“Be prepared to start at a small place. Take it and do it and do your very best. Always do your very very best work and have a very high bar. Be willing to work long hours and show that you care enough to do these stories, don’t watch the clock. Be willing to work in small places and work your way up. Be patient, and just do your very very best work. Never lose sight of your goals.”
Advice a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist gave to be about a year ago while I was still in school. It was part of a class project we had to do where we had to interview an expert in our field for their advice entering whatever career path we were about to take. I stumbled upon it while looking through old files on my computer and, honestly, the reminder could not have come at a better time.
Frustration would probably be the best word to describe my life recently. The feeling where I’m putting in the work and the sacrifices but I’m not seeing the results. Maybe the results are there, but they are so small they are hard to see with all the other issues, errors and setbacks.
I didn’t post this to complain about my life, quite the opposite. I believe frustrating times like this are what truly make a person. I believe true success is measured by your response when your back is against the wall, when there’s no signs of success to be found. Sure I like to reflect on my meager successes so far in my young life, but I wouldn’t be that person without the dark times. I understand I have to take the hits in order to reap the rewards. I also realize it’s going to take a long time to get to that point. A frustrating but true fact of life. After researching various figures in history who were masters at their craft, I see they weren’t born with some special talent, they worked hard and failed again and again.
At the same time I can also see how far I’ve grown from that point. Listening to the interview I could hear how nervous I was, talking at a speed of 100 miles an hour and feeling as if I was wasting his time. Listening to my side of the interview was completely cringeworthy, but my hope is some day I’ll sound like the other guy.
Linville Gorge looking towards table rock.
I can’t believe it’s been three months since I left home. Since then I’ve covered everything from a power company’s controversial use of herbicides along power lines to folklore tales of legendary mysterious lights seen in this very gorge. I’ve also been able to explore a whole new region of the country. I miss home like crazy but I know what I’m doing is right and there is no turning back.
There are certainly times when I feel like a fish out of water, try all the time actually. With a name like Mundhenk I pretty much scream that I’m clearly not from around here. Things are different here but I’m glad I get to see another side of things, a new culture. I hope I can be a positive impact as a member in this new community.
There are many things I’ve surprised myself with what I’ve been able to do within this short time span, not least of which is the simple fact I’ve survived three months. I treat this like a milestone because it really is. I’ve made it through the roughest part I feel. The initial homesickness, the strange new world. I’ve also learned a lot about myself in the process. How to live alone, how to manage a budget, how to do all the little things my mommy and daddy used to do for me. What has impressed me the most though is walking into a subject I’m covering that I’m completely clueless about and by the time I’m done I’ve learned something completely new. I’ve walked into a story plenty of times wondering how on Earth I’m I going to do this and have somehow managed to do it.
Make no mistake. I’ve had several frustrations and growing pains and continue to do so on a daily basis. My goal for the first three months was to simply make it to this point. Now I’m ready to step up a bit more. I feel like I’ve reached a plateau, and I hate plateaus. I want to step up my interviewing and writing skills even further. I want to crawl out of my shell just a little bit more. I want to follow in the steps of past reporters who have worked here and gone on to do big things. I have so much potential here and It’s up to me to make the most out of this opportunity.
Just have to continue to trust the process.
On the way to Mt. Mitchell
Throughout my life lots of people have asked me what I want to major in or what career I want to go into. However, I don’t think anyone has ever asked me why I wanted to become a reporter, and if they did I probably didn’t answer them honestly.
Sure there’s lots of reasons as to why I became a reporter. I like learning and understanding new ideas, people and concepts. I’m genuinely interested in informing people on what’s going on in the community. I also like to write and generate content that people want to see. But one reason really trumps all the rest.
It forces me to confront my greatest fears.
My general social anxiety. My fear of confrontation. My lack of assertiveness. All are directly addressed being a reporter. It’s no secret for those who know me that I’m a shy guy. As I’ve said before I’m not ashamed to be an introvert but there’s a difference between being quiet and avoiding social confrontation due to fear. I am a firm believer that if you aren’t facing your fears you truly aren’t living at all. Looking back most of the major milestones in my life I walked into them fear and hesitation but did it anyway.
It’s not just about my social fears though. I never let the constant, almost daily news I heard of reporters being laid off and newspapers shrinking dissuade me. I didn’t give into a more stable career. I didn’t look at the employment numbers or the money. I didn’t listen to the little online surveys that determine what career would best fit my personality. In fact, most surveys said the last field I should go into is journalism. I knew what I wanted to do and I wasn’t going to let anybody or anything stop me from doing it. I have to believe if I’m constantly developing my skills and moving with the times that I will remain employed. If not, at least I tried.
This is truly what I want to do and I feel. I hope to one day become an investigate reporter. I want to do something to better the world no matter how small it is. I do know though it’s going to take some effort on my part. I have to come out of my shell but I’ve already seen a large improvement in the two months that I’ve kicked off my career. I’m excited to see how far I’ve developed a year from now.
It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses. I have a lot to learn and it will likely take a long time to be the type of reporter and person I want to be. I’m not judging anyone’s lifestyle but I have seen so many people in my life with such potential only to see it pissed away. I applaud anyone who takes a chance and pursues what they truly want in life.
Having a big salary, big house with the picket fence, wife and kids, and job security is nice but I would like to think there are other ways to live a satisfying life. Entering an “evolving” field only makes me more determined to work harder.