One of the most asked questions I hear as a server is "What are you studying?"
I find it quite ignorant that people assume I attend higher education because of my age and location in a college town. Many of the servers I actually work with are around my age and choose not to attend college for a variety of reasons and situations. I would hate to think that they've ever once felt embarrassed to answer this question and be met by the displeasure of a guest.
I don't say that so much in an "everyone should feel validated by the approval of others," but more so that if your customer doesn't like you, they probably won't tip you well.
Second, it may be a good conversation starter, but my answer is usually a conversation stopper. When I say, "Oh, I study journalism," I'm oftentimes met with the sound of crickets, a blank stare or a disapproving shoulder shrug, followed by a head tilt to the other direction. When this first happened to me, it was an immediate blow to my self-esteem, but then I realized, I'm not majoring in journalism for the approval of others, but to help inform them.
The politics of modern America has put a poor taste of journalism in the mouths of many. From distasteful reporting and frivolous writing to clearly biased news hosts, we've seen the worst of journalism, and it's certainly not something to be proud of.
But as a person studying journalism, I shouldn't be judged by the actions of those before me.
I know what the best of journalism also looks like. It's the resilence children show after losing their parents to opioids, the struggles of a veteran learning how to come home after killing people in war and the pain of students who had to endure their worst fears of trying to survive a school shooting.
As easy as is it to focus on everything the field has done poorly, we must never lose sight of what it has done right.
Journalism has given voices to the people who aren't large or loud enough to be heard. It has allowed them to share their pain, happiness, despair, and anger. It has enabled people who can never imagine a situation to hear or read about the tragedies and triumphs of people they will never meet. Overall, it has both united us and made us understand one another better.
As a future journalist, I have learned from the mistakes professionals in my field have made. I've seen it firsthand on the TV and in the paper; I've watched movies detailing the many failures of journalists; I've read stories about how the poor work has affected not only small communities but the nation as a whole.
I've seen it. I've learned it. And I'm also ready to turn it around.
I still feel pride in my field because of my ability to understand that the actions of certain people do not reflect everyone as a whole. I recognize the importance of learning from mistakes and taking the proper measures to ensure they never happen again. And I am dedicated to being the best journalist I can be because it's what I truly love and what I've always wanted to do.
So, to answer the shoulder shrug and look of confusion, I've learned to keep things short, simple and sweet.
"I truly enjoy journalism not only because I get to tell the stories of extraordinary ordinary people, but because I too get to learn from them myself."