A few of my M.A. colleagues and me in actual Santa Monica, not a green screen. Photo by Matias Jaskari.
Last week, I graduated from a master’s program that has, more or less, taken up the majority of my life over the past nine-and-a-half months or so. A lot can happen in nine months; a lot can not happen in nine months. It was the latter that motivated me to consider pursuing my Master of Arts degree in specialized journalism at the end of 2013, punctuating a year of career ups and downs for me. I have always been a student of sorts, which is probably why I have pursued a career in journalism and media in the first place; it’s a constant education. To pursue it more formally as an Annenberg fellow at USC would make it official.
So, I accepted, as a matter of professional detouring and personal development and growth. I’ve learned that, in the right context, sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is say “Yes” even if you’re only, like, 60% there. Saying yes means opening yourself up to something, even if you’re not sure what that something is. For me, it has meant learning and accomplishing a few somethings: I shot, produced and edited three documentary shorts about some pretty fascinating people – this guy, this guy and this gal.
I took my love of sports stories and (metaphorically) ran with it, completing a graduate thesis project about surfing in the Olympics. I wrote the first act of a screenplay. I wrote some other stuff. I took up a post as a teaching assistant my second semester, fulfilling a career-long dream of
torturing working with undergraduates and even taught a two-hour class of my own accord, perhaps one of the most intimidating things I’ve done, well, ever; it was also one the most rewarding.
I listened and learned, took lots of notes by hand, on Evernote and sometimes wrote them ON my hand. I detoured and broke down and cried and kept going. I met some of the most accomplished, intelligent, inquisitive and driven people I’ve ever met – and ever will meet – in my life. I spent most weekends locked in my home office, downing cans of Diet Coke in front of Adobe Premiere and not seeing daylight except for the Saturday morning dance class I made myself walk to and from. I stopped cooking and am just now doing my first load of laundry in a month. I need to surf. Badly.
Perhaps most importantly, I learned the value of not holding back. If there is anything I hope that my colleagues in the program, all of them women (!), have taken away from our weird, wonderful journey together, it’s that our voices are too precious to not be shared. Too often, the politics of the working world prevent us from using them at full volume, preclude us from writing with candor and intimidate us from speaking our truth. But our voices matter in shaping the discourse of our world and sharing the stories that would, otherwise, fall to the wayside. Using them means not letting one narrative dominate over the countless others that count, too, and restoring the agency of those in the margins.
Our speaker at graduation, Jorge Ramos, said something about journalism being the art of the present. Taking this professional detour and ticking off this checkbox on my personal bucket list has surely been an exercise in the art of staying present, of stepping outside of my comfort zone and just enjoying the ride.