So a few months ago my hard drive took an unfortunate tumble off of my desk and I thought I lost a lot of photos that are near and dear to my heart. The whole thing seemed to play out in slow motion as it fell to the ground and as I tried to plug it back in, I heard that dreaded clicking noise which usually indicates your drive is a goner. This particular hard drive contained about 95% personal photos of family and loved ones, and that somehow made the whole thing more devastating to me. I cried and moped and kicked myself for a long time. But eventually I sent it off to data recovery, and after an amount of money I don't even want to talk about, I got my photos back. As soon as I plugged it in, it felt like I was greeted by old friends. These might not mean much to other people, but they mean the world to me. And I feel like that's what personal work is about. It's also a constant reminder to document my own life more because these are the pictures I want to look back on and remember who I was when I took them, where I am now in my life and how they've helped me get there.
But Protip #1: Back up your data.
Our industry has seen some dark days. I just found out yesterday that I was laid off from the Burlington Free Press, a Gannett paper I had been at for about a year, along with more than 200 across the company. A lot of feelings are swirling through my head. Sad, confused, anxious, and sometimes even relieved. And maybe it’s the young and naïve optimism in me, but I still feel hopeful. I’m hopeful for this career that so many friends and I have chosen to follow. This job, in my short time, has led me to some incredible people who have absolutely changed my life for the better.
Whether it’s Jenn McNary, who fights for her sons’ lives every single day. Despite having two children who are battling the same deadly disease, she shows me what it’s like to never give up and face things head on. Despite terrible odds, she powers through because that’s the only thing you can do.
Her kids have showed me what optimism means. Although one of the two boys isn’t able to get a drug that exists and could save his life, he has a smile on his face everyday. He is happy he is here, now.
I remember this winter being at a gathering for a teenager who died suddenly in a nearby town. Everywhere I looked there were people crying and remembering this young man. Surrounded by so much emotion I broke down. I cried the entire way home and thought about him for a long time. I remember thinking I was being a weak journalist and that I should toughen up. But he showed me how a community reacts when sad things happen, and how they can help each other get through tough times.
And then there is Carmen who I just met this week. Six years ago she was doused in industrial grade lye by her husband, which burned 95% of her body and left her completely disfigured. Despite that, she is thankful to be alive. Thankful she is there for her children and her family everyday and considers herself blessed. She decided to take music lessons after her ordeal and fell in love with her piano teacher. She laughs and makes jokes. She sings and flirts. She makes me wonder why I sweat the small things when she has overcome so much.
These people inspire me everyday. They make me want to be a better person. And I owe it to this career for guiding me towards these amazing people.
We’ll see what happens in the coming months. But for now I’m happy to have been inspired. I feel lucky to have met these people who make me strive to be a better person every single day.