When I wanted to be a journalist

In June 2014, I sent in a résumé for a full-time copy editing position. (Obviously, I didn’t get it. I think it was for the Grand Rapids Press.) This post was in Drafts because I wanted to tell a story about that.

As a college student, about halfway through my stint at the Ferris State Torch, I decided I really wanted to find a copy editing job in a newsroom after graduation. But given the local job market (even in 2004), I was basically waiting for one or two positions to open up. It didn’t happen, I started in an entirely different field instead, then I got into educational publishing when I moved to Baltimore in 2006. Besides, I thought, copy editors work a late shift. I was in my 20s and I didn’t want to give up my evenings and weekends. And the Torch was a weekly paper. I was intimidated by the idea of editing for a daily. And so on and so forth.

The 10 years since then have been the latest part of a seismic shift in journalism, with mass layoffs and budget cuts and dwindling advertising income and more multimedia online content rather than a single daily or weekly print issue. I’ve been through plenty of personal changes over the last 10 years, too, and I’ve done a lot of the things that intimidated me before. I’ve worked a full-time second shift. I worked in journalism again for almost two years. I’ve burned through my 20s and my early 30s, stayed married, had babies, and found that my introverted self is happier chillin’ at home most of the time (even if I don’t have coworkers to blame for not cleaning the microwave). I’ve sent out so many résumés and been successful enough as a freelancer that I can see a résumé as a marketing document; not all my hopes and dreams ride on it. I can do the things that scare me, that intimidate me, and I’ve found that I survive, whether or not I succeed.

But I still remember being 9 years old and touring the Saginaw News offices with my mom. I remember walking into the Torch office at 18 and taking that editing test. I remember proudly pinning up my business cards and press passes from covering big campus events at 23. I remember watching the Grand Rapids Press jobs page the following year (if I sent a résumé for anything, I didn’t get a callback), and setting up a job alert when I was searching again in 2010. So when I saw my onetime dream job show up in 2014, I had to send in my materials, even if getting the job would mean I’d have to trade my yoga pants and all that dorky business admin stuff I like for a commute and a regular paycheck. I owed it to Past Me to give it a shot.

A consequence of that seismic shift and all the layoffs? There’s a longer line of tremendously qualified editors for every job opening. Dreams or no, I didn’t spend 10 those years building journalism experience, and I’m sure there were stronger candidates. No callback this time, either.

As it turns out, that was pretty okay. I’m happy where I am, yoga pants and all. Dear Past Me: Everything turns out in the end—or, at least, it does for the next 10 years. You make it. Keep dreaming. It’s gonna be just fine.

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