A lot has been going on lately and life has been a bit in flux.
Last Friday, after more than seven years in the journalism business, most of those in broadcasting but print before that, I left the news business. As of this week, I am jumping into a brand new career in the realm of public relations.
It’s a move that I am incredibly excited about after years of just ‘feeding the beast’ to get news programs on the air with whatever content was possible amid shrinking staffs and constantly-breaking, outdated machinery (our TV station is one of the few in the country that is still editing on videotape and has yet go non-linear).
At first I was a bit scared of making a leap into another career. This was the longest I had been in any job and it was all I had known for awhile. What about all those familiar faces that I would no longer see day in and day out?
Then I realized that I was doing what we often do when we look back on something – idealizing. I wasn’t taking a look around me, but rather trying to make all that I had dealt with, put up with, and been frustrated by in my business and turn it into a footnote, while putting the good times at the front of my mind.
A very bad idea.
Sometimes, we lose ourselves in what we do. For me, it became very easy. Between the long days, often taking texts or phone calls at home, or doing work online in the evenings after I left work or on the weekends, I got caught up in it. When it’s the medium of television, that goes even further, because you’re not only taking on the identity of your work for yourself, but to the public as well. So many people would stop us in the grocery store and want to talk about who they didn’t like at the station, or why they didn’t like a particular story. It didn’t matter if the person they were complaining about was a friend or colleague, or if I had anything to do with the story they didn’t like. I worked there, thus, I was their chance to vent.
One of the biggest reasons I left was that I was just plain burnt-out on news. In the position I had, I was looked to for many problems for many shows. So, although I walked in at 8 to start getting things together for the noon news, by 10:30 or 11, the evening producer would be looking for what people were doing for the 5. There were many times we were still scrambling to get the Noon on the air and I was running around, frustrated, trying to figure out the 5, the 6, then soon after, the 10 and the 11, etc. It was a never ending cycle. In many jobs, when you finish something, you can take a sigh of relief. “Phew. I finished.” In news, there’s no such thing. You run yourself into the ground for one show and then you better be ready to do it all over again for another show in just a few short hours.
It may have been exciting and new in my twenties, but now, with years gone by and the little guy growing like a weed, it just wasn’t for me anymore.
I was coming home with chest pains, going to work each day, anxiety-ridden about what was coming and I knew that I was coming home as a person I didn’t want my son growing up with. I knew, deep down, that if I stayed on the path I was on, I would be dead before age 50, keeled over my desk. I wasn’t what I wanted my little guy seeing as an example of how to be, or how life should be.
Yes, you can say ‘well, it’s a job’ but you can rationalize and glorify anything when you want to. There is an allure for many to be ‘in the TV business’ or to have people know who you are. In the end, though, what matters is how you balance that, and what you trade off for your own happiness.
So I started looking outward, and when this opportunity in public affairs at a college campus presented itself, looking for someone with a background in journalism, I couldn’t leap fast enough. A new set of challenges, an exciting new start, great hours, holidays off, more time for my family. Time on the weekends and nights to spend with them or work on my passions, be it this blog, my comic series, or get back into some fiction writing. How could I say no?
I know a lot of people these days measure success in different ways. I’m not one to measure it by how many people know me, how much time my face was on television, or how many Facebook friends or followers I had. For me, it’s about the quality of the life you choose to lead. Moving to a job that may not have the ‘glamour’ of my previous job may seem like a downward step to some, especially those who don’t know me. For me, though, it’s the chance to have my own life again, to carve out a future with my family and spend time with the passions that fuel me but have had to be put on the back burner for years as work became more and more consuming.
It was a bittersweet goodbye. I got choked up thinking of the people who I like at work who I’ll miss seeing everyday. Then, I think of the folks who made it miserable to work there, be they certain colleagues or management.
I could have left on a bitter note, given the challenges placed before me by corporate higher-ups during my transition. However, I decided I was going to leave the better person and just finish out the time, a full six weeks. I gave too much of myself over the years to have it all end badly. Besides, I was allowed the opportunity to say my proper goodbyes to the audience and my friends and colleagues, a day which I will remember fondly.
I’ll miss many of the people, but I honestly won’t miss the stressful drudgery or the lack of compassion or common sense that ran rampant there.
The day that I left my news job, Meg found this cartoon online. While not the exact same situation, it pretty much summed up everything about how I was feeling as of late when it comes to having the life drained out of you by work and not living your life:
I’ve mentioned previously here and there that I work in a newsroom by day. That can have some pretty high-energy days, but can certainly have some depressing ones based on the content.
This is what awaited me at my day job Wednesday.
As I had to read the words of this story during a newscast, I was feeling physically ill inside from the entire situation and the questions, possibilities and theories that go along with it.
This may look a little familiar if you’ve seen cable or network news in the past few days, as the story has now gone national. It started here, though, right in my own hometown.
The day this happened, I came into work late. I had been volunteering at a fundraiser breakfast for a local historical society with my wife and little boy in attendance. As we left, I got a text message from my boss: “police press conference. Missing baby.”
My heart sank as I looked in the backseat and saw my little guy, only two months older than this child. When I eventually got to work and started the newscast, I was dumbfounded.
The mother was gone before the child disappeared. The father hadn’t reported the kid missing for two weeks. Two weeks?! And he did so only after a confrontation about the child’s whereabouts from grandparents who were getting suspicious?!
I follow our little guy around the living room afraid he might bump his head, and someone left a baby out on a porch by themselves at nine months old? Things don’t add up, the police have admitted it doesn’t add up, and the saga and search continues as the national media begin to turn their spotlight on our area.
If something DID happen to this child, as is often being implied or theorized, I can’t help but wonder why things are so unfair. We have friends who are going through hoops and hoops in an effort to adopt. They have all the love in the world to give and are going through everything to be deemed acceptable for it to happen. Yet, there are parents giving birth to children who they won’t give an ounce of care or attention to. I just don’t understand it.
Not that my wife and I ever feel like we take our son for granted, but it generated a lot of conversation between the two of us about just how lucky we are.
He may have bad days (don’t we all?) and he may be a bit challenging, but even on his worst days, we are still do incredibly blessed that he is here and he is safe and he is with us.
Hug your little ones extra tight tonight, please. I know I did.