There’s comes a time in life when a man should take a couple of keys off that jangling ring-full that keeps tugging at the bottom of his trousers pocket and hand them in, don’t you think?
I say this as a friend, not anyone wishing you harm or to diminish you in any way, but as someone who knows you personally, and deeply, and feels it’s time for you to think about things outside the realm of weekly news editor.
Not that the weekly news could ever be boring at the Chronicle. Ladysmith, Chemainus, Crofton and environs present too many facets and faces ever to be considered that. You’ve often said how active the Cowichan Valley is, and Cedar, and Yellowpoint. I’ve often heard you thinking out loud about how strong and vibrant your new community is, and how there’s never a shortage of things to cover from an inveterate reporter’s point of view.
But – and at your age this isn’t surprising – I’ve seen you settle onto the sofa for a wink of shut-eye, only to wake up an hour or so later having sagged into a deep sleep… and then awakened, still not quite refreshed.
That’s a new phenomenon, isn’t it?
Of course, you could power through. Journalism is something that gets in the blood, and the thought of giving it up is like trying to train an old dog not to chase sticks. Can’t be done. You’ll always be a news hound… which is why it’s best to avoid that dog park, where the air is filled with whirling sticks, and whizzing balls, and florescent Frisbees and all manner of things to capture your attention.
If it was just a matter of not being as fast as you once were, you could soldier on. It’s not as if anyone is trying to push you out the door; what you lack in speed you can almost certainly make up for with experience. You needn’t think of my advice so much as being pushed out the door as being drawn into a new planetary alignment – one that has always exerted its influence, even if you haven’t, until now, been able to permit yourself to fall completely into it.
I’ve known you since we were children, and know you have always been a daydreamer and story-maker, which – by the time you reached your early teens – had morphed into an unavoidable urge to write wretched poetry.
As I recollect, your penchant for spinning verse up to and over the brink of adulthood, and even at parties, earned you the sobriquet of ‘puking poet,’ bestowed by one of your less sensitive (even if more honest) relations.
No matter how cruel the taunting, or how sensible the advice, or how obvious the alternatives, nothing could cure you of the writer’s itch, and who knows where you might have landed if, in your second year of university (which turned out to be your last) a student counsellor hadn’t recommended journalism as just the career for you – instead of Marine Biology.
“Why,” you asked.
“Because as a journalist you never really have to make up your mind. In fact it’s best if you don’t make up your mind. Your job is to ask other people questions to get at the truth.”
Okay, maybe I’ve embellished a little, but that’s pretty close to what she was saying, isn’t it? And there was some truth in her analysis.
Of course, not being a journalist herself, she couldn’t know that questioning as a state of mind becomes its own version of the truth, and that’s what you can’t give up, can you? And what she didn’t realize was the big trigger in her fortuitous advice, was the fact that journalism is about writing, and writing, and writing some more.
That part of you is never going to change, is it? We both know that. What can change is what you’ll be writing about after you’ve left those couple of office keys on the editor’s desk and let yourself out of the newsroom for the last time.