Reporting from D.C.: Dreaming of Journalism

Posted by Paulina Phelps '16

My roommate overheard me sleep talking the other night. At first she didn't realize that I was sleep talking, and thought I was conducting an interview with someone on the phone. "Can I interview you for my story?" I asked coherently, followed by a cheery "thank you!" However, realizing that no one would appreciate an interview call at 4 a.m., she identified it as sleep talking, and went back to sleep. The next morning she jokingly told me of the "commotion". I wasn't very surprised as I have been an active dreamer and sleep talker for my entire life.

Instead, my surprise was over what I was saying. As a child, in fear of danger, I often screamed, "Help!" or "Save me!" in my sleep, as my Mom furiously shook me awake. Therefore, I thought it curious when my roommate told me I was sleep talking about journalism. After soom further reflection, however, I see that journalism is the soundest part of my life and explains perfectly my outburst. My environment undoubtedly influences this overwhelming passion. Journalism has never been more a part of my life or of the lives of the people around me than it is now. My strange realization makes me feel aged, while saying the words "I want to be a journalist when I grow up" feels rather childish. 

When are we supposed to start acting out our career choices? According to the story "What College Graduates Regret," printed in Feb. edition of The Atlantic Monthly, the highest percentage of college graduates (50%) said they wished they had gained more work experience to prepare them for the job they wanted. The resources at an academic institution are helpful for pursuing almost every profession, but don't replace real world experience. A journalist can't just sit back expecting stories to come to them, but has to go out and find the stories. 

While I am certain of my interest in journalism, almost daily I find myself questioning what kind of journalist I want to be. Do I want to report horrific and courageous stories coming out of a disaster? take on a freelance journalist's incredible liberty?; or am I persuaded by the photojournalist's premise that stories need visuals after covering the Rwandan Genocide? I think the questions worth answering or contemplating now are where we want to work, what kind of people we work well with and what professional area we want to work in. Leave the questions of the kind of work you will be doing for the future to determine. In the case of an aspiring Senator, knowing your policies and stances right now is important, but already knowing for what political party you will run as is unrealistic, as political parties change views with time. 

Although the real world often seems like the scariest place for me, the interim has always felt scarier. But being aware of the limitless opportunities in life, and the relative unimportance of this short college life allows me to take a deep breath and feel good about the work I've put into internships instead of obsessing over my GPA. I encourage everyone to take on this mindset, even if you are a straight-A student. We have a tendency to see college as a sanctuary from the cruelty of the real world, but this creates unfair negative expectations for the future.

My fears as a child extended beyond sleep; I was often convinced my mom was missing minutes after she left for the grocery store. However, in D.C. especially, the vastness of the world no longer overpowers me. Instead, I'm beginning to see the enormity of our world as a sign of the boundless opportunities we have and, for once, I am okay with my grades.

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