Category Archives: action

Full Circle


Roundabout traffic sign

It’s funny how some things can only be seen through the rear view mirror.

I remember taking the trip down for the interview. I was 23 at the time so had plenty of driving experience, but nothing could really prepare me for the Appalachian Mountains.

It rained the entire way and I was at the will of a GPS that chose to take me through the backwoods. Going up the mountains in a downpour was a struggle in my little Ford Focus, going down was worse. Spinning out in any situation is bad, but along a mountain side the stakes are a little higher. It was one of the very few times I’ve actually feared for my life.

Eventually I meandered my way into North Carolina. By then it was dark and still raining, but I trudged on to Spruce Pine. Despite being a town of 2,000, I couldn’t figure my way around town. Everything was closed and no one was on the road. Finally I managed to reach my destination, the Pine Valley Motel. I was wondering if had made a huge mistake.

I awoke to a clear skies and finally saw the mountains that the rain and darkness had been hiding from me. But I couldn’t dwell on them too long because I had an interview to attend although I’d hardly call it that. My soon to be boss took me around the county and practically warned me about what I’d be signing up for. I think he was just impressed I drove all the way down.

After the interview I walked through downtown Spruce Pine, which consists of two streets, Upper and Lower. It’s a quirky town. I think people either love it or hate it. Eating lunch at the renowned Knife and Fork restaurant (Google it) I became the former.

The rest is history. I took the job. I became the only reporter covering a county of 15,000. I took pictures during the county’s numerous annul festivals, I covered the ups and down of high school sports, I covered everything from local government to crime. I made mistakes, I learned and made new mistakes.

Slowly I not only learned my new job, but also about a new community, region and way of life. Throughout that entire time I didn’t think I was doing anything special. In fact, I thought I was doing a pretty subpar job.

Last fall I made that same trip to North Carolina on my way back from Thanksgiving in Ohio, two weeks prior to accepting my new job. Once again it rained the entire time, maybe even worse than my first trip. But this time I wasn’t scared, I was simply heading home.

That’s when it hit me, what i had done two years ago. I, shy and awkward Andrew Mundhenk, left everything and everyone I knew on a whim for a chance in North Carolina. Not only to North Carolina, but to a town of about 2,000 people. Who does that? Certainly not many 20-somethings I know.

I’m not going to lie. It wan’t easy. Not surprisingly, there’s not too many people my age living in Spruce Pine and even less to do in the way of entertainment. The loneliness was crippling at times. Nothing replaces home.

I see the experience as a gift now. I truly learned how to live by myself. I’m not talking about learning how to pay the bills and cook food. I mean truly learning how to live with yourself. It’s not something everyone can do, which is why there’s so many people stuck in miserable relationships. They’re afraid of being alone. I’m not.

Between that time and now I’ve gotten a new job at a bigger paper and now live in Asheville, which has a little bit more going on to say the least. According to my new boss, part of the reason I got the job was because she impressed with my apparent maturity to move away from home and stick it out in a small town for a couple years. Asheville is where I’ve wanted to live since I first stopped in two years ago. I’m ready to take on the next chapter of my life and all the challenges it’s now throwing at me. There are many.

But I will never forget my time in Spruce Pine and Mitchell County. I’ve never lived in a place where everyone knows you and you know everyone. I take pride knowing that a 20-something-year-old Yankee came down to a small town in the south and was able to tell what’s going on in their community.

As a closing note I’d encourage anyone who has lived in the same place their entire life to take a chance and leave if possible. SO many people I know said they were going to leave Ohio only to stay put and root in.

I’m not saying Ohio sucks and the only way to be happy in life is to leave your hometown. Moving makes you appreciate what you had and what you have. I hold it to be a necessary step in becoming a well-rounded individual, but what do I know.

I’ve made many mistakes in life and continue to do so, but taking the leap was not one of them.

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The difference a year makes


What a year in weeklies  looks like.

What a year in weeklies looks like.

On August 5th, 2014 a young Midwesterner came to the southern Appalachian Mountains fresh out of college to start off what he hoped to be a successful writing career.

The first couple of months were a blur of course. After spending the last 23 years of his sheltered life under his parents roof, he was now juggling how to write articles and take photos on top of learning about the downside of student loans, how to balance a budget, how to “cook” and …

I could spend this time telling you the entire story but I think that would be rather boring. After all what I did was nothing special, but I’m still proud of the fact I made it a whole year on my own considering where I started.

The truth is I wish my past year was the fairy tale story about the rookie reporter who came to town and unearthed some deep seated corruption, but it was nothing of the sort. In fact, it was probably the exact opposite. Needless to say I got a serious wake up call from many departments of realty.

Obviously in the past year I’ve learned a lot about being a reporter: learning how to write, taking printable photos, finding out what’s newsworthy, developing sources etc. I’m well aware it will take a long time before I am a master of my craft. More importantly, however, I’ve learned some more important lessons not just about work, but life in general.

Not the least of which is how to take a proper beating to your ego. Naively I entered the job thinking I would have some sort of small town celebrity status by being the reporter and a northerner. Hahaha, that didn’t exactly come to fruition the same way it did in my mind. I’ve never considered myself as a guy with a big ego but opening my writing up to the public firing squad for critique did sting a bit.

This past year I can say I’ve dealt with a lot of growing pains with very little, if any, signs of reward from it. I felt as if every time I did something good I got a kick to the crotch from something else that put me right back down. Every time I needed a moral victory I just couldn’t get it. It was incredibly frustrating to say the least.

The give up button was dangling right in front of my face. I missed my friends and family (still do) and my continued frustrations only added kindling. The feeling would come and go, each time stronger than the last. It would’ve been so easy to just throw in the towel.

But I didn’t give up. I somehow said no to the beast every time. Enduring the growing pains has only made me a better as a journalist and reporter. The only way to get better is through failure and by giving up on this job I would’ve gave up any hope of living a life not dictated by fear as so many people do.

Lately I’ve had to do something I’ve never really done in my life: believe in myself. I’ve had to believe I’m doing the right thing and that one day will be my day. As long as I’m putting in the work to better myself, no matter how smaller an improvement, the opinions of others don’t matter.

Looking back I can say I’m a better person than I was a year ago. I’m more humbled for sure but my willpower and confidence are better than ever before. In fact, confidence was a foreign concept to me before I took the step to leave everything I had ever known and loved to start a brand new life. Now I feel unbreakable. The worst is over and nothing is going to stop me.

It is my belief success is really just having a strong work ethic combined with the will not to give up. It just takes time.

Here’s to another year.


Never Lose Sight of Your Goals


“Be prepared to start at a small place. Take it and do it and do your very best. Always do your very very best work and have a very high bar. Be willing to work long hours and show that you care enough to do these stories, don’t watch the clock. Be willing to work in small places and work your way up. Be patient, and just do your very very best work. Never lose sight of your goals.”

Advice a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist gave to be about a year ago while I was still in school. It was part of a class project we had to do where we had to interview an expert in our field for their advice entering whatever career path we were about to take. I stumbled upon it while looking through old files on my computer and, honestly, the reminder could not have come at a better time.

Frustration would probably be the best word to describe my life recently. The feeling where I’m putting in the work and the sacrifices but I’m not seeing the results. Maybe the results are there, but they are so small they are hard to see with all the other issues, errors and setbacks.

I didn’t post this to complain about my life, quite the opposite. I believe frustrating times like this are what truly make a person. I believe true success is measured by your response when your back is against the wall, when there’s no signs of success to be found. Sure I like to reflect on my meager successes so far in my young life, but I wouldn’t be that person without the dark times. I understand I have to take the hits in order to reap the rewards. I also realize it’s going to take a long time to get to that point. A frustrating but true fact of life. After researching various figures in history who were masters at their craft, I see they weren’t born with some special talent, they worked hard and failed again and again.

At the same time I can also see how far I’ve grown from that point. Listening to the interview I could hear how nervous I was, talking at a speed of 100 miles an hour and feeling as if I was wasting his time. Listening to my side of the interview was completely cringeworthy, but my hope is some day I’ll sound like the other guy.


New Year’s Resolution 2014: Work Against Resistance


https://i2.wp.com/blog.utest.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/2014-Numbers-free-Happy-2014-New-Year-Image-Wallpaper.jpg“What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear; that means, watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

Since 2011, I’ve publicly made a new year’s resolution to better hold myself accountable to it. Every year I’ve been able to back it up. In 2011, my goal was to leave my dead-end fast food job which I had been working at for the past five years. I did that in three months my life completely changed for the better. In 2012, my goal was to reach my full potential and shake off my shyness. This is a lofty goal which obviously can’t be done in a year, but in one year I reached out and secured two internships which set my career up. In 2013, my goal was to have a positive mindset. No self-putdowns, no negative mindset. This positive mindset gave me the ability to go out on my own and kick off my career. These goals are not simply new year’s resolutions. They are new ideals which I add on to my life every year, each one building off the other. I continue to work on these past goals to this day.

Now it’s time for 2014.

From 2009-2013 the end goal was finding a career and graduating. My mentality was focused on gaining experience and building my resume so I could get a job. I worked relentlessly with that one goal in mind. Now that I have that I have a job I feel like I’ve let my foot off the gas. Like it’s over, but it’s not over. It’s just the beginning.

My New Year’s Resolution for 2014 is to work against resistance, not just external forces but internal as well. In fact it’s the internal resistance that worries me the most. It’s so easy to come home and sit on the couch after work waste the rest of the night away doing nothing. After going to school full-time and working two jobs I forgot what so much free time felt like. My goal for the next year is to work on the little things. To better utilize my free time. The comfort zone is truly a horrible thing in my eyes and it is so hard to escape it. Some people never do.

It’s not just laziness I must get over. Fear is always present. While I’ve taken risks and learned how to control my anxieties I still have a long way to go. I must work on my interviewing skills and my source building skills.

What I realize more than ever is success isn’t just something that one works at for a certain amount of time and then stops. Success is a mentality and a lifestyle. After researching some of the most successful people in history I realize it is an everyday thing, down to the smallest details. Every single day stacks up.

Personally my motivation comes from the future vision of myself. The thought of living a mundane life controlled by fear scares me more than anything. It’s time to put my foot back on the gas. I will not let fear or laziness control my life.

No more laziness. No more fear. 2014 is the year of doing for me.

Work Against Resistance and, as always, I wish you luck in achieving your own goals.

What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear; that means, watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/jiddukrish130342.html#WUkkiA5TRrhIvW7x.99

What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear; that means, watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/jiddukrish130342.html#WUkkiA5TRrhIvW7x.99


Why I Became a Reporter


On the way to Mt. Mitchell

On the way to Mt. Mitchell

Throughout my life lots of people have asked me what I want to major in or what career I want to go into. However, I don’t think anyone has ever asked me why I wanted to become a reporter, and if they did I probably didn’t answer them honestly.

Sure there’s lots of reasons as to why I became a reporter. I like learning and understanding new ideas, people and concepts. I’m genuinely interested in informing people on what’s going on in the community. I also like to write and generate content that people want to see. But one reason really trumps all the rest.

It forces me to confront my greatest fears.

My general social anxiety. My fear of confrontation. My lack of assertiveness. All are directly addressed being a reporter. It’s no secret for those who know me that I’m a shy guy. As I’ve said before I’m not ashamed to be an introvert but there’s a difference between being quiet and avoiding social confrontation due to fear. I am a firm believer that if you aren’t facing your fears you truly aren’t living at all. Looking back most of the major milestones in my life I walked into them fear and hesitation but did it anyway.

It’s not just about my social fears though. I never let the constant, almost daily news I heard of reporters being laid off and newspapers shrinking dissuade me. I didn’t give into a more stable career. I didn’t look at the employment numbers or the money. I didn’t listen to the little online surveys that determine what career would best fit my personality. In fact, most surveys said the last field I should go into is journalism. I knew what I wanted to do and I wasn’t going to let anybody or anything stop me from doing it. I have to believe if I’m constantly developing my skills and moving with the times that I will remain employed. If not, at least I tried.

This is truly what I want to do and I feel. I hope to one day become an investigate reporter. I want to do something to better the world no matter how small it is. I do know though it’s going to take some effort on my part. I have to come out of my shell but I’ve already seen a large improvement in the two months that I’ve kicked off my career. I’m excited to see how far I’ve developed a year from now.

It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses. I have a lot to learn and it will likely take a long time to be the type of reporter and person I want to be. I’m not judging anyone’s lifestyle but I have seen so many people in my life with such potential only to see it pissed away. I applaud anyone who takes a chance and pursues what they truly want in life.

Having a big salary, big house with the picket fence, wife and kids, and job security is nice but I would like to think there are other ways to live a satisfying life. Entering an “evolving” field only makes me more determined to work harder.


The Ultimate Leap of Faith


Bakersville, NC

My new home.

A lot has happened since the last time I’ve posted.

I put my money where my mouth was. I proved that I love my fear. I picked up everything I’ve owned and known in Ohio and accepted a newspaper job in beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina.

I’m a week in so far and I can already tell it’s going to be a great experience for me. I’m learning how to take photos and cover a variety of different topics from sports to hard news. I also realize I have a long way to go before I become a successful journalist. Hopefully the paper puts up with me until then.

I always knew I wanted to leave Ohio. Not because it’s a bad state but because I wanted to see another part of the country. It’s one thing to say I wanted to move but when the time actually came for me to follow though it got hard. While it may be easy for some it was hell for me. Leaving all my friends and family, leaving the only place I’ve ever known. But while making the decision I saw two distinct paths: one where I stay in my comfort zone for the rest of my mediocre life and the other where I take a chance and realize my dream of exploring new areas, meeting new people and learning a new culture.

I needed this. I needed to be ripped out of Ohio before my roots grew too deep in my comfort zone. I felt like if I didn’t take this leap of faith now why would I do it when the next big situation came up, or next one or the one after that.

When making some of the greatest decisions in my life I have always been seconds away from wanting to pull the plug but somehow I managed to convince myself to push though. It’s almost like the more you fear something it’s all the more reason you need to do it. It’s still too soon to determine what this decision holds in store for me, but all that matters to me is that I took a chance, I didn’t give into fear and I followed through with what I felt would be good for me.

Of course I would be a lair if I said I did it alone. There is no way I could’ve done this without the almost unanimous support of my family, friends and former professors. I feel so grateful to have such a strong support group.

I know what I did wasn’t amazing or something that no one else has ever done before. I’m also not saying everyone who chooses to stay home is a coward. I just hope my experience can serve as a small example to those who are afraid of moving out of their comfort zone, even though doing so could be the best thing that has ever happened to them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m suffering from homesickness more than I ever thought I would. I just hope and know that it will get better with time.

I plan to update this blog more often for my friends and family back home and for my followers as well.


Establishing Good Habits


If you’re interested in bettering yourself, no matter what the skill, developing good habits will be essential. Deciding that you want to change your ways is the easy part.  The hard part is obviously following through with it. That means every day. No exceptions!

How to Start

First you must establish what you want to change or what new habit you want introduced in your life. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. In fact, small changes might be easier to digest at first. Also, try to introduce only a few new habits at a time. You don’t want to be constantly shaking things up all the time. Allow the dust to settle for a little bit before taking on something new. It’s good to have a little grounding.

You might see the immediate benefits or your new habit…or you might not. The important thing is to give it a chance either way. Some habits take a while before they finally pay off.

Get Ready for Resistance

It might be easy to practice your new “habit” for the first couple of days. After a while, however, you may find that it gets harder and harder to stick to it. Eventually you start doing it every other day, then a couple of times a week and the next thing you know your back to where you started. The old habit has been ingrained in your brain for so long that it will take about a month for it to rewire itself to the new habit. In the meantime, you may find that your body and mind will throw whatever they can to resist the change. Humans are naturally habitual beings. Most of us do not like change. If you feel the change you are making is the right thing to do then it is very important to persevere no matter how tired, hungry, etc. you are. Taking one day off could mean the difference.

How to Get Past the Rough Patch

Motivation can only do so much. It comes and goes. It’s important to look at the good things that are happening as a result of the change, no matter how small they may be. For example, this fall I decided I wanted to meditate for 15 minutes every morning. At first I didn’t notice anything. Then I began to notice I was paying more attention in class. I used this as fuel to keep me going. After you start establishing new habits, it starts getting easier since you can fall back on the successes of your previous changes.

The Turning Point

At a certain point you feel the change has finally been made. Like you’ve made it over the hump. Like everything has finally clicked. Congrats! You’ve established the new habit. Now it should almost come automatic without having to think about it constantly. It’s still very important to not veer off the path. The old habit is still cemented in your brain and will be very easy to go back to.   

Start Now!

Don’t pick a defined date to start a change. You’re already setting yourself up for failure if you do so. An obvious example of this would be the endless amount of failed New Year’s Resolutions people make year after year. By putting off a change to later date you will most likely put it off again with the day does come, and so on and so on. There’s no reason to not start now.

Good luck!