My life right now is filled with two things: journalism and climbing.
I'm just interested in examining how I settled on these two pursuits. A friend recently pointed out to me the oddity of choosing journalism for my career -- for someone who is so dependent on receiving praise or at least affirmation and encouragement in what I do, I sure picked a hell of a job.
Journalism -- writing in general, for that matter -- is something where you can never reach perfection. It's so varied, and so subjective; your style and goals change whenever you change editors or audiences. Don't break up your sentence structure in APNewsNows. Write with confidence for weekenders. Don't use "says" in the writethru, but do in the newsnow. And on and on.
And with companies like the AP or Reuters, you may have half a dozen editors reading and rewriting your work. By the end, it might not even be recognizable as your story. And you have to be OK with that.
How'd I wind up here? How did I, seeking to be right as often as I can, end up in a job where there is no one right answer, no one right way of doing things? I have set myself up for a life of constant anxiety and endless, undefinable pursuit of something "better."
Perhaps I'm a masochist.
The other main pastime, then, is almost an about-face. Climbing is full of clear-cut victories, and the climbing community is, I would venture to say, one of the most encouraging groups of people you could imagine. Here I have found an activity where I am congratulated -- and can congratulate myself -- for simply reaching one rock higher on the wall. I enjoy it for what I accomplish; it is a solo effort, but not a solitary sport. For once in my life, I am (almost) able to stop comparing myself to the people around me and recognize that I can be happy with where I am.
It's also an activity that shows progress -- something else that's hard to track in journalism. With my job, I can see over a wide span of time that things have changed; at the end of my Reuters internship, I knew why the stock market fluctuated and what the consumer price index was and that the currency devaluation in China affected Chile because China was the world's No. 1 importer of Chile's No. 1 export copper. Whew.
And now, during the Legislature, two and a half months in I can identify legislators by face, if not by voice; I know a bit about what can be targeted in budget cuts and what's off the table; I know the day-to-day procedure of the session.
But there's not a lot of measurable progress in the actual writing. I still make the same mistakes I was making in my first week. I still obsess over understanding a topic before calling a legislator because I don't want to ask stupid questions. My stories are changed less substantially than they used to be, but editors still call with questions and alterations.
Climbing shows progress rapidly, almost immediately. You see the fruits of your labor: you climb more often, push yourself harder, focus on technique, and you improve. I like being reassured that I'm getting better; effort without reward is often deemed pointless.
Anyway. I have no conclusion yet. Just self-analyzing in the most public medium there is. Like y'do.
3 weeks ago