Being a journalist can be hard. For a lot of people, it’s a lifestyle more than a career, and it involves a lot of work for not a lot of money.
It’s a passion, no doubt, but very few people can survive on passion for their job alone, and I’d hazard a guess that even some of those who do don’t exactly do so willingly.
My first job out of college was as a newspaper reporter in Silverdale, Washington, which put me a ferry ride or a one-plus hour (ish) car ride away from most of my friends and family in Seattle. The paper’s name didn’t carry a ton of prestige (it was a free twice-weekly), the pay may have technically put me below the poverty line (I’m not sure where the poverty line was at the time) and my duties as an education reporter meant that I spent a healthy number of nights hanging out at school board meetings.*
It was lonely, difficult and sometimes discouraging. I loved the job, but sometimes coming home to a cold, single-bedroom apartment, stuffing down a PB&J and going to bed just wasn’t enough.
Fortunately, I had an incredibly understanding then-girlfriend, who is now my wife, Nikki. Nikki traded weekends with me, making the one-plus hour commute from Seattle to Silverdale, and also constantly needled me about looking for ways to do my job better, more efficiently and/or more creatively. She, while working in downtown Seattle and meeting with people like Tom Brokaw and Madeline Albright, listened with genuine interest to my stories about trekking out into the Kitsap County woods to interview whatever local yokel I needed to talk to for my latest story on land use. She always pushed me to demand more from myself and my job, and she believed that I could get any job I wanted (I manage social media for KIRO 7 in Seattle now, so, +1).
I’m not so arrogant as to think that this is what everyone needs, but I do believe that no one’s an island, and in order to be better, you need another person — a significant other, a friend, a family member, a mentor — pushing you. In journalism especially, your job can take over your life: You live by other people’s schedules, you end up working overtime for no overtime when you’re not supposed to, you eat terribly and exercise irregularly — it can get out of hand pretty easily. Which is why it’s so important to find someone who can pull you back into reality and remind you why the hell you’re doing all this to begin with.
*I make it sound bad in that paragraph, but that was a really good first job.