Journalism and a life of passion

Alright, I’ll admit it. I skipped class all day. That’s right, you heard me — I didn’t even go to one stinking lecture.

But I’ll tell you why.

I was busy listening to the Missouri Honor Medal master classes in Fred Smith Forum in the J-School all day. I was trying to soak in as much knowledge as I possibly could from some very fine, extremely talented people in the field of journalism.

Over the course of the day, I heard lectures and a panel featuring a former New York Times editor, the author of one of my favorite books, Nickled and Dimed,a National Geographic photographer, CBS’ senior White House correspondent and the editor-in-chief of CNN Digital.

There is nothing quite as stimulating as learning from people who have “been there” so to speak, to hear their struggles and learn from their mistakes, but I get most excited when I am able to identify with them on a very basic level. Sure, I may never be Barbara Ehrenreich (the author of Nickled and Dimed among other books and essays), but she had the quote of the day for me.

She was speaking in a panel about women in the media, which was very inspiring in and of itself, and someone asked a question about why the three women kept doing journalism even when the chances of finding success and having a “normal” life were slim to none.

All of them spoke of passion, but for Barbara it was a little bit more simple than that.

“I just don’t understand most people’s lives … I don’t understand how they don’t die of boredom. I have to have an adventure.”

For me, that’s about as true as it gets. I cannot sit idly and watch the world go by; I can’t sit at a nine-to-five job and come home at the end of the day and turn my brain off; I am incapable of thinking in black and white or in the here and now. To me, life is much too colorful to be “normal.” I must have an adventure.

I read a column by David Brooks earlier this week in the New York Times about Lady Gaga and her “life of passion.” It had a couple paragraphs in it that I’d like to share.

“I suppose that people who live with passion start out with an especially intense desire to complete themselves. We are the only animals who are naturally unfinished. We have to bring ourselves to fulfillment, to integration and to coherence.

Some people are seized by this task with a fierce longing. Maybe they are propelled by wounds that need urgent healing or by a fear of loneliness or fragmentation. Maybe they are driven by some glorious fantasy to make a mark on the world. But they often have a fervent curiosity about their inner natures and an unquenchable thirst to find some activity that they can pursue wholeheartedly, without reservation.”

I love pursuing stories because it helps me to find that part of myself that I constantly feel I’m missing. I’m full when I’m telling stories, and I love the way it feels to put it all into the world for consumption.

In short, the whole practice of journalism inspires me — I’m never bored.

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