I first walked into a professional newspaper newsroom in June, 1996. I was 20 years old, in between my junior and senior years in college, and I had a summer internship at the The Tennessean, in Nashville, Tenn.
On my first day, I walked through the lobby, up the stairs to the newsroom, and completely fell in love.
Keyboards hummed. Phones rang. Editors yelled for reporters. Reporters yelled back. Eleven different channels of news came out of the TVs. It was glorious and chaotic and intoxicating. I took a moment and just smiled.
This is where I belonged. This is what I want to do with my life.
I’d had a pretty good idea over the previous few years that this, going out and seeing stuff happen, then writing about it for everyone who hadn’t, was what my calling was.
But that first day in Nashville, I was certain I was making the right choice.
I’ve been a professional journalist for the last 14 years, starting with my first job in Wilmington, N.C. in June, 1997. And it has been awesome. I’ve seen amazing things, had fantastic experiences, like hanging out with the Laker Girls for a day (hey, I was on assignment, can’t you tell in the pic above?) and covering the NCAA Tournament and interviewing some incredible people.
Next Wednesday will be the last day of my journalism career.
I’m making a pretty radical change in my life starting in two weeks: I’m leaving the writing profession and moving from Florida to New York. I’m enrolling in graduate school, at Queens College, to pursue a Masters Degree in secondary education.
Basically, I want to become an English/writing teacher, at either junior high or high school level. Eventually, I’d love to teach journalism, if there still is such a thing.
Why am I doing this? Bunch of reasons. For one, this has been a year of major change in my life. Some of you already know this, but in October I asked my wife for a divorce, after 3 1/2 years of marriage. It was difficult and painful but very necessary.
Even before that, though, I knew a change was coming. My journalism career hasn’t gone as well as I’d hoped; absolutely nothing wrong with my current status, but I wanted more, and thought I’d be at a bigger place doing bigger things by now.
So I’d been frustrated for at least a year or so, tried to move into PR as I saw the newspaper world I love so much shrinking and shrinking. Couldn’t land a gig in PR, and so I thought about teaching.
My parents were both teachers. My wife was a teacher. Many of my friends and their parents are teachers.
It’s a field I’ve long resisted, but I think it’s something I will enjoy. Teachers have been so instrumental in my life, and I hope I can one day be an instrument of learning to others, to pay back what I’m so grateful for.
I also love kids; I think it’s incredibly important to work in a profession you feel can do some good in the world, and hey, it’s a new challenge. I literally have NO idea if I’ll be any good at this, or if I’ll like it 1/10th as much as I’ve loved journalism.
But you gotta take risks in this life, and so off I go into a brave new world.
**A couple other notes: I fully expect to keep writing this blog, and am so grateful for your support of it the last two years. The only thing that will change is instead of stories from the sportswriting world (like riding with a NASCAR driver at 130 miles per hour) I’ll probably have stories of a mid-30s dude returning to school, and the hilarity and fear that ensues there. And then hopefully stories from the classroom, if I’m fortunate enough to find a job doing something I hope I’ll love as much as the career I’ve enjoyed.
Also, expect a few nostalgic posts here over the next few weeks, about what I will (a whole lot) and won’t miss (also quite a lot) about journalism, and probably a farewell to Florida, a strange land where I’ve lived and surprisingly enjoyed greatly over the past 5 1/2 years.
So there you go. A whole new direction in my life begins in 2 weeks. No idea how it’ll turn out.
But isn’t that part of the fun?
**And on another note, this cracked me up. The University of Texas-Arlington baseball team is a big fan of the classic 80s movie “Weekend at Bernie’s.” Specifically, the scene where Bernie dances at a party. Enjoy.