While preparing for the Associated Collegiate Press conference, I tried to gauge what the setting would be in an effort to pack appropriately, but I wanted to come without expectations or set ideals. Expectations are almost always the root of my disappointment and frustration, and I find life more enjoyable the less I expect from it.
That being said, no amount of expectation, or lack thereof, could have prepared me for Michael Koretzky’s militaristic, cigar-throwing, drill sergeant session “For Editors Only: Rule with an iron fist yet wear a velvet glove.”
Part of me wishes I had walked out as soon as I heard the Russian National Anthem playing or when I saw the lyrics in English and Russian projected on the wall in synch with the blasting music. If not then, why didn’t I run when Koretzky stomped down the center aisle of the ballroom in cargo pants, combat boots and sunglasses?
Instead I sat mesmerized as Koretzky tromped about center stage, whipping a riding crop enthusiastically and shouting tips to help us become stricter, bolder editors. At the podium he had a stack of cigars, allegedly hand-rolled and brought from his home in Florida. Unexpectedly throughout the session he would send a cigar flying in the direction of someone’s head, usually in response to a particularly bold statement or question.
I left the ballroom a little shell-shocked, with the feeling that I had escaped something bizarre. I am happy to report that I was able to avert the cigar wildfire and walked free of physical injury.
If there was something to take away from this experience, it would be that I don’t have to follow every example or piece of advice given to me along the way. I had an open mindset when I entered the ballroom, Friday, and I was able to leave, having gained a resolved respect for those mentors and advisors who embody humility, patience and who seek to share their experience rather than preach. I also have a renewed distrust of anyone who wears sunglasses indoors.
While I may have missed Koretzky’s intended message, his presentation made every following session I attended seem less intimidating and all the more useful by comparison. Ultimately, it was the beginning of the rest of a fantastic and inspirational experience.