(Sorry, this is kind of a long one. If you want to skip the intro, click here. Also, my sailor mouth comes to the fore a bit in this one. If you don’t like the four-letter word that rhymes with spit, you may want to skip it entirely—but I think you’ll be missing out, if I do say so.)
In the days before smartphones and tablets, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth—wait, hang on, not that far back.
When I was a lowly undergrad, I took a class in basic reporting that required working on the daily newspaper put out by the journalism school. Our teachers were the editors for the newspaper and they would review our articles before they got passed along to the copy desk. Particularly memorable to me was one of the editors named Yves (not my editor; my editor was a guy named Mark, who called Yves “Why-vez”). Yves was known for reviewing student articles and saying, in his very proper accent, “What is this shit?”
I was glad not to be his charge, but I wasn’t glad to be taking that reporting class. It was here that I discovered a) grad students who had authority over undergrads were almost universally assholes (especially you, Sarah), and b) I really, really did not want to be a reporter.
This was a frightening discovery, since I’d worked hard to get into one of the most competitive journalism schools in the country. I loved to write, and I loved doing research; what I hated was writing articles that I had absolutely no interest in writing, and the constant rejection that comes with calling one person after another trying to get them to speak on the record. This was also when I discovered just how much of an introvert I am. The relation between the two things is obvious.
Anyway, at that point, I felt adrift. I had no idea what I was going to do. I always thought I’d be a writer and reporter; now what?
I considered changing my major to English. One of my friends did exactly that, and it seemed like the closest fit for me, too. Later that semester, I discovered the joys of editing and graphic design, switched my emphasis from reporting to magazine editing and design, and breathed a sigh of relief. Of course, seeing the strange, sometimes rudderless course my career took after that, I probably could have spent more time thinking about that decision, but it was twenty-five years ago, and there was no knowing how the career landscape would change.
All I knew was that I didn’t like reporting and I didn’t have time for that shit. If Yves had asked me “What is the shit?” my answer would have been, “It’s not my shit, Yves, that’s for sure.”