess. So glad to have found you.
Judith - January 20, 2018 2:48 pm
The simple life of just wanting to love people, help people and listen to people. If only each of us would take the time to hear each other. Love your writings. Makes a body think about what’s really important.
Debby Bost. Gastonia, C - January 20, 2018 3:07 pm
I read an article you wrote about Angels Dinner in Palatka and loved the story. Never heard of you before but love reading your stories every day:).
I worked at Angels as a teenager been gone from Florida for 45 years, but Angels has a special place in my heart.
Laura - January 20, 2018 3:11 pm
Sean, The world defines success one way and some of us another. Success by the world’s definition is a myth for sure. I define success as making a friend feel important, children feel loved, fishing in the summer, making your mother feel proud, leaving your family in better shape than you found them, etc. I am so glad you are a success by my definition, and I am glad you didn’t just go to work for a newspaper (man have they contributed to the downward spiral of our country). I am glad instead that you make people smile and remember good times, laugh in the face of pain, etc. There will be standing room only for your funeral- even if held in the Montgomery Coliseum 🙂 You are a mess but you are our mess and I love you- we love you!!
Donna D. - January 20, 2018 3:15 pm
Oh, if only more people could want the same things…what a world we’d live in.
Thank you for sharing, writing and loving.
judemiller1 - January 20, 2018 3:20 pm
Ah, Sean–I love ya!!
Stacia - January 20, 2018 3:24 pm
A friend of mine just introduced me to your blog. I am truly uplifted by what you write.
Mary - January 20, 2018 3:31 pm
Sean, You are my kind of journalist. The kind that makes me want to read first thing in the morning to start the day of on an up note. Since reading your daily posts, I’ve begun looking at people instead of beyond them. I’m not brave enough yet to strike up conversations like you do. I smile instead, a kind of I see you smile. At the risk of sounding like a stalker,, I’ve thought about driving to Alabama to visit the places you write about. Maybe one day, I’ll be in a burger joint and a man with a bushy red beard and kind eyes will say something like, “Hi ya’ll”.
Regiena Berry - January 20, 2018 3:42 pm
Oh Sean, the love you let shine through your words!!!
Jo - January 20, 2018 3:42 pm
It sounds like you want to be all the important things. I also think you already are those important things and none of the superficial.
Jack Quanstrum - January 20, 2018 3:55 pm
Amen to the Tenth degree!
Sandra Marrar - January 20, 2018 4:25 pm
I honestly think you are the nicest, kindest person in the universe and one day I hope to meet you. You make me cry and feel my pain. You just know all about what it’s like to be a human being. Thank you!
Helen Taylor Andrews - January 20, 2018 5:11 pm
Dear Sean, I start my day off with coffee, toast, prayers and 2 Sean Dietrich stories. You know you are doing the right thing with your life from the responses you get to your stories. We all love you and so appreciate what a blessing your writings are to us! I am so looking forward to seeing you in Ozark!! Your friend, ‘the writer’
theholtgirls - January 20, 2018 5:13 pm
Oh, if only you manly men got a paycheck for *not* wearing a necktie!
You seem successful to me!
Kathryn Carden - January 20, 2018 5:18 pm
What a fabulous mess you are, Sean!
Jan - January 20, 2018 5:21 pm
Deena - January 20, 2018 6:37 pm
I believe that you are making all of these things happen as much as is possible in our world today… I think you are exactly the person that you want to be….. heck, I don’t even know you, but I Do know you are my friend. I pray for bountiful blessings in your life and the lives of all of those you hold closest. You are one Southern Gentleman in a world of soulless people.. thank you for touching my heart every single day.
Marion Pitts - January 20, 2018 7:18 pm
Dianne - January 20, 2018 7:45 pm
I’d like to give you a big ole rockin’ kinda hug. I love your columns, too.
Laura Reddick Reichert - January 20, 2018 8:17 pm
Silly boy, you are a WRITER of things so incredibly important.
Bess - January 20, 2018 10:00 pm
Yes, Yes & Double Yes on everything you want to do! You have all the right priorities! Thanks for sharing.
Judy Riley - January 21, 2018 2:31 am
You’ve nailed it, Sean!!
Jack Darnell - January 21, 2018 3:34 am
I would like to think you described me, but that would be a lie. HOwever you just described my son. I just forwarded this to him and a few others. But you’re bio described Son JJ just right. He has been successful in being this guy you describe. Just like you!
Lynn - January 21, 2018 6:56 pm
Me, too. Your concept of success is so much healthier and happier. Bless you for conveying the idea so well. I read it repeating “ Yes. Oh , yes “ without any sexual connotations lol. You’ve got it right.
Anne Trawick - January 22, 2018 2:43 am
…and I want to hug you back, Sean, my friend.
Marty from Alabama - January 22, 2018 2:47 am
I wish you could talk to my son. He is so low on self-confidence and that in itself is a long story. He knows what he wants to do, he just can’t seem to get it started. He has had two huge set backs in the last two-three months. Had jobs lined up and started. First one sent him a check for materials that he had bought plus his pay. Bogus check! Got another check for basically the same thing, just different person. Deposited check, ten day hold put on check, then it is backed out of his account. He really feels that he is worthless, but he is so good at what he does. Getting breaks just don’t happen for him. Thanks for listening.
Tina Abernathy - January 22, 2018 3:51 pm
Patricia Schmaltz - January 22, 2018 7:47 pm
I am with you 100%…. except for the dirty truck.
Michael K. Doyle - January 23, 2018 3:46 pm
Great article… One thing I have found, that when we are in service to our fellow man, we are in service to our God. May you continue to grow and share with us!
Patsy Strain - January 23, 2018 3:54 pm
You ARE a wonderful mess!!
Patricia Gibson - January 24, 2018 1:07 am
You make my day, Sean!!
Connie Jones - January 25, 2018 8:39 pm
A big hug right back atcha, Sean!! You can always brighten my day and up until I read this, it pretty much sucked. But you put a ‘count my blessings’ on my day…thanks!
Ann - April 13, 2018 1:25 pm
Sean, you’re a mess of the best kind. Thanks for your words.
Joyce Bacon - April 14, 2018 1:01 pm
I can understand your ambition Sean. As for me all I ever wanted to “be” was a mother and a grandmother. The good Lord has blessed me with both plus an added bonus of GREAT-Grandmother. I love your “musings”. You have enriched my life many times over. Keep on doing what you do and writing what you see.