Saturday, April 13, 2013

Fake it 'til you make it.

There was this time during my college days that for some reason Steve was on campus with me ... probably a weekend when we went to see a play or something, as I was the editor of the entertainment section of the college newspaper and covered a lot of productions and visiting artists. As we worked our way around campus, he would hang back while I approached people for interviews, and at some point Steve commented to me that he didn't know how I could just walk up to people and start talking to them and asking questions.

I took it as an amazing compliment from my boyfriend-at-the-time, this guy who had already gone out into the world and begun to make a living for himself. Someone I looked up to.

I've remembered that moment all these years, and while that feather in my cap is a little dusty these days I still think of how I felt that day - how proud I was - at times when I need a little boost in morale. I was a confident gal and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. Through four-plus years of college I never once wavered in my choice of majors - it was journalism all the way, baby.

Fast forward a few (or several) years through graduating college, getting married and having a baby, landing that job as a reporter - not the dream job with National Geographic, but the dream job at the hometown daily - and then buying a house and having another baby. Life happened in all kinds of ways and after just a few years in my dream career I felt called to be at home with those babies. So in my head and in my heart I made a plan, and I prayed that God would open doors for our family and allow it to happen.

You know what having children does to you? It humbles you. It reminds you that you are a very small player in this Great Big World and oh, by the way, you're probably doing it all wrong.

It also messes with your hormones. Looking back, I'm pretty sure a smidge of post-partum depression kept its gnarly fingers wrapped around my brain and blocking my face from the sunshine for months after Rachel was born. But that's a whole series of posts for another time.

My point here is ... somewhere along the way I lost my mojo. I still loved writing, but I didn't like being a reporter anymore. So after many sleepless nights, countless conversations with Steve about it, lots of analyzing and re-analyzing, I jumped ship. I continued to (and still do) write a column for the newspaper a couple times a month, but I left my desk in the newsroom for a job where I could still use my communications skills without being so "out there" anymore. Then after three years at that job, I finally made the leap to being a full-time mom and homemaker.

My last day at work was April 2, 2008.

Last week, five years to the day later - and more than eight years after leaving the ol' newspaper biz - I picked up my reporter's notebook again.

It was not without much consternation.

It's not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. The gig, I mean. It's part-time (read: whenever they call). I can take assignments or pass on them depending on my schedule or ... I dunno, whether I really feel like doing it. And it's certainly not going to make me rich. But I swear I stopped breathing for a second when I got that e-mail asking if I was interested. Because somewhere along the way that confident college gal began to wonder if she was really good enough. All the compliments and kudos in the world weren't enough to counter the few silly mistakes I'd made that only I remember and the biting criticisms that stuck with me and chipped away at that armor I had surrounded myself with ... that thick skin every budding journalist is told they'll need to develop. I hated admitting that I had burned out on my career before I had even hit the age of 30. Sticking my toes in the water again made me feel vulnerable. Just the thought of starting over again, albeit on a very limited basis, was daunting.

Steve jokes that when I have a problem it becomes everyone's problem. What can I say? My mama taught me to share. I am anxious and an over-analyzer by nature, but over the years I have developed my own coping mechanisms, one of which is to hash it out either with a loved one (or three) or on paper (or keyboard). Fortunately I am blessed with a handful of amazing friends who collectively understand what it feels like to live with anxiety like I do, the sometimes crushing responsibility of telling other people's stories to the world (and getting them right) day after day, and the energy it takes to ignore that inner voice that loves nothing more than to fuel the flames of self doubt.

And man, I love to write. And I love to listen to people. This is my God-given talent; there is no doubt in my mind about that. So the nerves and the juggling things at home to create my own work space and time ... they are worth it. Because as much as I try to calm the chaos of our everyday lives - the kind of chaos that comes with daddy working on the road, me virtually single-parenting, and a house full of kids and animals - there is a special kind of rush that comes from taking a pile of scribbled notes from half a dozen interviews and weaving those words together into a cohesive and relate-able story, on a deadline. That never gets old.

So ... this will be an adventure for me. For my whole family, probably, because ... ya' know ... I'm so good at sharing.


But I'm doing it for me.  And I will be just fine.

1 comment:

  1. Good luck Jen. I know you can do it and be amazing at it!