Michael Jordan caught a lot of flack for his Hall of Fame acceptance speech because he focused on people who he believed never believed enough in him. He aimed his gratitude at those people who’d been there for him and gave him a shot, but wasted too many words, people thought, on remembering the slights, the benchings, the roster cuts. His career, he conveyed in thousands of words, was a work of greatness, but it was also one of spite.
Where some people swear by optimism and visualization, there are some of us who are most motivated by spite. I can achieve some goals, sure. But the minute someone I deem unworthy of my time tells me I’m not going to get to a certain place because of some silly data point they have decided is relevant and carries weight, is the very moment I decide I’ll be better than they’ve ever dreamed
(and also, that they’re dead to me).
I made it to college, and I made it through college on spite. Two men with no right to even hold an opinion made it known that I wasn’t good enough to leave our shit town, and in response I was offered a scholarship covering my full tuition to a private school in New York City. I never looked back.
Freshman year, when I was homesick for my friends, and for Southern California’s idyllic weather, and even, to some extent, for the wildfires, I laid in bed with a guy I was ambivalent about and lamented my life in New York.
“Just go back then,” he said, like it was nothing.
“I can’t go back,” I said. “That will mean I failed.”
Failure wasn’t measured in grades, but life choices.
I finished undergrad in 3.5 years and with a 3.7 GPA. Instead of sprinting back to California, as I’d been dreaming and planning, I got a job in New York as the economy crumbled. There was no reason for me to go back to California. Many of my friends were out of school and out of jobs and backed into corners. True, I was making shit money at a newspaper in New York. But I was working. It was success, of a sort.
I’ve moved on from spite, in many ways. It’s no longer my primary driving force. Most days are driven by a need to prove to myself that I am good enough to do what I’ve always wanted to do. (Side note: Imposter syndrome is a bitch.) Still, though, that’s what keeps me moving when I would much rather stay in bed.
Until last week. Monitoring our social channels, I noticed a tweet of questionable sourcing but big news, if it could be confirmed. I sent it to one of our reporters and my editor. It was so late in the day the reporter couldn’t get any confirmation, but had an original, preliminary story early the next morning. We were first with original, confirmed information, and we had monster page views. Two days later, the same reporter got hold of a tidbit of info that led to a bigger story that tied into some big news around our industry last year. Page views went through the roof. Site traffic was absolutely bananas.
The scoop kept me walking on cotton-candy clouds most of the week. I’m not often competitive, but when I am, it’s usually rooted in spite. When I win, I am insufferable. “You’re not going to get out of this town.” Oh? Not only did I, but I got as far away as possible. “You won’t get any money for school with those grades.” Oh? Did that, too. Breaking news for a pub that isn’t known for breaking news, and often loses scoops to our main competitors, but twice in one week scoops them?
If you need me, I’ll be tap dancing on the graves of those who inadequately believed in me all the way to the bank. Or something like that.