On An Early Alabama Mornin’

“Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all. It is not a figure of speech, or a witty saying; it is a literal fact, very momentous to us in these times.

Literature is our Parliament too. Printing, which comes necessarily out of Writing, I say often, is equivalent to Democracy: invent Writing, Democracy is inevitable . . . It matters not what rank [the reporter] has, what revenues or garnitures. The requisite thing is that he have a tongue which others will listen to; this and nothing more is requisite.” – Thomas Carlyle.

The day I signed my employment agreement for my new job, I posted a late-night bulletin [on MySpace] with a brief mention of how I sealed the deal.

It was two months to the day of me landing here in the city. I celebrated my new job with a burger and a cocktail at my favorite little watering hole around the corner, followed by an early bedtime. It was a very long couple of months. It was like being a senior in high school again and having to decide what to major in at college. “This is my WHOLE LIFE I’m deciding here.” Isn’t it cute how, back then, we felt like we were committing ourselves to a life path by filling in a box on a sheet of paper?

Except I did commit myself to a path when I chose my major. I majored in English/Journalism and knew that I would be a working journalist when I was done with school. It’s what I had wanted to do since I first observed my grampa’s daily habit of getting up before school (he was a teacher) and reading the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

That was something that mattered to him, and so it took on special significance to me. I started to read the paper after he’d left it behind on the counter. Soon, not a day went by when I wasn’t also joining my grandparents to watch the evening news. I wanted to do that – to be on TV and be a good role model for other minority kids.

But after going to grad school and finding out what the world of broadcasting was like, I decided it wasn’t for me. The backstabbing and constant relocating. Wringing out an hour’s worth of important material into a minute and thirty second microblurb. It just wasn’t for me. My love of writing and stability won out. I made my way in print journalism, winning awards and all that other fluffy shit.

When I moved here, my number one goal was to have a happier life. My number two goal was to pursue the type of writing that makes me feel fulfilled on a daily basis. I thought I’d be able to kill two birds with one stone and just find a kick-ass 9-5 that allowed me to do some writing during the day. About three weeks after I got here, a realization hit me in the pit of my stomach.

I did not come here to do what I’ve always done.

I actually knew exactly what I wanted to do. There were three things that would have made me totally happy and two of them didn’t work out. That’s not to say one of them might not work out in the future – they just weren’t going to work out when I needed them to. So, I looked to the third.

The third option – the one I chose – has nothing to do with journalism. So, the past couple of weeks, I’ve been going through a little mourning period because it feels like a piece of my identity has been chipped off. There are some jobs you go to and punch a clock and you check out. Those jobs aren’t your identity. There other jobs that define you; they are a part of your very persona.

People say I AM a doctor, an artist, a teacher or a lawyer. If you’re a journalist, you are a member of the Fourth Estate. When I signed on my employment agreement, I felt like I was turning in my membership card to the Fourth Estate. I felt like I was changing my major in the middle of my senior year, and it majorly bummed me out.

But I’d had a year to prepare for that feeling. Last year, when I decided to move here, my first plan was to go into PR (which journalists refer to as “the dark side”). That would have been a major adjustment for me as well. I’m not in public relations now, but what I’m doing is still very different than anything I’ve done before. It’s very fast-paced and intuitive. Money, power, brains and even an element of sexiness come into it.

My background suits me well here, but the growing pains are inevitable. If it weren’t for this book, I probably wouldn’t have recognized my current position for the opportunity it is. But knowing that I excel in situations where I can be strategic and deliberative (as defined by the book) means I am going to rock this fucking job. For real. And I’m going to have a damn good time doing it.

And what of the writing? All this new job means is that for the first time in my life, I will not have to worry about money. If you’ve never been broke (as in eating tuna, toast and spaghetti for 2 weeks in a row broke), then you don’t know how much mental energy it steals from all the other things you’re trying to do. And I’ve been broke (wealthy ex-fiance notwithstanding) for a long time.

I’m working on adjusting to my new schedule so I can dedicate more time to my writing. I’m learning how to become an early riser (5 a.m. – EEP!) and revamping my work schedule so that I have at least two mornings and evenings where I can focus on nothing but putting words on a page. No amount of money or job title is going to make that any less important to me.

I didn’t come here to do what I’ve always done. I came here to do something different. And heaven help me, I’m going to do it. (*And incidentally, I don’t have to give up my membership card to the Fourth Estate. This is a city of freelancers, and I have somethin’ good cooking for ya.)

[NOTE: This is an update to a private post I published on MySpace called “The Six Figure Dog-Walker.”]

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