When I was young, I chewed through books.
I ate them up, and spat them out. The problem was, I went from reading children’s books, to reading adult fiction in what feels like one year’s Christmas holiday. I missed the in-between years of teen fiction, and the hundreds of Baby Sitters Club books my parents had accumulated over the years as an investment for my sister to enjoy as new, and me to read when I was older seemed to be a bit of a waste.
My parents weren’t ready for the sudden shift in my reading habits (and the hormones that swiftly followed), but this unprepared moment in our lives turned into some of the most memorable, and influential, evenings of my life.
When I was 12 years old, a lot was happening in my family. My parents were only months away from separating for the final time, I was experiencing the first thralls of puberty, and I was interested in the political landscape of the world remembering how life changed for me internally post 9/11. It was a tumultuous time as I saw myself drifting from my peers, but still so far away from understanding the complexities of adulthood.
Surprisingly, the one person who was prepared for the change in my life was my brother, who at almost 5 years older than me, pushed me in exactly the right direction.
As a child, I had many nightmares and occasional bouts of insomnia, so me wandering through the house seeing if anyone else was awake after my bedtime was a somewhat common occurrence.
One particular night, my brother was awake, playing one of his text based RPGs on his now ancient computer. Often, I would wander into his room and perch myself on his bed like a house cat when I could see the dull light of the screen, and hear the furious typing coming from someone immersed in their own fantasy world. Many nights he would read the text allowed to me, and I would join him on his quests. In hindsight, my love of gaming stemmed from these calming evenings we spent together.
This night, instead of inviting me into his game, he gave me a book. A rather graphic one at that. He had just finished reading the first few in the series, and wanted to talk about it with someone else. Now, I probably wasn’t the most sensible choice, but I do think he made a wise decision.
It was the first Sin City graphic novel, the first graphic novel I ever read, and my favourite to this day. I read it in one sitting, and hours later went back to his room to request the next one. He gleefully obliged, handing me the next two, and sent me to bed.
I think I slept only one or two hours that evening. I was engrossed in this world of a new kind of story-telling. It was graphic, it was violent, it was emotional. In many ways, it was more real than anything I had ever read before.
We spoke about it the next day, and with a smile on his face he told me, “if you liked those, I think you will like this,” and handed me a well-loved, orange paper-back novel.
“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”.
I read it that night, and the next morning I knew what I wanted to be.
I was never attracted to the violence of Sin City, or the illicit activities of Hunter S Thompson. I was, and still am, attracted to the raw, engaging and honest way they explore the world. Communication and storytelling is such an important part of the world, everything we do tells a story. How we tell is can manipulate, confuse and distort the world. My mind had been opened, and exploring the truth became my hearts desire.
Since I was 12, I knew I wanted to be a journalist. Every day since then, I have not questioned that decision.
I studied hard, I moved states (twice) to achieve the best study available to me, I worked my butt off, and paid for my own way through university. I lost friends, I grew distant with some family members, I gained friends and I regained my family while trying to balance a lifestyle of exploring the fair, honest and responsible reporting ethics of a journalist.
The news is such a crucial part of a modern society, and every day I can see failings of it. Times when PR pushes journalists out of their job, or when money pushes agendas.
Yesterday, I received an email with my graduation ceremony details. Last week I was offered entry to both of the Masters programs I applied for. 11 years after beginning my journey, I am officially a fully qualified journalist. I am a media communicator.
I am scared. Shitless.
One journey ends, and a new one begins. Will there even be journalist jobs in 10 years time? I hope so, since it took me that long to get here…I would be awfully embarrassed if it was all for nothing.
But, I know that it is not. I know my pursuit of knowledge and the spread of information is not determined by a pay-cheque or prestige. It is determined by me, and what I choose to do with my time.
I choose the truth. I choose fairness. I choose honesty.
Sometimes these 3 will clash.
I’m ready for when they do.