It was 4 a.m. Sunday, and I had been staring at the computer for nearly 19 hours straight. Again. The optometrist told me marathons like these were the reason I needed to wear contact lenses.
Exhausted, I began thinking, "Maybe I got into the wrong profession."
But, journalism, my chosen profession, does have its perks.
Polltakers at Salary.com claim reporting is among the top 10 sexiest professions. Reporters are topped only by firemen, flight attendants and CEOs.
Apparently people haven't taken a good long look at the qualifications for this cutthroat business that basically resides in the motto, "sink or swim."
Movies like "I Love Trouble" starring Nick Nolte and Julia Roberts and "All The Presidents Men," with the infamous Dustin Hoffman and romanticized Robert Redford have glamorized the position of newspaper reporter. In "All The President's Men," Hoffman and Redford portray Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two Washington Post reporters who uncovered the scandal behind former President Nixon's Watergate scandal. The two young reporters, still wet behind the ears, are assigned to the story that turns out to be the biggest scandal in the history of U.S. government.
Through the movie, the profession appears dangerously sexy and mysteriously edgy.
However, it's not like that.
Journalism is more or less a difficult job. Reporters often anger and badger people, the hours are unruly compared to the standard 9-to-5 job and the pay is borderline poverty level. While the poverty level varies depending on the number of family members, the average earnings for an entry-level reporter in Denver sits in the mid-$20,000 range. Considering the amount of debt accumulated in college, that salary just isn't enough.
Lately, I've been wondering why anyone enters a profession with such a harsh reality.
It may appear there is nothing sexier than meeting new people, uncovering the untold story and helping serve justice.
But the job's sexiness wasn't my reason for diving into journalism.
My life has been one entire fluke after another, each step (or misstep) leading me further along the journalistic path.
I had always dreamt of traveling the world, photographing life as it happened, not recording it on paper with pen. Dreams of beautiful and exotic images through the lens of a camera filled my head.
Instead, I find myself staring for hours on end at a blinking cursor on a white screen. I no longer see exotic images. They've been squashed by the looming deadlines always hanging over my head.
Whether I should continue in this profession is an ever-present question that has been spinning through my head like a blown-out wheel when driving on the highway. It is scary and any wrong turn could cost your life, but there is nowhere to stop and fix it.
Now as a senior in college, graduating in a little over a week, I ask myself: "Did I make a mistake?" `
As many seniors can understand – doubt is the quickest way to ruin a dream of "making it" in the real world. "Making it" in the journalism field requires hard work, organization, discipline and a whole lot of attention to detail. While I may posses some of these skills, practice makes perfect and only the willingness to succeed forces this drive, since money is certainly not a reason to become a journalist.
So often dreams are derailed by money. Thus the road less traveled eventually becomes an off-ramp leading to a dead end lined with billboards displaying images of bills stacking up and the disappointing faces of good old Mom and Dad.
The love of the written word is what keeps me here; it is what keeps me going as a reporter and as a writer.
Now I must learn to love these late, eye-obliterating nights or leave them.