On this week 13 years ago, I placed an order that, on the surface, appears to have been a waste of money and now forever obsolete. Surfaces can be deceiving, as can circumstances, and hope is never obsolete.
So how is a box of VHS tapes a symbol of hope?
Less than a week earlier back in 2004, my future was uncertain, as it was for so many college seniors, as it is for so many now. As a journalism major at Indiana University who had fallen for the television side, I had been sending my resume across the country, from Anchorage to south Florida and so many spots in between. It was 24 tapes sent to be exact. I know because I had but one VHS tape left.
These weren't any regular tapes. They were just 15 minutes in length, bought from MediaLine, which is still very much in existence, but very much not selling VHS products. Before YouTube, though, the examples of your work needed to be put on tape. Generally, employers are looking for no more than ten minutes, hence the special 15-minute tapes shipped right to your home for a nominal fee.
I'd bought a box of 25, copied my resume reel onto them all, and shipped out all but one. Less than a week to my college graduation, I'd heard from no stations.
A job at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the lead-up to the Indy 500 was going to carry me through the summer, but just days before I'd get my diploma, I received a call from the news director at KBTX in Bryan/College Station, one of four Texas stations I'd applied to, but one I knew very little about. It took me about ten minutes into a 45-minute chat to realize this was an interview. There would be no flight south to check me out in person. It was a VHS tape, a paper resume and the call that would determine my fate.
By the call's end, the news director told me I was one of three people he was considering and asked what my schedule was looking like in the days ahead. I told him I was graduating Saturday and had family in town. Time has faded my memory on the exact timeline I was told, but I was due a call within a day or two or three of the graduation.
It was a call that didn't come in the window I'd anticipated. Pessimism set in, thinking I had fallen short in my first attempt at starting my professional career, but I knew I'd need to forge ahead. I needed to keep going.
And I needed more VHS tapes.
Within hours of placing my order for another box, KBTX called. I had an offer, a proposed salary and a start date. And I needed to answer that very moment. My answer was yes, leading me to a community I thought I'd be in for a year or two, but ended up loving and living in longer.
Among my belongings loaded up in Indiana within days of my job offer was a cardboard box with a whole bunch of VHS tapes. It's one I have to this day, not because I need tapes, but because every so often, I need a reminder that when hope is faded or seemingly gone, keep forging ahead, seeking a way forward, knowing that a beaten path and a road less traveled may be the one to take for a while, but believing hard work and faith can always guide you to the greatest course.