Meredith Garofalo wrote this article in her own words with the sole purpose of inspiring young leaders to see life’s challenges and setbacks as obstacles to overcome rather than events that prevent us from living our best lives. Meredith has more than 13 years in the broadcasting business and has worked at television networks all across the US – from Chicago to Ohio, South Dakota, California, and Florida. Several journalism awards have recognized the excellent work and talent she’s shown throughout her career.
When people ask me to share my story, to talk about my success, I always have to stop for a second and pause.
I think back to the little girl who decided what she wanted to do with her life at age three, the teenager who struggled in high school, and the young adult fresh out of college who never thought she would be able to make it in her career field.
And then, I smile because I know that I was able to overcome adversity despite all my struggles, and hope that my story will motivate anyone out there who can relate to it.
The Beginning of the Storm
When I was three, my mom shared her story with me of surviving the 1974 Super Outbreak—the second-largest tornado outbreak on record. To this day, I’ve felt that her story was a sign from God that I should dedicate my life to studying storms and weather to help keep others safe.
I knew I wasn’t like the other kids when I started school– short curly hair, thick coke-bottle glasses, and a passion for science that they didn’t understand. I was the victim of bullying, as well as emotional and verbal abuse. Despite my success in my classes, on sports teams, and in my musical abilities, I always felt that I would never be able to reach my goals because I was different.
I felt this way from elementary school through to high school graduation, but don’t get me wrong… I still had my close friends, awards, and achievements that kept me going. I wanted to do my own thing, be me, and become the broadcast meteorologist I’d always dreamed of becoming. I had the support from my teachers and loved ones to get to where I wanted to go but lacked the patience and confidence at the time to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Finding My Own Thunder
College was a struggle academically. I was never good at math and many of my science classes, but I knew that I had to get my Bachelor’s of Science in Meteorology to get into my career field. Plus, it didn’t help that one of my meteorology professors told me during freshman year that, with my grades, she did not think I would be able to survive the curriculum and needed to change my major.
Thankfully, I was able to come out of my shell those four years at Valparaiso University, making amazing friends, becoming a part of Kappa Delta Sorority, singing in choirs, and being active in intramural sports and other campus activities. My hardest struggle was getting the grades to hold at least a 3.0 GPA in order to keep my scholarship– as attending a private school out-of-state was not cheap.
Nevertheless, I did it, and I cannot even begin to tell you how big my smile was walking across the stage and getting my diploma. I still thank God every day for the incredible professors, mentors, friends, and family that were there for me every step of the way. They all played roles in me getting my degree, and in my personal development.
Remember, success is NEVER, EVER, achieved alone.
Lightning Can Strike the Same Place Twice
Getting into the broadcast world is not an easy task. Still, somehow I was able to put together a demo reel from my college experience that got me my first job at a television station, WHIZ-TV, the NBC-affiliate in Zanesville, OH just weeks after graduation.
I had interned with the legendary Tom Skilling at WGN-TV in Chicago, did weather radio updates for The Jim Dedelow Show on WJOB my senior year of undergrad, and was excited for the opportunity to be out in the real world and start living my childhood dream!
It turns out that as lucky as I felt compared to other recent graduates, my time at that station was short-lived. Several months in, when I was taping a radio update, I cursed when there was feedback that went off in my ear, and it was accidentally sent LIVE over the airwaves throughout the town.
Even now, sharing that story, I am embarrassed and upset with myself that it happened, but I learned the most valuable lesson I could ever learn in TV: ALWAYS assume the microphone is live.
I felt that was the end of my career, my dream, and my life, as I knew the General Manager wanted to fire me on the spot. But I was given a second chance by my news director, George Hiotis, who allowed me to turn in a letter of resignation to start over with a clean slate. To this day, I still am thankful and refer to him as the man who gave me a chance to start my dream career.
Of course, being a kid right out of college who quickly left her first TV station did put a black mark on my resume, and for months I worked three jobs in town while sending out countless demo reels and resumes to News Directors all over the country.
Finally, I got my second shot to get into television at KOTA Territory News, the ABC affiliate in Rapid City, SD. After about a year and a half there being not only a meteorologist but a producer, anchor, and one-woman band reporter, I had a chance to move back to my home state to work in Toledo, OH.
But yet again, after a few months at the station, it didn’t work out and I was again wondering if I should just give up and pursue a different career path. At that time, I thought losing my job twice was failing.
Today, I know it was just a part of the journey, and my lightning helped motivate me more than ever never to give up – no matter how hard you hit the ground. I wasn’t meant to be in those places – there was something greater waiting for me. In the words of my late mentor and friend, Rich Apuzzo, you’re nobody in this business until you get let go a few times.
Here Comes the Sun
I’m now more than a decade into my broadcast career and wouldn’t change a bit about my story because it’s what got me precisely to where I was meant to be. I’ve received several awards for my work both in broadcasting and volunteering, including the first-ever Decade Achievement award from my alma mater.
I’ve covered incredible stories in the field, interviewed some of the top scientists and leaders in the nation, and have been on-air for historical weather events. I even had the chance to perform our national anthem at a Denver Broncos game in 2018!
To be successful, we need to fail, to fall down, learn tough lessons, and at times start over again. But we also need always to stay focused and believe in ourselves, no matter what anyone says. Be yourself, dream big, and know that anything is possible with hard work.
Many of the best things in life take hard work, but in the end, they come with memories that last a lifetime. While I’ve accomplished a lot in my career, I am not done yet, and I look forward to what’s next while appreciating what I’ve had and still have right now.
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