I have a fantasy about quitting.
I never even imagined leaving The Appalachian until early spring my junior year, a good six or seven months into my time there.
I remember it very clearly. It was a dreary February Boone day — not quite raining, just grey. I was on the phone with my mom, floating the question for the first time: What if I didn’t come back?
I wasn’t going to just stop showing up, of course. I don’t mean that. But during that conversation, which stretched from my bus ride home to a long afternoon on the Hoey porch, I let myself imagine a future without the newspaper.
That’s not how it went, of course. I applied for Lifestyles Editor, eventually got bumped up to ME, and threw myself in entirely.
But I still entertain the quitting fantasy sometimes. It surfaces on the worst days; I thought about quitting after the first time I fired someone, after a particularly rough newspaper party, after yelling at my desk editors, after my dumbest editorial mistake.
And ironically enough, it is always the quitting fantasy that keeps me from quitting. It lets me imagine it all the way through, all the way to the end where I’m free of the hustle, bustle and tears of journalism.
And that’s when I realize I could never do it.
In the end, almost everyone quits. I’ve seen that at play throughout my time at The Appalachian. They quit after workshops, or they quit the first time they make a deadline but fail a test. It’s okay. It’s just how it happens.
In the end, I think being a journalist is about not quitting. It’s not that it doesn’t require talent; in a way, that is the talent.
You have to look journalism — this nebulous, essential thing — in the eyes and say I do not care, I do not care what you throw at me, I will give up whatever I need and live through as many sleepless nights and days as you require.
You have to say I will love you, today and in fifty years, no matter how horrible you are to me and how little you return.
I will love you, and I will stay.