Often times, I ask myself… “Why?”
Why am I here? Why am I in Tennessee? Why was a born with the last name Carden? Why can’t I have a fully manageable beard.
All jokes aside. For the people who follow this blog, you all know that it’s kept updated from time to time on Unicoi County athletics, and other sports, in an attempt to keep the public up to date.
It’s something I find solace in. My comfort zone. There’s nothing more peaceful with a bit of music going sitting in front of a laptop, or notepad, and just letting your mind run free on finding the right phrase and word play to help weave some information into an entertaining, yet knowledgeable stance for people to view. People get into the ‘profession’ of journalism for many reasons.
Knowledge. Fame. Something to kill time. And for the others — it’s an avenue to bring your words to life.
It’s a way to document events, activities… your life.
I remember back in 2006, during my freshmen year at Hampton High School, I finished an assignment in my English class. At this time — it was football season. I was in a classroom with 30-plus kids. It was considered the ‘Honors’ English class, which I still find funny to this day. Out of the amount of kids in the room — there were about four guys who were on the football team, me being one.
After assignments, we had time to talk. Cut up, talk about what’s going on after school, after practice – blah, blah, blah.
I had the sudden urge to work on a book. Not sure why, and I honestly believe I threw the paper away once I finished, but I went to work. It was the story of a solider, on a ship I believe, setting sail to an unnamed destination – writing a letter to his unborn son about events that occurred in the past.
That was the best moment I can relive from that class. It was probably the most nerdy, dorky, odd thing I’ve done in high school. But I remember breaking a smile when I went to work on it. Some people have it, some people don’t. I was lucky to be one that enjoy storytelling. And my memory was of the teacher — an assistant football coach Scott Bunton — taking the time to read it and said it was good. Probably just to send me back to my seat, almost positive it was, but it helped breathe life into a love writing.
Fast forward – My senior year. At this point, a whirlwind occurred. My parents were separated. It was my Mother and I, and at the end of my junior year, she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Football was an after thought. I, for some random reason, wanted to quit to focus on writing. The end of my sophomore year — I was in a four-wheeler wreck that cracked part of spinal cord — so needless to say, one way or another, I took it from the powers to be that maybe I shouldn’t play. I was asked at the end of my junior year to play my senior year by then head coach Michael Lunsford. I revisit that moment in life from time to time. I wanted to play but with everything happening at that time and from the past I said no, still some shreds of regret linger to this day.
Ultimately it was a blessing in disguise. My junior English teach Rebekah Harris talked me into joining the Journalism class for my last year in school. I knew what a basketball and football were, so I was tossed into being the sports writer of the paper.
I was able to keep a level balance. Cover events, take care of my mother, do my work, participate in events. I kept busy. It’s another thing I love, as long as something is going on, I’m happy — so I didn’t mind it at all.
Press fast forward a bit more. Late October, 2010.
I was in my freshman year at ETSU. I had sent emails to local papers offering to work as an intern, cover some games — never received a reply. Which I expected.
Then something unexpected came. My grandfather, Raymond Carden, was getting sick. The man who was that positive male influence in my life. Taught me everything I needed to know — and from time to time threaten to beat me with a switch if I ever missed Sunday School at Union Baptist Church.
I turned 20 on Oct. 29th — Oct. 31st would be my last conversation with my Pap-paw. Up until that point, he was in bad shape with memory loss, but I remember that night in the ICU room when he and I just talked, like nothing was wrong.
How’s school going? You OK? Know what you want to do? The last thing I remember him saying to me was him being proud of me being the only guy from our family to go to college.
I shrugged it off, thinking things would be OK. Told him I loved him, shook his hand and left.
The next day, he passed away.
I lost it. Sitting at Sycamore Shoals I tried my best to keep a straight face. Be there for the family. The next day was the funeral. Kept up the front then went to my car at Tetrick Funeral home and cried.
I didn’t know what to do. The one person who openly supported me. The man I that thought I could do no wrong was gone. The glue of our family… What was I suppose to do?
Depression isn’t a fun thing. And it’s a serious issue. I didn’t miss school, kept doing my homework and it the back of my mind — I couldn’t quit replaying those final moments in Elizabethton on Oct. 31st.
Then I got out my laptop, and started typing. I let my mind run free — and I was able to smile.
Events continued to play our then I received a Facebook message from Mrs. Harris asking me if I’d be interested in covering sports for ‘The Erwin Record’. I honestly didn’t even know what that was at the time. But of course, I jumped on the offer.
Then publisher — Mark Steven — gave me a call during a Thanksgiving dinner at Union Baptist Church. I missed the call, called him back in the parking lot. We chatted, discussed the ‘Bulldog Bark’ (the Hampton High school paper) then asked me to come in for an interview.
I was scared as could be during the interview process. Mr. Stevens was nice as he could be, I about freaked out. Talks of covering events, interviewing coaches — I thought I was in a dream. I learned of the previous writer — Kevin Lewis. Checking back through his logs, hearing his past success, the awards in New York, Tennessee. I about said no, but of course, caught up in the moment — I said yes.
Fast Forward: Today
It’s crazy on getting the chance to look back at the events I was able to participate in. Covering championships, meeting great friends, coaches, athletes. Then there’s the negative side — people who’ll try to undercut for a story, nab information, and of course — simply people you can’t get along with. It comes with the territory of course.
But that’s why I’ll always be glad of my opportunity in Erwin. Nestled in the Valley Beautiful, the office put faith in me to carry out an award-winning writers legacy. We’ve been able to win awards for sports coverage from the Tennessee Press Association in my time here. We’ve been able to forge great friendships with the readers, coaches and athletes.
And of course, they’ve allowed me to continue something that’s kept me going to this day — Writing.
I’m not sure what’s ahead. There are always the future dreams of becoming broadcaster or journalist at ESPN, Fox Sports. Or maybe become an author? Or maybe become an auditor for the IRS? Heck, I may not even make it to see tomorrow.
But no matter what happens in the future, I know I can continue to find solace in writing. And I hope that maybe one day, my experiences can be used as a building block for someone wanting to pursue an endeavor to become a writer. Doesn’t even have to be sports, of course.
You can never be afraid to follow your dream. However many problems you face in your life, you never now how long your journey will go…
But never forget to press PLAY.