I remember, distinctly, the moment that I knew for sure that I wanted to go into journalism. It was about 95 degrees in August and I was working with my Uncle’s brother, who builds houses and log cabins in Upstate New York.
We were putting shingles on top of the roof, and I was carrying them up the latter. During the first week of the job, which I took for some summer spending money between semesters at Syracuse, I loved it. You could work outside, have a radio playing rock and roll, and you weren’t confined to a desk. This was great.
About a month in, by the time I got dropped off back home, I fell almost immediately asleep until waking at dawn the next morning. There were muscles in my body that hurt that I hadn’t known existed prior to taking the job.
While I was at Syracuse I worked two jobs. I was a student caller, and then manager at the Fund for Syracuse, where we solicited contributions for the school. About every fifth call you’d get as a caller would be someone willing to contribute, someone who wanted to talk about the football team and great memories that they had while at the school. The other four calls usually went something like: “We’re in the middle of dinner, please don’t call back.”
As a manager at the Fund for Syracuse we were tasked with inspiring, motivating, monitoring and reviewing the callers based on their performance. I’d use what budget we had to bring in snacks, prizes that callers could win, and I walked the floor throughout the shift trying to boost morale. However, we were in the basement of a gymnasium, a place where sunlight couldn’t reach, and there were only about a thousand places every caller at a desk would have rather been… even if they could have won a Syracuse T-shirt for soliciting the most contributions. We had to be there early to set the place up, and stay late to clean everything up and prepare for the next shift. This meant that if you grabbed a double on a Sunday (the only day where two shifts existed), you’d not see the sunlight between the hours of 11 a.m. and 9:30 p.m.
I also worked as a reporter for Rivals.com, covering both Syracuse football and basketball. During my first game in the press box, I was incredibly nervous, wearing a shirt and tie with a notepad in hand. Without thinking, I started clapping as the team prepared to kick off. I was looked at by every reporter in the box as though I’d set myself on fire.
I’ve been lucky to work a host of jobs since then, and I’ve tried to take something away from each one. And what I’ve learned is fairly simple, but I think, important. No matter what you’re doing, work is work, and it requires devoting time and energy to something that isn’t exactly relaxing or fun.
But if it inspires you, makes you feel alive and useful in some capacity that is unique to who you are, you’re lucky.
Finding words to wrap around a place, a person or a fishery… finding photos that tell that story in a way that is visually compelling to the reader, and that fit with those words… is work. Editing and improving those words and images when they come from others can be even more challenging.
But… if you’re doing something that makes you feel as though it’s a culmination of your life’s purpose and experience to that point, I don’t think that there’s anything more that you can ask.