Is it really only Wednesday? Is it really ALREADY Wednesday?!

The last couple of weeks have been really laid back. I should have known this week would be different. I’ve been working nonstop since Sunday and tomorrow we start production on the penultimate issue of the Ranger this semester – which means we’ll be in beast mode for at least the next week.

The thing is, as stressful as these times get, I love it. Tuesday was the perfect example.

Every year, Amarillo College picks a novel as the Common Reader and students participate in classroom discussions, campus competitions and special events all focusing on the novel and the year’s theme. Each fall, this includes a visit to the campus by the author, followed by a lecture open to the entire community.

There’s something really great about a shared reading experience like this that I can’t quite put into words. I think part of it is knowing there are possibly hundreds of other students, staff and faculty members reading along with you, falling in love with the same book and thinking about things to discuss and share after they are done.

Blue Hole Back Home, by Dr. Joy Jordan-Lake

Blue Hole Back Home, by Dr. Joy Jordan-Lake

This year, the novel chosen to accompany the theme of moral courage was Blue Hole Back Home by Dr. Joy Jordan-Lake. Through the novel, Jordan-Lake shares a fictionalized version of real experiences she had as a teenager growing up in the south. The story focuses on a group of white teenagers living in an all white town in the 70s and the lessons they learn about racism, hate, forgiveness and love after they befriend a Sri Lankan girl who recently moved to town with her mother and father.

I kept putting off reading the book because I was so busy with classes and work, but when I finally began, I could not put it down. The book pulled me in and I instantly became attached to the characters in the book, especially Shelby, the narrator.

I see so much of Shelby in myself – from the way that she just doesn’t quite know how to be a girl and hangs out with nothing but boys, to the way she can’t gather her courage or words when she needs to the most. I can look back and see the struggle I fought to keep my feelings to myself, much like she does in her friendship with Jimbo. I can vividly recall the times I’ve tripped over my own words, trying to say one thing and instead letting an unintentionally more malicious and offensive thought spill forth, like Shelby sometimes does.

I’m not sure if it’s because the book is based on events from the author’s life, but there’s a realness to the story, the characters and their emotions that make you feel as if you’re in the book with them. You’re in the back of the pickup as they drive to the Blue Hole. You’re standing in the doorway as they look out at the cross burning in their front yard. You’re sobbing with them as they face the worst of humanity.

One of my favorite things about the book is that it doesn’t have a neat ending. The book leaves you with questions and thinking, “Wait. Shouldn’t someone be held responsible?” It’s true to life in the way that things aren’t always resolved, stories don’t always have a happy ending and the “bad guys” don’t always get the what we think they deserve.

Tuesday, several Ranger staff members and reporters had the opportunity to participate in events for Jordan-Lake’s visit. Meeting her and listening to her bring even more life to the story and characters was amazing. We got to learn about her friend, Shyama, the inspiration for the character of Farsanna, and how she continues to search for her even now. I hope she finds her, one day. I’d love to hear the story when she does.

Dr. Joy Jordan-Lake, discussing her novel and her life with The Ranger, after the taping of a Panhandle PBS segment on Tuesday.

Photo by Cody McGehee | Dr. Joy Jordan-Lake, discussing her novel and her life with The Ranger, after the taping of a Panhandle PBS segment on Tuesday.

I was really excited to meet Jordan-Lake because I’d found out earlier that day that she, just like us, had worked as a journalist (before moving on to teaching and writing books). When I mentioned this to her, she had the perfect response.

“Oh, you thought ‘a weirdo, just like us!’ ”

Thank you, Dr. Jordan-Lake, for fitting right in, being so easy to talk to and making us feel like we were all a group of friends, even though we had just met. Thank you for inspiring some of us to write, others to demonstrate moral courage and even more to continue having those important conversations, even (especially) when it’s hard.

Most of all, thank you for sticking it out with me on stage, even though we both would have rather escaped out the back door. I know I said it multiple times yesterday, but I thought I’d say it one more time here: you’re awesome.

Photo by Cody McGehee | Ranger staff members and Jordan-Lake, hanging out in the studio.

Photo by Cody McGehee | Ranger staff members and Jordan-Lake, hanging out in the studio.

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My first newsroom was on HBO. Now I have two.

And just like that, I missed a day of NaBloPoMo. Oops.

I did attempt to write last night, but was exhausted and fell asleep in the middle of it, after a busier Sunday than I’ve had in a while.

It started with Bailie and Vanessa, two fellow journalists, at the Umbarger German Sausage Festival. Bailie said she was covering it for the paper, and we decided to tag along.

Vanessa, Bailie and I, waiting for our delicious plate of German food.

Vanessa, Bailie and I, waiting for our delicious plate of German food.

After that, I hung out with Vanessa and her classmates as they spent the afternoon working on a commercial, a project for their advertising class.

Skittles and dress up - what more do you need?

Skittles and dress up – what more do you need?

I was home by seven and then started on homework for my journalism classes. Later, I watched the season three premiere of The Newsroom, a show about journalists.

Notice a theme yet? Journalism and journalists everywhere. It began about two and a half years ago.

The months preceding my return to school must seem odd to anyone looking in from the outside. I had a job with a great company, a great salary, great hours and great benefits. Best of all, it was a job where I was helping people. I loved the job, I loved the work and I was good at it, good enough that I was training to become a team leader, which would mean traveling to other states for a good chunk of my time. It was perfect.

I was miserable.

I was miserable because even though I had somehow gotten lucky enough to fall into this wonderful job, something wasn’t right. Everyone kept telling me how great the job was, congratulating me on my accomplishments, telling me how great of a fit it was. But inside my own head, I knew something didn’t quite line up.

I didn’t want to give up something that seemed so perfect, but I began to dread work. At the same time, I was scared that I’d never find something that good again. I told myself I’d adapt, and learn to love it again. Besides, it was too hard to decide on something new and different. I wasn’t even sure I wanted something different.

So I stayed. I stayed and dealt with the anxiety and irritation and stress of knowing I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and not knowing how to fix it. All of it only served to send me into the familiar spiral of what seemed like never-ending depression.

I continued like this until early July 2012 when I stumbled upon this:

I was intrigued. Partly because when I think Jeff Daniels, I think Dumb & Dumber (my sister and I can quote it back and forth). So I found the first episode on HBO GO and watched it, followed quickly by the second and third. An idea started to build in me. I wanted to do THAT.

I knew that the show was at the very least, a romanticized version of journalism. This was the pretty version of news, the sexy version. I also knew that I didn’t want to be on TV. But watching the actors respond to a breaking news situation and being the ones to inform the rest of the world – I wanted to experience that. I’ve loved reading and learning for as long as I can remember and I’ve been writing stories, my own and others, at least as far back as elementary school. Why not do it for a reason that matters?

After a heart-to-heart with Brandon, I decided to quit my job and return to school to major in journalism. Within a matter of days, I was enrolled in my first semester of classes and by the next semester, I was part of a newsroom – the Ranger newsroom. By the end of that semester, I had an intern position waiting for me at the Globe-News. I’ve been in a newsroom almost every day since then.

I don’t guess I’ll ever know if something else would have acted as the catalyst, had I not stumbled upon The Newsroom. But within the first hour of my first class, Intro to Mass Comm (with the amazing Jill Gibson), I was almost able to feel the click as all the parts finally came together.

This is Jill, with Quintin. She is awesome.

This is Jill, with Quintin. She is awesome. Also, they float in space. (How is this the only photo I have of Jill?!)

A life in journalism is what I was supposed to have, and is the only type I can see myself having from now on.  I love everything about it, from public relations and design to social media and yes, even broadcast and radio.

Even on the hard days, when it seems like everyone has gone crazy, there’s not enough reporters to cover everything, I have a video to create, a photo gallery to finish, a source on the phone, a desk covered with empty Monsters, but lacking evidence of food, and other outlets reporting tweets, scanner traffic and rumors as fact so it looks like we’re oblivious when we’re really working on ACTUAL confirmation, I love it.

I’ve been in news for almost two years and every day is its own adventure. I’ve gotten to meet all kinds of people, from my friends and instructors at Amarillo College, to visiting celebrities and leaders, to the awesome cadets in the Palo Duro High School JROTC program. I’ve covered air shows, chili cook offs, lectures, board meetings, history festivals and haunted houses. I’ve covered happiness and sadness, life and death, anger and love.

Journalism is my life. Journalism gave me my life. Journalism, as crazy and corny as it sounds, saved my life.

As long as I’m writing and creating, and sharing that with the rest of the world, it’ll be enough.

 

Bonus from yesterday – Vanessa and her Skittles concussion:

It’s officially week two of NaBloPoMo!

That’s right. I’ve written every day for seven straight days. Well, eight, if we’re counting the blog post from last week.

This is a big deal for me. Even when I’m working for both papers, I rarely write EVERY day. The last time I remember writing this much was years ago, before “blogging” was a thing and I was filling journals faster than I could buy them.

But it’s been a great week. When I decided to give NaBloPoMo a try, I had a moment of anxiety. I wasn’t sure that I could write enough to post every day. I wasn’t sure anyone would want to read stuff I write everyday. I was afraid it’d be just another post mucking up everyone’s feeds.

But WordPress tells me that people are actually reading (which is a different kind of nerve-wracking). Every time I refresh my stats, it makes me smile.

http://www.reactiongifs.us/yes-napoleon-dynamite/ | And I do this. Seriously. I do.

http://www.reactiongifs.us/ | And I do this. Seriously. I do.

I know this is only the first week, and as we get closer to finals and Thanksgiving, it’s going to be harder, but I’m not going to give up. I’ll keep writing about the thoughts and things that come my way. Thank you for reading this week – and really, if you have ideas or questions for me, send them my way on here, Facebook or Twitter.

Some things I didn’t get to this week:

Things I may talk about this week:

  • Vanessa, Bailie and I are taking a road trip to Umbarger Sunday for the Annual Umbarger German Sausage Festival. I am way too excited about this. I hope it lives up to the food we had in Germany.
  • The Amarillo College Common Reader author, Joy Jordan Lake, who wrote Blue Hole Back Home, will be on campus Monday, then at the Amarillo Museum of Art Tuesday afternoon and finally at the Amarillo Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts Tuesday evening. I’ll be on stage there asking her questions. It’s free, so come see me speak while petrified (I WILL one day conquer stage fright).