Here’s something I’ve noticed among many of my journalist friends: For people who spend their days interacting with the public, we are a pretty lonely bunch.
The older you get, the harder it is to maintain relationships (both romantic and friend) because of work and school. Being a journalist makes that 100x more difficult due to the uncertainty of a schedule and having to travel to various places at a moment’s notice. I spend so much time perusing the internet for my next story, I spend so much time editing photos, and I spend so much time blogging. All of these things are typically done alone. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a woman who loves her personal space; bother me when I’m in my editing flow and rains of fire and wrath will come upon you. I feel most happy when I’m all tucked in my blankets and comfy pants editing through a killer take of something I was excited to cover. I feel most accomplished when I am able to shed light on an issue that will lead to helping someone, or at the very least spread awareness. However, sometimes it just really sucks to have to watch all of your friends have fun without you. While they’re posting photos of their bar hopping, birthday parties, vacations and themed parties on social media, you get to scroll from behind the illumination of a screen while you’re writing and editing late into the night. FB and PS split screen style.
Most of my journalism work happens on weekends, holidays or at a moment’s notice. I love shooting that type of stuff because it’s always the most visual and exhilarating to me, which is why I do what I do. However, that comes with the price tag of never really being able to make solid plans or missing birthday parties and milestone celebrations in the lives of those close to you. It’s not always the most fun being the one documenting the event instead of participating, which is why I always try to do both (better photos and more fun!). I don’t regret missing out, so don’t take this as some type of “oh my god what have I done with my life I don’t want to be a journalist anymore” type of post. Those regrets fly right out the window when I’m in the middle of a protest, photo pit or other fast-paced assignment. What I regret is not putting in the effort in my relationships with people during the times I was actually free.
When you’re in journalism school and work in the field at the same time it gets exhausting. If you’re reading this you’re might be a fellow j-student who gets me. Your journalism assignments are all done outside of the actual classes on your own time, so that’s pretty much double the time spent in school. Pairing that with actual journalism assignments for work and the result is time management skills Dr. Who couldn’t even rival. When you have a day off without any interviews, shoots, transcribing or editing, it’s kind of like getting a 3D prize in a Cracker Jack box and not a sticker – it very rarely happens. People say “I want your job! It’s awesome!” Yes, it is pretty awesome, but what people fail to realize is when you’re a self-contractor with various publications you pretty much work 24/7 and there’s no one to schedule you, there’s no requests for time off and there’s no one to pick up the slack when you’re tired.
It’s not so easy to “just take off” like people tell me to do. I’m in graduate school and I freelance almost full time, so work is hit or miss. Some seasons it’s great and others not so great. Fortunately, the more I build up a clientele the more that gap closes. Now I have more leeway with money to be picky with shoots but it’s hard to get out of the mindset of feeling the need to accept every assignment offered. To be clear, I’m not simply talking about the type of journalism I do for newspapers and magazine, but also the production and design I do for private clients during the week as well. With your job consisting of dealing with hundreds of people on a daily basis, the last thing you feel like doing is interacting. You need to decompress. That was me for the past three years or so. Day off? Hell yeah, Netflix and cuddles with the cat it is.
Recently I have realized that that isn’t the right way to go about things. I’ve been trying to reconnect with old friends and go out of my way to put in the effort into making new friends as well. I’m exhausted, sure. I’m stressed, sure. But am I having a lot of fun? Yes. It’s been great reliving old stories and catching up with so many people that I can’t believe I ever put on the back burner in the first place. History will always be in the making and the news will always be there for you to cover but people close to you may not be.
So, I’m sorry to those who have invited me to their keg parties, their birthday parties, their baby showers, their weddings, their barb-be-cues, and their vacations year-after-year like clockwork only to have me decline the invite because of work. I can’t always be there, but I’ll be making a much greater effort to try to be, even if that means attending said events in-between assignments.
What’s my point in writing this? It’s to show you guys that work isn’t the most important thing, there are other things out there. My journalism work will always be my main, my top, my number one but that doesn’t mean that it also has to be numbers 2, 3, 4, and 5 too. Come out from behind your screen and go grab a beer with that friend who always “likes” your FB statues. Go to that girl’s night your best friend keeps inviting you to. Go have some coffee with that dude from your writing class who keeps commenting about how he likes all the books you’ve been reading. You can’t be a successful journalist if you don’t connect with people because you want to connect with them, not because you have to do it because of work. This was my entire problem.
Metaphorically speaking, take some time to smell the roses that you’re photographing. Epiphanies are nice.