Identity crisis

Why is it that when new people meet you, they want to “know what you do?”

Even if they don’t come right out and say, “What do you do for a living?” you’re already halfway through telling them about your 9-to-5 job. (Or, in my case, my 7-to-3:30 job).

I do it all the time. This morning I did a 5K with my little buddy, a 3rd grader who I was paired up with to get her to the finish line. I met her a few weeks ago at her school and we did a practice 5K with the other girls in the program and their running buddies. Today was the real deal.

When I met her parents before the race started, we talked briefly about — of course — what I do. I told them that I work in clinical research at a hospital. Suddenly they seemed really impressed. I think the words “clinical” and “research” put together automatically make you seem smarter than you actually are.

But then I — of course — back-pedaled a little.

“Well, I was a journalism major though,” I said. (Minus 5 smart points right there). “My first job out of college was as a reporter at a weekly newspaper,” I added. (Minus 10 smart points for that).

Telling people that I am in clinical research feels like it’s a lie. But, it’s not. I do work in clinical research! But, it doesn’t consume my identity. I feel like my ex-job as a reporter describes me better as a person. But I also keep telling myself that I never want to go back to reporting.

What is a girl to do?

My 3rd grader “E” and I ran and walked side by side for 3.1 miles this morning in the cold, drizzly Seattle weather. At the end of the race, I asked her if she was going to keep up running now that the program was over. She replied with an, “Ummmm, probably not.” I then asked her if she was going to do this program in the spring when the next session starts and without hesitation she said, “Yes.”

Maybe E is a little like me, having a bit of an identity crisis. She wasn’t thrilled about running — what 3rd grader is? — but she is already looking forward to doing the running-based program again.

Also, let me add that E is 8 years old and just completed her first 5K. I was 14 when I became a 5K finisher.

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The not-so-pretentious runner?

While I was working at the newspaper, I was always worried that he would die while I was there, and that I would have to write his obituary. I didn’t want that responsibility. I didn’t want to write something that didn’t stand up for everything he did — which was a lot.

Now, I feel — what is it really that I feel? — that I am not at the newspaper and am unable to write his obit. I wish I could write it.

Within the last week or so as a reporter, I took care of loose ends. I sent emails to all the “important” sources, many who had become somewhat friends of mine. Hank would be included in this group. This 72-year-old man did everything he could for the community that he essentially helped build. If it was a community or service-oriented group, he was most likely a board or committee member of it. The day before my last day on the job, I went to visit him at the clinic while he got his dialysis. He had been on dialysis for quite a number of years.

He kept thanking me for my contributions to the community as a reporter. I just shook off his comments with smiles because really, I felt like my  “contributions”  during the year-and-a-half were insignificant to what he did in his lifetime.

The other day I thought about him as I walked the halls of the hospital, my new job location. One of his doctors works here and he had mentioned that he would look me up next time he had an appointment.

I had a really good day today. But, it ended with the news of Hank’s death. Sure, I knew it was coming. For some reason though, it made me sad that I moved away. I didn’t think it would ever be possible to feel this way.

So, I went for a run. My head didn’t clear up, but, I ran and ran. This is what running really is to me. I love running for the social aspects of it, lots of my friends are runners (or I have turned them into runners). I like racing and trying to beat my fastest times. I like knowing that I am “in shape” and healthy.

But, during times like this, I know that I run because it keeps me sane. Otherwise, I probably would have just cried and gone to sleep early. Also, I got to see a nice sunset with the Olympics towering in the backdrop.

As Leah once said (while we were on a run,) running can be really spiritual.

Someone I recently met said runners annoy him because we are pretentious. We post status updates like “OMG I just went on a 10-mile run!” or brag about marathon times that aren’t even fast. “People don’t even need to train for half marathons, I don’t know what the big deal is,” he said. I didn’t argue. After all, I’m new at work, I want to have at least one friend, even if he thinks I am pretentious.

I don’t talk and write about running all the time, anyway.

Hank, until again.

Reflections of a possible (semi)-retired journalist

The 123 area code blinked multiple times at me. Who is calling me? Why are they calling me?

It was five days after I had left my job as a reporter for a weekly community newspaper. And the “123” area code (real number changed, obviously,) startled me. It was different from my city area code and I just had a feeling it was someone calling me about something related to my old job.

I was done though. I submitted my last pay roll form. My last stories had gone to press a week ago and the paper was already out. There’s nothing I can do for them anymore. I ignored the call. I let it ring and go to voice mail — after all, I was out to lunch with a friend so it would be rude to answer. Even if it was someone I knew, I would not have answered it. The people in front of me always have my undivided attention, always.

The red light lit on my phone. Now I had a voice mail from the mystery person.

I put off listening to the message the rest of the day, worried that it was someone complaining about one of my last stories. He didn’t like it. She thinks I have a fact wrong. They want me to run a correction. Different scenarios started building in my head.

When I arrived home later, I listened to the message.

It wasn’t bad at all.

One of the last stories I wrote was about how a grandfather started a scholarship fund for local kids to support them in the sport of hockey. His young grandson died in a riptide accident a few years ago and he did it to keep his grandson’s love for hockey alive and in memory of the young man. The mystery caller was the grandfather calling to thank me for the story, adding that he had made a lot of good connections with people wanting to help and donate because of it.

I just had to call back. I didn’t have to call back though, but I wanted to.

I told him I received the message and basically thanked him for thanking me.

Since “retiring” from reporting, in two separate incidents, friends have referred to me as “the journalist.” Maybe its in my mannerisms, in the way I act. I will always be “the journalist” of the group.

But, I know that the real reason I am proud of what I did as a journalist was to get those stories out there. To teach others about something, hopefully. To help some heal. To inform others. I’ve always wanted to do meaningful work. I think that most — not all, but most — of what I did during my time as a journalist was. Will I ever return to it?

I don’t know. As we all know, journalism is a tough world out there.

I learned how to take notes on anything — Kleenex boxes in the car, for example. I learned how to be “available” at all times of the day. I learned how to survive an entire work day on a granola bar and water.

I learned so much — about budgets, llamas, homelessness, road engineering, human interaction, just to name a few — from the many people I met. It’s those people. I’ll miss them.

For someone who claims she doesn’t like talking to strangers in “real life,” I guess I did a pretty good job.

When you leave, they give you bacon

If you ever want to know just how much — or little — you are appreciated, just leave.

Soon after giving the newspaper my two weeks notice, I started slowly making the rounds to my “regulars.” My regular sources, my movers and shakers in the community. Some I called. Some I emailed. Some I met with in person. Some unbeknown to me had become my friends.

I was surprised at the response

“You go, girl!” I got in response to telling the sheriff’s office public information officer where I would be headed for my next job. He actually took the time to call me back after I sent him a brief email of my soon-to-be departure. People told me they appreciated that I was letting them know I was leaving, that it’s been great working with me. That I’ve been professional and always wrote balanced and just stories.

I told them that I was just doing my job. Many of them said that not all reporters do that though.

A few even heard from others that I was going to be leaving, and sent me kind words.

What surprised me even more was that my coworkers threw me a pizza party today for my last deadline day. And, one pizza was veggies with bacon (because they know I am a vegetarian who only eats bacon).

Is ending this “chapter” of my life bitter sweet? Or, is it “Sweet! Because I am bitter!”? I don’t know. Maybe a little of both.

Veggie bacon pizza isn’t actually that bad either.

Excuse me, have we met?

It’s one thing when your regular sources/acquaintances/friends/mom tell you you’re doing a good job, but it’s entirely different when a stranger does.

Set scene — Reporter talking to someone at a community meeting. A woman walks by and says something to reporter:

“Thank you for what you’re doing. You’re doing a great job,” the woman said as she tapped me on the shoulder.

I responded “thank you” and looked up at the woman, realizing I did not recognize her. She continued to walk down the hallway and I ran up to her and said something along the lines of, “Excuse me, sorry, I don’t remember. Have we met before?”

The woman smiled and responded “no” but that she had seen me at a recent school board meeting.

“You’re with the ——— paper, right? Keep up the good work,” she said and headed toward the door.

I replied “thanks.” I was surprised that a stranger not only took the time to thank me for my work, but allegedly recognized the value in the work that I do. Did she think I was hardworking because she has noticed the masthead of the newspaper only including one reporter’s name (mine) opposed to before when there were three? Did she think I was doing a good job because my news stories are well-written? Did she notice I have been attending even the study sessions of the school board and am therefore keeping them “in check”? I had no idea. But, appreciated the recognition.

End scene — Reporter drives home from the meeting around 9:30 p.m. but for once, in that moment, feels warm fuzzies from her job. — Cut.

And we’ve come full circle

I’ve been at my job for a year-and-a-half, according to LinkedIn. Does it annoy anyone else that LinkedIn actually makes your time at a job a month more than it actually is?

As of yesterday, I actually have been at my job for exactly one year and five months.

On my first day on the job — as a reporter for a weekly newspaper for those of you just joining us — I worked more than eight hours and ended the night at a gun club. There was a lawsuit that had to do with the group that had just been filed that day.

Yesterday, on the one-year-five-month anniversary of my job, that case has finally concluded. The judge gave her final ruling and signed the order yesterday.

The story I have had to follow for one year and five months is finally over. But, is news ever really over? No. There will always be more follows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, that there above is how I look after one year and five months at this job. Yes, those are circles under my eyes. Yes, that is a look of “well, that’s that.” Yes, I am taking a photo at work because hardly anyone else bothers to show up at the office on Fridays. All the people who were part of the team here when I started are no longer here for various reasons, all sort of doing with the same underlying reason.

Now, I just have the police scanner — that black box behind me in the photo — to keep me company.

That police scanner will sure be lonely once I leave.

The grass is always worse on the other side

If we’re into this whole “stay positive” bit, I need to think that the grass is not greener on the other side, right?

Why do we always think it’s greener on the other side of the fence?

I went to sleep early last night since I had to wake up at 5:30 this morning to finish a story before having to be at one of the high schools at 7:45 for another story. It has to do with this particular school’s restructure plan because they have failed state standardized testing for multiple years in a row. I was sitting in on an advising-type class and a senior was giving her culminating senior project presentation to a group of sophomores. She explained her “high school timeline” and what things she excelled in and what she had to work hard at. She dropped in “and then I had a child sophomore year” and went into her goal of becoming a chef and owning her own restaurant. She made it sound like having a baby while in high school was no big deal. She said it so casually. I almost thought I misheard her.

After her presentation, I got the correct spelling of her name, age and all the usual stuff a reporter should ask of the people they use in stories. I also asked her if she ever thought about dropping out or taking time off of school when she found out she was pregnant.

“No,” she said.

Everyday inspiration, every day. That’s one thing I’ve got going: Inspiring strangers.