When I decided to apply for journalism school, it wasn’t as part of a greater life plan. It wasn’t a secret dream I’d been harboring. I had considered studying journalism as an undergrad at CU Boulder, but competition was tough and I was just as happy with international relations, anyway.
The decision came about, really, as a response to a long post-college lull. I was a year and a half out of graduation and, despite all the markings of a young, spunky, highly employable 20-something (I’d interned in DC! Taught English abroad! Backpacked through Europe! I had lived!!!), I was working three part-time jobs and volunteering at an organization that told me point-blank, volunteer all you want, but don’t expect a job anytime soon.
Journalism school was just one option in a long flow chart of possible next steps. I applied to only two schools (application fees being what they are) and continued the job hunt, not entirely expecting to get in to either of them, not entirely sure I wanted to.
That was over a year ago. I finished my MSJ at the Medill School of Journalism in June–crawled through a river of shit and came out clean the other side. (Okay, it wasn’t quite as bad as prison, but I did work harder during that one year than I have in all of my other years combined.) But now that I am out–and alive–I don’t quite know what to do next.
I’ve always been jealous of people who from a young age–from birth, maybe–knew what they wanted to do with their lives and pursued that goal with absolute confidence that they would reach it. Sure, I knew what I wanted to be when I was a kid: an actress, or maybe a whale trainer at Sea World, but probably an actress, or maybe some sort of tour guide, or Secretary General of the UN, but no–dolphin trainer!
But journalist? Never journalist.
I was not that kid who wrote exposés on mystery meat in school lunches, or the precocious tween who talked herself into a copy editor position at the local paper, or the 16-year-old who worked his way up from paperboy to Pulitzer-winning gumshoe reporter before he was 20. And I never will be. I will simply be that gal who studied international relations, loves to travel, loves to write, and thought journalism would be a lovely way to combine it all.
But is it enough? Am I committed enough to rise to the ranks of, say, a Kelly McEvers, or a Lauren Bohn, or a Michael Hastings, or even of some of my classmates who are doing absolutely incredible work just months after graduation? I worry about that sometimes. I haven’t written or reported anything in months (my summer internship involved little more than cutting and pasting and hitting ‘Publish’ on other people’s stories), but I’m happy I feel myself missing it.
I may never be as committed to the field as I maybe should be. I think I can be satisfied if I end up in a different path in life (if, say, that dolphin trainer gig ends up working out after all). Journalism–like medicine, like religion, like politics–is less a job than a lifestyle. I don’t know that I’m convinced it’s the right life for me yet, but at least at the moment, I can’t imagine doing anything else.