I’m back to work and therefore delicately irritable. I’ll soon need an attitude adjustment (that my husband will be more than happy to provide). Don’t fret – it’ll be administered by “Enough out of you!” glances from across the dinner table. Subtle yet effective, like a silent and deadly weapon.
Reality has unpacked its suitcase, but when I’m working, I’m on. I eat well-ish, exercise often and think up the un-shittiest ideas ever thought…of. After a shot of caffeinated nectar and a punishing workout, I usually garner the energy it takes to be of use to the world. Yet, this year’s hive mentality arrived with a sense of unrest – I’ve been discontented about something, but I haven’t been able to get my head around it.
And then, as slow as the hive’s honey, it came to me.
This is going to seem wildly disconnected, but the news has been both a source and a cure for much of my discontent. It fills what would otherwise be a vacant cavern in my psyche, but consuming it hasn’t always been my habit. Let’s just say it keeps me in check, and not just concerning the events of the day. Shall we thumb through the archives for an anecdote? This reference needs a reference.
During an otherwise ridiculous era you’ve accurately guessed being years 22 to 25 of my life, I finished up my undergrad, tended bar part time and worked as a media monitor for NewsWatch, a now-obsolete sector of a PR firm in the city I then called home. It was my first office gig that paid pennies, requiring me to rise at ungodly hours and consume so much coffee that I (true story) dehydrated myself on several occasions. Idiot.
It also induced my love affair with the news, particularly talk radio and independent journalism.
Monitoring news meant transcribing, summarizing and compiling all manner of media: print, radio, TV and Internet. I started out cutting newspaper articles (with an Exacto knife) and faxing them to clients by 7AM, so that meant a 4AM arrival. Luckily I shuffled over to radio and TV, which felt like a promotion. Cutting up newspapers before sunrise sucked.
After I learned how not to screw everything up, transcribing news gave me a daily hankering for it, and redefined my love of a great story. Monitoring taught me more about the world than university had promised. I was being spoon-fed local stories, war and peace reports and feature pieces I’d otherwise never have the time nor the initial interest to digest. An added bonus: swallowing my pride at the bottom rung of the corporate world ( and realizing I was not made to thrive in it). Luckily, though, I forged several friendships with colleagues who were wiser and more responsible than me, yet found the patience to hand down their skills. They basically showed me how to conduct myself in a professional setting. We worked for a woman who genuinely cared for her minions, and I was grateful for that, because I messed up a few times. I also mastered a convincing ballerina bun exclusively set aside for hangovers and break-ups.
As a youngster, independent journalism wasn’t really on my radar, but monitoring coverage of elections, corporate takeovers, strikes and environmental disasters lead me to seek truth from alternative sources. While covering arts and culture programs, I discovered a lot of music, film and art. I got to transcribe innumerable interviews with movers and shakers, thus beginning to really care about stuff happening in my own backyard and abroad. The horizons did stretch, friends.
Couldn’t I have arrived at my state of enlightenment by, uh, tuning into CBC every day? Maybe, but I probably wouldn’t have bothered at the time. I had more 20-something grievances (18th century poetry and bad life choices) than I needed. Still, I would’ve consumed it all civilian-style. As a monitor, I was analyzing multifaceted news, in bulk, every day, and so I absorbed in an acute and thorough way. That hasn’t really changed for me.
Here’s the thing: my little job allowed me to engage myself in thought and discussion without bullshitting. I had the information – I did the research (whether I wanted to or not). I deciphered the real news from the propaganda, from the watered-down garbage we had to cover. I knew where to go for legitimate information, and what to dismiss as trash. I could identify the inbetweenies that neither helped nor hindered, yet still kept afloat. In short, I refined my research skills in a practical way, and for me, that’s been invaluable.
Eventually, all of us were laid off without notice, most bitterly accepting severance packages, some staying on to work for the company who’d bought us out, and a few skipping off to greener pastures. I took the money and ran. What did I care? I was about to start my next degree and NewsWatch would be history. It is history, but it has never become irrelevant like I childishly assumed it would.
Seven years later, I’m walking through Central District on a Tuesday. Mundane chores are muddling my thoughts of travel and adventure. I’m focusing too much on the tedious, I thought. So, after a lunch date with Chris (that I ruined by being a crarse – Chris’s hybrid for crank + arse), I knew it was time to smack myself. I was being the girl (not woman — girl) I dreaded: the whiny little witch from the west. In an attempt to rid myself of…myself…I called upon on the news of the day. I shut up and listened, swiftly regaining an appreciation for my life and the city I lived in. So I looked up, admiring Hong Kong in all of its splendor. It was that perfect time of day – just when the sun begins to descend from its perch. I pulled out my camera and took a few snapshots. The afternoon light was streaming through the pristine buildings and lush mountains. Here I was, in this insanely cool city, complaining…like a jackass. Back in my lackey days I dreamed about places like this, thinking, I want to be one of those women. You know, a woman like the one whose intelligent voice I’d transcribe, or whose experience-lined face I’d record. I dreamed of living abroad – discovering and trekking and doing relevant work. I snapped my last photo realizing I was in the damn dream, becoming that woman, knowing I have the news to thank.