Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Why I crossed over and back

I am a journalist but my university degree is in literature. Next year I will get my masters and guess what? It will be in journ. Couldn't be happier.

I have known that I wanted to be a journalist since grade school. I wrote well, my teachers said, and I felt that I cared. My mother, who was a news reporter herself, used to take me to work some Saturdays. Those were the days before fax and email and Adobe.

The interest was sustained until high school. I felt lucky for knowing what I wanted to be when my friends were just figuring out what they wanted. I applied to UP (Journ), Ateneo and La Salle (Communications). Ateneo released its results first and had a sweetener: my acceptance letter said I was going to be awarded a 100% scholarship. That did it. I signed up.

As a communications major, I was put in a block with others who wanted to be broadcasters, producers, etc. They were all so outgoing and assertive! In the meantime, I was going through some personal changes myself. I had gotten pregnant at 17 and married at 18. I turned inwards even more, especially since after my one semester leave, I had become an irregular student. As a young mother, I went straight home from school and did not have a social life at all.

It was then I decided to shift to literature. How can you go wrong with reading, appreciating what you read and then writing about it? You can do it alone, when you have time. It suited my sentiment just fine.

Nine years later, I landed a job at the newsroom of Standard -- where Mom used to work. I've been here more than five years and I still love what I do, day in and day out. I edit columns, which is tough. But I also get to write editorials twice a week and my own column once a week. This is the redeeming part. Plus I have mornings free to fix up the house and spend time with the kids.

Last year another scholarship landed on my lap, at a time when I was pondering pursuing development economics or something similar, just because I felt I cared, more than ever, and wanted to make a difference. When I got the news that I had been awarded a two-year journalism fellowship, it was then I confirmed that an unseen hand was steering me back to the path I had originally wanted to take before I got distracted. Yes I can set out to make a difference, through the thing that I do best and love most: writing.

I thought about all these today because I am enrolled in two electives that I thought I would enjoy in equal degrees. On the third-to-the-last week before sem break, I realize I love one and not the other.

I only speak for myself, lest I am misunderstood. Literature can make one feel grand and important and sensational. One can get a rush. It's a good feeling. In the end, however, what if you want to do more? The end is not the I. The I should be a tool. This is not about feeling giddy, soaking up one's own brilliance. I refuse to make this all about me.

This is why I am staying put where I am: under-decorated, over-stressed by deadlines, underpaid -- and only as good as today's story.

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