A little, a lot of change

I’m moving out of my parents’ house at the end of the month. I have been spending all morning packing cleaning. I can’t even pack yet because I am going through all of my stuff — books, clothes, etc. etc. — and figuring out what needs to be tossed, what needs to go to Goodwill, what needs to be packed and what (little) needs to be kept at the house.

For some reason, I decided to tackle the closet first. (Some people hide everything under the bed, others keep it in the closet. Mine is the latter).

Being an avid writer since the fifth grade, I have boxes (yes, more than one) full of old journals and notebooks. Just from looking at the outside of these bound books, I can remember what (approximate) grade I was in when I wrote the contents inside. The purple flower-patterned one is from sixth grade when I really started journaling. The Harry Potter one was a birthday gift from a friend senior year of high school.

There was one comp-book (one of those college-ruled notebooks made out of “100 percent recycled materials”) in the closet, too. This one was not in one of the boxes with the others. I couldn’t remember what it was from. I thought maybe it was one from a college class that I took notes in that (for some crazy reason) I kept. No, I am not a hoarder.

I opened it up and immediately recognized it. It was the notebook I used to take notes in before my trip to Phnom Penh the summer of 2009. I received a scholarship to spend the entire summer after graduating from college, reporting at an English language newspaper in Cambodia. I had written down the contact numbers for my journalism professors, for the U.S. Embassy. I had written down my parents’ work phone numbers. I had written down my flight itinerary.

 

An evening in Phnom Penh July 2009

 

There were three other students in my program that were doing the same internship — going to a third world country on our own and reporting at a newspaper. The professors organized a seminar for the four of us a month or two before our departures. They invited a few editors from the local daily newspaper to give us advice on reporting abroad. They invited graduates who in recent years had participated in the same program to talk to us. I took notes — in the handwriting that hasn’t changed at all since then — on everything.

One of the professors had us reflect on how we were feeling in that moment, in that moment of graduating and leaving the country for a few months to be a reporter. This is what I wrote:

This is the time in my life when I am supposed to figure out who I am and what I want out of life. I will very soon be graduating from the UW and will need to know what I want to do in the “real world.” The problem is that I do not know what I really want. I know that I enjoy writing and have had fun during my time in the journalism major here, but I cannot say exactly what will come after Cambodia. I hope to learn more about myself while I’m away from home and maybe have a better idea of what I want to do with the rest of my life — or at least for a long while. 

I wrote this three years ago.

I work at a hospital now in clinical research. I can process blood on my own now. I ask participants questions about their medical history.

When participants ask me if I am going to become a doctor some day, I say “maybe” while really thinking “heck, no.” When they ask me is I am going to go to nursing school soon, I say “I don’t know” but really I am thinking “Why would I do that?”

A part of me misses reporting but I don’t want to go back to newspapers.

What I’ve learned now, that I didn’t know as a 22-year-old when I wrote that above entry, is that I don’t need to figure out “the answer to my life” right now. I’ve always been good about meeting deadlines, but for this, there is no deadline.

Often times, recent grads feel the need to “start their life and figure everything out” right after receiving that diploma. But, that’s not how life works.

I’m happy with my life. Maybe that’s the answer.

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.

A Valentine’s Day rejection isn’t as bad as you think

When I didn’t hear back from the company last week — when they said at the interview that I would hear back by Friday — I knew I didn’t get the job.

But as is all rejection, it isn’t final until you get that verbal “I’m breaking up with you” or pink slip in your inbox. I called them at 2 p.m. Friday and left a voicemail. No word by the end of the day, not even an email. Monday I was so busy at work that I didn’t get a chance to make another phone call. Still no email in my inbox from them.

Then Tuesday — Valentine’s Day — came and I was going to give them a final ring. To ask them why they have been avoiding me, or just to confirm that they had offered the position to someone else. They beat me to the punch. In my inbox mid-day was an email that included the sentence, “While your qualifications are certainly impressive, we have decided to pursue other candidates for the position.”

Rejected, yet again.

I want to know why, “I am not good enough.” I want to know why these other people are “better candidates.” I think I already know the answer though since the hiring manager alluded to me being overqualified for the position during the in-person interview. In this economy though, how can anyone be considered overqualified? Clearly, other places tell me I do not have enough experience so why should having too much experience be a negative aspect?

I just have too much love to share, I suppose.

Unlike the time last week I bawled my eyes out after finding out I would not be getting an interview at a place I for sure thought I would, I didn’t shed a tear this time.

I kind of didn’t have the energy to do all of that. To leave my office, cry in my car, become “normal” and presentable again, and go back to work. It’s too much effort. Plus, I already got my run for the day in before I had received the rejection email.

That evening I went to see “The Vow” at the movie theater. I figured, already rejected once for the day, I don’t really care if people see me alone here on V-Day. At this point, I’m more ashamed to tell family, friends, colleagues and mentors — time and time again — that I did not get hired by XYZ than the fact that I don’t have a date for Valentine’s Day. I could care less about that.

Also, because I was alone, I was able to snag a good middle seat even though I arrived five minutes late. And, I wasn’t alone. I saw one or two ladies by themselves — and even a man who was there by himself to watch a lukewarm romcom. I thought for sure his young military wife must be in the bathroom but even when the movie ended, he headed out of the theater alone.

I’m really tired. And, even though I feel like I’m alone in this job search, I know I’m not alone.

I hope my fellow job seekers had just a good Valentine’s Day as I did — or maybe even better.

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.