I was swallowed by a career and just survived getting shit back out.
Career day in elementary school wasn’t a gathering of kids with big dreams of someday being underpaid, under-appreciated, mid-level employees facing brutal criticism and daily disappointment.
Upon graduating from high school, I thought I was making an incredibly sensible decision in abandoning the pipe dreams of being an actress to get a degree in Telecommunications.
Shit, I didn’t even walk.
I picked up my diploma from an office and started applying to jobs. Hundreds of jobs. Mostly radio jobs, where the salary offered wouldn’t have been enough to survive on without roommates and lots of Top Ramen.
When nothing panned out, I moved in with my mother in Miami and starting working as a bookseller at Barnes and Noble.
Little did I know, that would become my favorite job to date. That’s despite having to wear a ridiculous witch hat on Harry Potter nights.
No brown nosing.
I wasn’t giving up my sense of self either. Hoodies and jeans.
Deal with it.
Within a year, I was a full-time associate producer. Within 2 years, a regular producer.
I would sit at bars with co-workers and hash out the bullshit of the day, an alcoholic post-mortem always punctuated by my comments about how it would be “When I run shit someday.”
Four years later, I got sick of working overnight, paying my dues in sleepless nights, power naps that left a dent in my forehead from the edge of my desk.
Daydrinking because it was normal.
Breakfast baked potato from the 24-hour Wendy’s in the ghetto.
I took a position in Tampa with every expectation I was on the fast track to becoming an Executive Producer.
I watched my mom go from Associate Producer to News Director in less than 6 years.
I had this on lock.
Not to mention that the News Director who hired me referred to my cover letter as “beautifully written.”
He called my resume impressive. Once I started, he said he thought there was no way they were going to get me to come on board.
I was too good for THEM.
I met my husband and had a couple of kids.
Along the way I went from weekend producer, to weekday 11, to weekday 6.
Then, suddenly 2 years ago, I was doing the Noon show.
Then, they told me they were moving me back to weekends.
After 9 years.
I gave my notice the same day.
I don’t have some awesome other job lined up. I am not just giving up a job, I am giving up a career that I once loved very much.
While I couldn’t be more thrilled to be able to focus on being a better parent to my children, there is also some sadness over a dream that has died.
But, as one of my very best friends said, “Defeated doesn’t suit you.”
Somehow I allowed this business, this job, to dig its hideous black talons into my spirit and squeeze out the very guts of who I am.
Enjoy my entrails.
Consider them the breadcrumbs that lead to another world, one where I am free to aspire to be something greater than I am every day.
Chew on that.
So, I just finished up a story about a 19 year old accused of violently shaking his 2 month old daughter until she had a fractured skull, ribs and bleeding in the brain.
I’m still waiting to update the story on the 150 people killed in a plane crash in the French Alps.
Before I started that one, I wrapped up the arrest in the cold case murder of a 64 year old, unarmed hotel security guard who was shot twice in the back by a robber.
In-between stories, I cried all over the desk after reading a friend’s blog about her friend’s 21 month old son who died unexpectedly last week.
Yesterday, I sobbed on the drive home after a stop at the vet’s office to get my dog’s medication. I saw a woman holding a little boy on her lap in the parking lot as they wept over a dead pet.
When I have a spare moment, I am overwhelmed by sadness over my mother’s struggle to care for my grandparents alone.
They have Alzheimer’s and dementia.
She works full-time in the news business too and comes home every night to soggy adult diapers stuffed in the dog food canister and profanity-laced tirades from my grandmother who is perpetually threatening to kill herself or escape. (When she’s not berating her husband, who has no memory of her insults just moments later.)
Last night as I worked out, I sweat, cried and worried for a friend whose marriage is falling apart.
Along with the endless sorrows of this life, I had to fight off panic today when I realized I missed a phone call from the day care because Alma was screaming that her eyes were burning for some unknown reason.
Then, I cried because I feel like a shitty parent. For missing the call. For not being able to rush to the school to pick her up.
Then again for the mother I don’t even know who just had to bury her son.
I am worn thin from the misery, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I love hard, even though it means I hurt deeply.
I care for complete strangers and take pride in my empathy.
I hurt for my family and friends, but I also celebrate their joys like it’s my own private party.
And at the end of the day, when I put my daughter to bed, she will give me a real hug and a kiss on the cheek and tell me she loves me and it will be enough to prepare me for another day of tragedy and despair.
My son will ask me to read him a book and rub my arm nonchalantly and lay his head on my shoulder and I will feel like I can walk around with the weight of the world on my shoulders forever.
Working in news, you have to be detached, even jaded.
You must be bitter, hardened and borderline soulless.
People cope by making dead baby jokes and cracks about crackheads.
I am just as guilty as the next guy.
But, there are days when the stories we cover feel absolutely unbearable. The weight of cruelty crushes your spirit. The injustices, the death of innocence piles up and blinds you to the good in the world.
Today was one of those days.
An unthinkable crime. A father clutches his 5-year old daughter to his chest, lifts her up, then throws her off a 60-foot high bridge into the frigid water to her death.
I first read the headline when I woke up at 5:30 a.m.
It was easily shoved into the back of my brain as I worked out, showered, got dressed and drove to work.
Then, I arrived at work and had no choice but to listen to the coverage of the story. I could feel the tears begin to well up.
Then, I see the first pictures of the little girl. Her name is Phoebe and she’s a cherubic little blonde.
Then, I hear the owner of the daycare she attended talking about how she was terrified of water.
Now, I can’t STOP crying.
The terror she must have felt. Did she survive the fall? Did she struggle to swim? What went through her mind when she realized her own father had just sealed her fate?
MAKE IT STOP.
I could say this makes me want to rush home and hold my children. It does, but it doesn’t make up for the gnawing sorrow in the pit of my stomach, the grieving for a child I’ve never met.
The worst thing I’ve ever had the urge to do to my own children is drop an F-bomb in front of them.
This is unfathomable.
I did see a wonderful post on Facebook where a man similarly darkened by the cloud of gloom suggested everyone use it as an opportunity to post one thing they love about their child.
Just one? Impossible!
I love that my son randomly pets my arm while we sit together on the couch, then looks at me out of the corner of his eye and smiles so I will know that it’s no accident.
I love that my daughter asks every night if it’s my turn to put her to bed and when it is she shouts “Yesss!” and runs to hug me.
I love that my son really believes that if he wears Batman pajamas that he IS Batman.
I love that my daughter demands we call her “Flash.”
I love that my daughter wants to cook me with every night and when that’s actually a realistic option, she squeezes my legs and says, “I love you, mommy.”
I love that my son comes to his sister’s defense when we say she’s being naughty. “Alma’s not bad. Alma’s good!” (Even when she was in trouble for hitting him.)
I love that my daughter asks me if I’m “okay” when I lose at a game.
I love that my son doesn’t just give you a half-assed hug when you ask for one. They’re long and warm and heartfelt.
I love that my daughter is under the impression she can run incredibly fast when in reality it’s more of an awkward sprint.
I love that my son can’t sit still for more than a few minutes before asking, “Wanna play ball?” or “Want punching time?”
I love that my daughter asks a million annoying questions and when you finally give her a real and complicated answer, her eyes get big like her mind just got BLOWN.
I love that when she asks my son for a turn politely, he hands over whatever is, no matter what it is and without argument.
I could go on forever… and now I feel, only slightly better about the world, but fantastic about MY world.
Everything looks like a death trap to me.
Perhaps it’s because I work at a job where I write about all of the most unusual, bizarre and tragic accidents.
Girl gets run over by a lawnmower?
Happened twice in the span of a month here.
Toddler drowns in pool?
During the summer, it’s at least once a week.
But, my level of paranoia can’t be normal. I mean, I contain it to a certain degree. At least, I keep it to myself.
While the kids are the backyard, I am thinking about Cottonmouths and Water Moccasins. (people have seen them in our neighborhood)
When we’re in the front yard, it’s coyotes or maybe just an irritable neighborhood dog.
The front yard poses the additional risk of a driveway where someone could easily back over a child. That somebody being me… even though I am super aware of where they are outside at every single moment.
My in-laws have a pool in the backyard. I have envisioned Huck diving in after a soccer ball so many times, it’s almost like it already happened.
The stairs will lead to broken bones someday, I’m sure of it.
A sex offender will move into our development. I already know exactly what street the closest one lives off of even though it’s miles away. Yet, I still check the FDLE site on a regular basis.
It’s not a cold, it’s a sign she has a compromised immune system.
I didn’t even let me kids near a peanut until I had ample time to whisk them off to the ER if needed.
Hot dogs, carrots, grapes and now linguini (see previous post) require extreme supervision.
The bathtub is an “eyes-on” environment only.
Oh, and every time we cover a car accident, which is several times a day, I always check the make and model right away to be sure it isn’t my husband who totes the kids to school and back.
I don’t spend all of my time worrying, but being prepared to react. Which is why it’s hilarious that one of the only times my daughter has been hurt in the past week is when I yanked a Little Bo Peep staff out of her hands and accidentally flung her head first onto the floor. Girl had a death grip on that thing!
How did we ever survive our childhoods? I went door-to-door selling Girl Scout cookies alone. I was nearly mauled to death by a vicious Rottweiler when I went INSIDE A STRANGER’S HOME. I hung out with a weird old lady in her house so she could give me a coaster with a Cardinal on it. I went for a solo bike ride only to see a guy getting all lewd and lascivious in a parked car.
That’s it. Buying a big bubble to keep my kids in.