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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Coming out of my depression

On two separate occasions, my sisters approached me with the d word.

"It's not that you're showing the typical signs of depression," she said. "It's just that you have so many highs and lows. I noticed that especially when you lived with me. Obviously, you were going through a lot at that time, but I still worried."

"You know grandma struggled with depression her entire life," the other said. "It's not something to be ashamed of, but it's definitely something you should think about. We just want you to be happy."

Though I appeared receptive, my blood boiled inside. How can you ask me if I'm depressed and then leave me to go on with my lonely life day after day? How can I tell you that I am unhappy with my work and in the same breath hear you encourage me to stick it out because the economy is tough (while still asking me if I'm depressed)? How can I go through a devastating divorce at 24 and not experience highs and lows? Is that even possible?

I continued on with my life, sinking lower every day.

I'd go home on my lunch break and cry big alligator tears, asking myself

"what the hell is wrong with you? You have a good job, a great apartment, a [nice] new boyfriend. You've made a new life for yourself and yet you still can't find the resolve to be happy? You ungrateful wench."

I'm sure you know this, but self-deprecation only propels the spiral of depression. Soon, you're trapped in the bottom of that tunnel. Surrounded by four walls that don't let an ounce of light in.

Escapism Saved Me

I'd sit behind my desk and couple an hour of intense productivity with an hour of blissful escapism into the blog world. Their stories showed me examples of people living their passion, proving to me that it is possible to dearly love the work you put into this world. Blogs encouraged me to live off my passion, to value travel above material possessions, to pursue my dreams even if they seemed crazy.

They encouraged me to do something every day to make my dreams a reality. Never wait for the right time to make a move. To contact editors even when I was almost sure of rejection. To start another blog.

They gave me hope.

Hope gave me action.

Action gave me a way out.

I'm not sure what my future will bring, but I know without a doubt that I am moving resolutely in the direction of my dreams.

And, thankfully, I'm not taking that depression with me.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Improving my interviews - a basic, common sense approach

Thankfully, the days of mini cassette recorders died with the advent of the iPhone. Returning to field of journalism doesn't mean fumbling with rewind and keeping track of itty bitty tapes anymore. Thank God.

So happy I don't have to worry about you anymore

Recording my recent interviews via iPhone revealed one unavoidable truth: I probably make my interview subjects feel  very uncomfortable.







as I attempted to write down every single word of the interview I was already recording anyway. I left my interviews with pages and pages of sloppy, handwritten notes. If I'm going to make a serious go of this whole writing thing, I figure I need to step up my interview game in a big way.

Why? I want my interviewees to feel comfortable sharing their truth with me. I hope to build long lasting relationships as a result of my interviews. I need to get stellar quotes and killer content that distinguishes me as a fabulous writer.

Here's my game plan going forward:

  1. Do a soundcheck to make sure I can clearly hear my interviewee on the recorder before starting the conversation
  2. Create a detailed list of questions on my notepad and check them off as I ask them
  3. Take one word notes during the interview of memorable quotes to guide the writing/editing process afterwards
  4. Upload interviews to soundcloud, external hard drive or similar service after interview just in case anything happens to my phone before I submit my article (heaven forbid)
  5. In the car immediately after the interview, try to outline the important parts of the conversation (procrastinator I am, I doubt this will happen)
  6. Continue to listen to all transcripts and find ways to make my interviews feel more like a conversation
This seemed like a great idea for a blog post initially. Now that I'm reading it, it seems pretty basic but I'm still going to keep it. Surely I can't be the only one that has a long way to go in my interview process. 

Do you have any tricks of the trade to share? Do tell! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It's good to be a little overwhelmed

In college, I always bit off more than I could chew. My days flew by in a flurry of meetings and commitments and late-night cramming sessions. I volunteered, I interned, I worked, I worked out and I still managed to write.

At my first job, I worked for a software company in Africa and worked hard. I'm talking an early night ended at 7pm. I'm talking landing and launching multi-million dollar government projects.

Even though it seems like it, I'm not trying to brag. I'm just trying to remind myself that I'm capable of a lot.

You see, I've fallen into a complacency over the last year that is just not like me at all.

I go to work at 8am and I go home at 5pm. Sometimes I work out. Occasionally I cook a healthy meal. Often, I pop way too many Bud Lights and complain about my life situation. I'm not proud of it, but it's the truth.

I sit at home and feel unhappy about my career, weight and financial situation. I make half-hearted attempts to improve myself only to abandon them before I even start them.

This January ushered in a new era. It just happened to coincide with the New Year. I promise I didn't plan it that way.For the first time ever I didn't set a SINGLE resolution related to my weight or my career.

The only thing I promised myself was that I would pay off my 29.99 annual-percentage-rate $5,000 credit card.

Then, I decided to join a running group to train for a half marathon, training six days every week.

Then, my niece challenged me to a sugar fast.

I happened to get great assignments for my freelance magazine gig and then landed a monthly feature in another newspaper.

To top it off, I decided to move to a (cheaper) apartment one town over.

I'm a little overwhelmed. And tired, cranky and wishing I had a Pepsi like a mofo.

Yet, I feel like I'm finding myself again. I have this feeling that I'm on my way to something big, but I just have to stay the course.

I just have to show up and do the work of today without any regard for how I"m going to face tomorrow.

And somehow, miraculously, it's all going to come together.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Imagine that

My life and my emotions are like a giant wave, easily cascading from giant swells to the murkiest bottoms in an instant. One day, I can be bawling my eyes out over the misery of my not-at-all miserable life. The next, I can be praying aloud while driving down the highway, thanking Jesus for beautiful life he's given me.

I don't really understand it. Believe me, I've tried. I've had my hormones checked out. I've been to therapy. I've posted motivational notes around my apartment to remind me to count my blessings. Nothing really works, unfortunately.

I'm finally realizing that it may be situational. I'm a creative, emotional, perfectionist, loving kind of person. While I don't need glitter and rainbows all the time, the fact that I dislike my job (where I spend the majority of my time) wears me down. It makes me irritable and miserable and though I'm looking like a fiend, I have had trouble believing that I'll be able to escape.

Until this week.

It's a great story...

I started freelancing a few months ago for a local magazine. During my interview, I was told that my work may be able to expand someday because the publisher is starting a group of related magazines in the nearby communities.

Yeah, right, I thought. I realize that makes me sound like the world's biggest pessimist, but whatever. I didn't believe her.

Until this week.

She calls me to give me my upcoming assignments and tells me that she's looking to hire a fulltime staff writer in the next year.


Can you say ecstatic?

I'm cautiously optimistic about the opportunity. I understand that ish happens and it might not work out. Then, again, it just might.

I might be able to write fulltime for a living. Never mind that I'll probably have to get a job as a waitress or barista to make the ends meet. I don't care at all.

I can't imagine living off my writing. I can't imagine all the doors it will open up for me to pursue other writing opportunities, expand my  blog, become a Zumba fitness instructor. I can't imagine taking my laptop to Starbucks on my own damn time and working on my writing. I can't imagine being able to work late into the night on something that actually matters to me.

It gives me chills just to think about it.

It makes me happy. 

Imagine that.