“So what are you majoring in?”
“I’m a journalism major.”
“What are you studying in school, dear?”
“Mass comm, I’m a journalism major.”
“Wow, that’s a tough place for a Christian right now.”
These two responses are basically the only responses I got when I revealed my deep dark secret:
I was a journalism major.
Not the flashy, successful sister of PR, not the go-getter mom of marketing, the sensible brother in finance or the successful dad in the sciences.
No, I was likened to the cranky uncle or crazy grandpa who forecasted doom and gloom, or that annoying aunt who was out of touch with “the real America.”
I mean, at the time, I loved what I was learning. I loved writing and learning how to craft a story. I loved learning about the history of journalism in America. Not until years later did I realize I carried a lot of shame toward my degree. I didn’t realize it until this fall when I attended my first writing conference. Among many of the doubts I’ve battled over the past year, I felt ill-prepared with my degree, wishing I had majored in any number of things that seemed like they would’ve better prepared me for this writing journey.
One of the speaker/authors I met was Lindsey O’Connor. She is a journalist based out of Colorado. (I talked about her book in the January Recap) Through her sessions and through other sessions, I began to reconnect my education with my passion. I stopped Lindsey in the hall at one point, and shared a few of my concerns and doubts. She was so genuine in reassuring me that I should be proud of my degree. The whole goal of writing is to tell a story, to communicate a thought. The fact that I had already been trained to tell stories neatly and efficiently was a point in my favor. The fact that I had not only been edited, but had practice in editing, set me ahead of most of the crowd.
For the first time, a different emotion welled up when I thought about my degree: pride.
I reflected on some of my favorite interviews from my time at school. A few always stand out. One was an interview with a professional cellist. I was so struck by the depth of his passion and the extent of his expertise. I left thinking, this is why I do what I do. People are endlessly fascinating.
I also got to interview three exchange students from Wales, two girls and one guy. They were so nice and let’s not pretend I wasn’t totally doing this interview for the accents. (Just kidding it was an assignment. But really) I was blown away when the guy commented that he just loved the homes here in Oklahoma. Excuse me? You like our homes? That’s not how it’s supposed to work. But no, he was enthralled with the architecture, while casually mentioning his house was from the 15th century.
Again I left thinking this is why I do what I do.
I don’t really care to watch the Oscars, but I tuned in last Sunday because I wanted to see how the movie “Spotlight” would do. I was thrilled that it won Best Picture. Movies like “Spotlight” show the power of true words spoken at the right time. The Boston Globe journalists stood up for people who couldn’t, and said what others wouldn’t. Same goes for journalists like Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, and many many others. There’s a lot wrong with our media today. There’s a lot of journalists who don’t do their job right, and they hurt people in the process.
But there are others out there doing tough work. The tough work of telling true stories that change lives. That’s something worth giving an Oscar to.
I realize many writers get their start as a journalist, but perhaps because of where I live, and the circles I run in, I have personally struggled to justify how I spent four years of my life. But not anymore. I am proud of my degree. I’m no Bob Woodward by any stretch of the imagination, but I am proud to craft words in my little corner of this world. Because words change lives. Even little phrases and sentences. Words have power I can’t even imagine. And those words will outlive me.