By the time there was a decision for me to make about leaving news, my mind had been made up for months.
On March 17, I’ll report to a 20th-floor office in downtown Atlanta, start my career in public relations, and leave a whole life behind. It’s completely what I want and there’s no part of me that wants to stay. I wouldn’t be doing it if that wasn’t true.
I started my first post-grad job a little over a year ago in small-town, print-over-breakfast news. When I started, I thought it was going to be forever. Not the News-Topic, not Lenoir, maybe not even newspapers, but I defined myself as a journalist. Completely.
I first read Allyson Bird’s “Why I Left News” sitting in the office late at night. “I finally came to accept that the vanity of a byline was keeping me in a job that left me physically and emotionally exhausted, yet supremely unsatisfied…”
The office that housed my first grown-up job, the office I’ll leave in two weeks, has a door with a red sign on it, white lettering: “Circulation Department.” That’s always seemed charming to me, because it’s not really a department, just a small morgue full of papers.
That night, I read Allyson Bird’s piece at my desk again, and I cried. And then I looked at that Circulation Department sign, a flash of visual memory I’d always thought would call me back to the beginning of a long love affair, and not a short, tumultuous ride that ended in PR and benefits. And I knew then that it was over.
I don’t know how, exactly, to explain what changed. I know that I broke down faster than most journalists do, and made a decision in one year that others struggle to make in ten. I fought and flailed at first, but now, there’s nothing I regret. This job was the first new opportunity that made sense, but I have been at peace with it for months. I will miss it, and I am grateful for every second I spent as a journalist, but I don’t think I’ll ever want to go back.
Like Allyson, I was supremely unsatisfied, and that’s the part that matters. Don’t misunderstand: Newspaper journalists make no money. And working in newspapers really is hard and demoralizing in a way that everyone tries to explain to journalism majors and college newspaper editors, and that you cannot understand until you’ve done it. But I didn’t care then, and I don’t care now. I could have taken the pay, and the hours, and the angry phone calls if I still felt passionate about what I was doing.
But I don’t love being a reporter. I don’t know how to explain why, and honestly, I don’t feel like I need to. I understand it, and that’s enough.
I will always love journalism and I will always give my money and time to read and support people who are supposed to be reporters. But I’m not one of them. There are things I have loved about my job, but I am unhappy in it.
And how dare I be, and allow myself to stay that way, when what this business desperately needs is people on fire?
Instead of collecting dust in a job I don’t love, I’m giving it to someone who will. I hope my replacement will love the News-Topic, and love newspapers, and love being a journalist.
Me, on the other hand — I’ve found something new to be passionate about.
And I can’t wait to be passionate again.