I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was six years old.
I learned how to read when I was four and was a voracious reader. I loved my Pony Pals books (about a group of four fifth-grade girls and the adventures they had with their ponies) and weird history books, like the one my grandmother bought me about the Tower of London. I had diaries and wrote little stories and said that my dream was to become a children’s book writer (and illustrator! Too bad art skills never kicked in for me). When I was in the sixth grade, I wrote a story about two cats who worked together to find buried treasure, then married each other and bought all the tuna in the world. I even included a little page of “Fun facts from the author!” explaining hidden easter eggs in the book and how I thought up the truly complicated story.
I guess I was a bit of a narcissist, but what kid isn’t?
I got into journalism in high school and wrote for my school newspaper, which wasn’t really published that often. To get my journalism high, I wrote for the Neopian Times, which, if you’re a dork, you may recognize as the fictional newspaper for the once-popular online game Neopets. I wrote about keeping your Zafara happy and the best time to awaken the Snowager and a bunch of other geeky stuff. When you’re 14, your options for a creative outlet are limited, so I took what I could get.
I entered university as a declared journalism major. I was a huuuugggeee music snob then; I read Pitchfork and Rolling Stone and spent $10 on the imported copies of NME at Barnes and Noble cause British music was better, you uncultured American jerks. I wanted to work for Spin or Rolling Stone someday (and got really tired of the comparisons to the kid in Almost Famous) and to be as well known as Hunter S. Thompson, though maybe without the many, many problems.
I decided to concentrate more on news and feature writing after I spent time actually hanging out with music journalists at my school, all of who were giant, pretentious assholes. This lead to a few years working at my school newspaper, which lead to two internships abroad, covering stories from the shocking teen pregnancy rates in Ecuador (where 1/4 of new mothers are under the age of 18) to a school for disabled children fighting for financial survival to the best, coolest new dog hotels.
I’m not proud of every article.
Writing, namely journalism, has been my plan for myself for so long. I love looking for stories. I love thinking of the perfect words to describe something. I love seeing my name in print. I even love the late nights and the fight against deadlines and rushing to make print. As a journalist, you’ve got an important, unique job: you’re a neutral observer to the world. You give people the information they need to know, so that they can do whatever they want with it. This is both an exciting and disappointing time to be a journalist; the 24-hour news cycle is turning it into a pissing match, of who can make the most ridiculous and click baity headline, of who can get the most page clicks because of something shocking. It’s also exciting because its constantly changing with technology, and because people who wouldn’t call themselves journalists (Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee, John Oliver) are delivering some of the best reporting you can find.
The problem for me is, I’m not a part of it right now, and I really, really want to be. Teaching is ok. Teaching is the easiest job for an expat to get, and it pays well and gives decent vacation time. But it isn’t the thing I’ve spent my life wanting to do. Mad props to those people who grew up knowing they wanted to be teachers; I can’t think of a more important job. But I wasn’t that kid. I was the kid who pretended I was a reporter in the dark ages and made a newspaper detailing the atrocities of the black death. I was the teen who sat down after school and wrote stories like “Why Lupes ROCK!” for a silly virtual pet website. And I was the adult who sat in a newsroom in a third world country, desperately trying to think of the words I needed in Spanish to finish my articles by deadline, stumbling over the conjugations and drinking cafe con leche to stay awake.
It just sucks. It really sucks to know what it is you want to do with your life and to not be doing it. I’m trying to stay positive but man, it can be hard. I’ve found something I’m good at and I’ve found my passion. Why can’t I find my opportunity?