Nothing in life is guaranteed, some say. Whether or not that’s true isn’t up to me, nor is it up to you or anyone else. In the grand scheme of things, your personal experiences will vastly outweigh quick, minute-lasting conversations made in passing, and it will also outweigh personal experiences made by those you love and those you care about. But far too often, I forget how easy it is to become desensitized to both reality and the way others operate.
Nothing in life is guaranteed, and nothing in work is guaranteed either. Some fields rely on patterns – take my first job, for example: Sonic Drive-In. Day in and day out, you know business will be streaming in and streaming out, you know that while you’ll probably tell yourself, “I haven’t seen that before,” you’ll still finish your shift with a case of, “Just another day.” There isn’t anything with wrong with consistency, though. As we all know, consistency is both a blessing and a curse, but life is a precious metal that weighs your experiences on a scale – making its own result based more on fate than merit. Yet, while different fields call for different plans, others stick with a few slapshots of loosely-handled guidelines.
The news business, as a whole, is much more keen on not knowing what to expect. “Duh,” you might say, but there’s always so many misconceptions of journalism, journalists and the news as a whole, some things just simply get overlooked. I’m a firm believer that the more you tell yourself everything in the day ahead of you will go fine, the more room there is to share with the unfortunate scenarios that may or may not carry out. Personally, I never go into work thinking, “Today is going to be great,” and I also never go into work thinking, “Today is going to suck.” If it’s possible to go in thinking it’s just another day, I’m both setting myself up for surprises, and also taking the most laid-back approach I know.
It’s not a secret all sorts of people get a hold of the media to ramble, ask for help, get answers, or even threaten suicide. Once in a blue moon, however, some come out of the woodwork to do absolutely nothing except ruin your day and instill fear.
Recently, a very disturbed man got a hold of my place of work and, because of his own selfish gain and personal frustrations, decided his only way to receive help would be to threaten many, many people – with a few choice words sounding the alarm. In light of the Orlando mass shooting, and more recently, the Istanbul attack, in no way is this anything to take lightly. Appropriate measures were taken and the night drew to a close with his threats being nothing more than empty words.
Naturally, I was the one to take this call. It’s the second time in three months I’ve managed to answer a call from someone I ultimately end up dialing 911 on. (Or as a co-worker described it, “therapy calls”.) Both times, I got what I could out of the people, did my best to comprehend what just happened, and then eventually realize it drained everything out of me.
And I mean everything.
Stress is a funny thing, because it comes in so many shapes, forms, designs and disguises. Some stress is invisible, some stress is patiently waiting for you to come its way. In sudden, high-tension situations, the stress is cloaked under the guise of confusion – and that’s where I was. There is nothing I hate more than having attention brought to myself in a public space, so having police come to question me as I was pulled from my job temporarily makes the situation, at the least, annoying. By the time I finally freed myself from the news desk for the night, I got to my car and had only one thing on my mind, “What the fuck is wrong with people?”
Working in a newsroom – any newsroom – is essentially a group of people asking themselves, “What the fuck is wrong with people?” to the point of only feeling legitimate shock when something so incredibly surreal or close to home breaks. Though eventually, it becomes less of a question and more of a plea: “What the fuck is wrong with people?”
The drive home was bizarre. I knew there was no threat, but I kept looking at random empty buildings and thinking, “What if he actually went through with his demands?” ‘What if’s’ are poison, low-hanging fruit, that clog my way of thinking even if it’s just for a day or a few hours. My night was spent looking at the ‘what if’s’: “What if I just let someone else answer the call? What if I didn’t do the right thing? What if I stopped letting this get to me so much?”
Going to bed was a relief, because it meant that I’d have moved on from it somewhere in my dreams.
How wrong I was.
I woke up super late in the day, lacked an appetite and struggled with a cloudy headache for hours on end. I stopped caring about the ‘what if’s’ and turned my attention to the ‘why’s’. I wasn’t sad, I wasn’t upset, I was just bothered. A large part of me felt unnecessarily uncomfortable, and I just wanted to go back to bed and sleep it off. (Because so much the night before, right?)
Simply put, I just wanted to know why it felt like all the crazies manage to call when I’m working.
The news business thrives off these people. Each day, each hour, each minute is an unexpected turn, a detour, in the progress of your day, your well being and your level of solidarity. Whether you’re working as an intern, a lowly assistant, a reporter or a news director, your best friend and your worst enemy is the general public. They’re both beautiful and pragmatic, looking for help and on their last leg. There’s so much good to report, but there’s an equal amount of bad, too.
But to be in this field, you have to love people for who they are, what they do, and how they choose to represent themselves. Part of the rediscovery I found in myself three years ago was just how much I adored meeting strangers and new people, listening to their stories and lending them an ear when no one else could afford to. To be a journalist is to be someone who shows sympathy with limits, and no matter what things people have to tell me, my co-workers, our competitors or anyone else in the media, being so lucky to even be in the same room with others who feel the same passion and following is enough to make me face the craziness of some and replace it yet another day of God-knows-what.
Because at the end of the day, all you can realistically do is expect what you only hear from others.