I grew up the oldest of three sisters. My parents worked for the airlines. My mother as a flight attendant, my father as a pilot.
My mother was in charge of attending to the children, despite her rigorous schedule that didn't permit her to be at home as much as a young mother should.
My mother would wake me and my sisters as early as 4 AM some days, rushing to get us to the babysitter's house where we would stay anywhere from six hours to three days before her trips.
I never felt restful being at home. With my parents who came and went, and babysitters who came and left just as often, I grew up feeling jostled and restless. It was difficult.
It was easy for an early love of travel to be fostered with my lifestyle. I couldn't wait to get out, to travel and live the exciting journeys the characters in my books lived.
Huckleberry Finn on his raft, Ishmael's journey on his boat, Nancy Drew darting from place to place discovering clues…
The characters I read about lived enlightened existences sparked by adventure.
I lived a patient existence as a child, waiting for the opportunity to travel and to explore and to ultimately leave my home.
I was waiting for my life to change.
Things became slightly easier once my parents divorced when I was eight. My little sisters and I went from my mother's house to my father's house every other week. We packed and unpacked each Friday as we went to the other parent's house. While my parents had to be home and not working while my sisters and I were with them for that timeframe, I still couldn't shake the feeling of restlessness and discontentment with my parent's negligent style of parenting children who needed care and attention.
So, I satisfied myself with learning. I was heavily involved with choir and took music theory classes, but mostly read as a form of escapism.
This led me to grow up introverted. I didn't like that. I was a very shy individual and meeting new people and new experiences scared me. I didn't think I had the ability to look up from the pages of my books. The stories became my homes and the characters I read about raised me when my parents served an insufficient role in my life.
I wanted the exact opposite of this. I wanted to be extremely extroverted, vivacious, gregarious and fearless.
One day, when I was eight or ten years old, I made a vow. I wanted to become the exact opposite of my parents. I wanted the drive to surpass my closed-off personality and become someone even I would be surprised by.
I spent my hours outside of school reading and singing with choir, which was a publicly auditioned group with kids ages 8-18, coming from all over northeastern Ohio.
It was in choir where I learned that I loved stories.
We didn't sing traditional old choir songs. Most school choirs I know consist of rigid black gowns, pearls, and dimensionless melodies.
We had gumption, singing a wide repertoire which included anything from Broadway tunes, Barbershop harmony, operatic ballads, southern Gospel hymns, country music…
But the one uniting factor in our repertoire was that our songs told stories.
I recall my director, Charles Eversole, would scream at us (kindly) to make us convince him about the words we were saying. Our audience didn't just want to hear pretty pitches. They wanted a performance where they could hear audible intention behind our words.
We didn't sing just to sing. We sang because words and music have meaning and the opportunity to appeal to the human spirit. We did all this while wearing gold tuxedo vests and black bow ties. The only difference between the guys versus the girls uniforms was that the girls wore skirts and peach heels instead of pants and black dress shoes. We looked rather like waiters from the 1920s.
Before the finale at each concert, my director composed a sing-a-long medley for our audience. Half of the choral singers would go into the audience, while the other half stayed onstage and sang.
There was a method behind this. Once we got into the audience, we still had to keep up our stage presence: walking tall, smiling consistently, and being confident. Greeting an audience member with a firm handshake, we would invite them to sing.
Usually, our audiences had an older demographic. Grandfathers and grandmothers would often regale me with their stories from the songs in our medlies. "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" invoked memories of wars past. A Beatles medley provoked some to recall the "good old days," when music was really good.
Listening to these brief stories and singing with strangers was my favorite part of each concert. I got to meet new people, hear their stories, and be like that person I wanted to be, mentioned earlier in this narrative. While I acted confident and sure of myself during these meetings as part of the gig with the choir, I did so many of these concerts that one day, I didn't have to act anymore. I didn't have to force that smile or hesitate from meeting someone. I simply loved it, and it became natural to me.
Aside from that, my high school freshman English teacher inspired me to be more intentional with how I was growing in these ways, and how that could figure into my writing.
In the last discussion post, I wrote about how I realized I was decent at reading and writing and how this teacher, Thomas Major, taught me I could develop this into a useful skill set.
The main way he did this was by asking questions. These questions dove into my family background which I continued to struggle with in high school. This, I learned, was a difficult but needed thing to make my writing shine. Honest writing is difficult writing, but he taught me that honest writing is the best writing, having the most potential to impact the reader.
The most profound questions he asked me that figured into my writing were about my faith.
I became Christian when I was seven, but it was something I had struggled with at home. My family believed differently than I, and I didn't have many Christian friends who were alongside me as I struggled with the questions and doubts that I believe are natural when clinging to faith.
As I often felt alone in my childhood, without the support of family or friends I needed growing up, faith is what I held onto, aside from my books and learning.
Thomas Major kindly challenged me, asking me why I pursued my faith. Why did it matter? Why was it worth holding onto?
He was the journalist, and I was the interview subject. He asked deep questions that would have been uncomfortable if I didn't trust and recognize the value that these questions and answers had taught me about myself.
I became more passionate about my faith as I was met with these questions. I studied the Christian Bible more to learn more about Jesus.
I determined that if this is true, if Jesus Christ is who the Bible makes Him out to be, then He is worth following.
However, this is a tricky subject. Faith is a difficult subject to discuss as it leads to easy division.
I soon learned that Mr. Major was Christian, despite asking me such questions. He challenged me to take a program during my last two years of high school called the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program. This program would teach me to continually question whatever I was approached with. This program would help me to be aware of perspectives different than mine.
I would learn to approach different subjects and opinions with wisdom and understanding as it is in this that well-rounded learning and conversations are thus accomplished.
I enjoyed this type of learning. I had to write many long research papers covering a wide range of different views while questioning all of my sources and discussing the values and limitations in each. While this writing was purely academic and took many of my sleeping hours away, I enjoyed it. I fell in love with discovering the different ways people approached certain subjects and how my own beliefs and faith figured into these other ways.
It was in a research paper for my history class senior year that I learned how this connected with journalism.
I wrote a ten page research paper about how the Great Potato Famine of 1845 worked to incite the Irish Revolution in the early 1900s.
One of the characters I studied in writing this was Roger Casement. A brilliant journalist, his work helped to drive the Irish Revolution and he worked to expose the notorious acts of the Belgian King Leopold in exploiting the African Congo, which killed over 16 million people.
Casement's words had power. They incited revolution. They exposed corruption.
His words literally saved lives.
He died on behalf of them. Working as a gay man in a deeply religious country torn by religious divisions (Protestants versus Catholics), owned by a monarchy (England), inciting revolution doesn't exactly make for a safe or comfortable existence.
The English executed Casement for his work.
Casement's faith in justice and his work as a journalist to bring about that justice also helped to change and improve the lives of many.
He asked hard questions and wrote the answers. His work was unfavorable to the authorities, but it was the truth.
While Casement's work is legendary, it made me realize the importance of journalism as a profession and the role of faith and personal beliefs within the field.
Faith can greatly hinder or greatly aid a journalist's work. It is a carefully weighted balance.
This field is worth pursuing, and accurate journalists, unafraid of exposing corruption despite the risks in a divisive society, are needed.
It is perhaps risky pursuing the journalism field, entirely convinced of my faith and pursuing it with my life; however, I am still pursuing truth.
I am pursuing facts and accurate resources to support the things which I believe and write about.
I seek to understand different perspectives and to listen. The thing that makes me tick is cognitive dissonance.
People often seek to only understand what they already believe in. That is easy.
The job of a journalist is not easy.
The things that are easy to believe in are not always true.
So, I am pursuing the journalism field, excited to search out truth and embrace the difficulties that may come of that.
The job of a journalist is not for the faint of heart, and neither, I believe, is faith.
I am ready to pursue both with my life.
This is what makes me, me.
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