I graduate in June and unless I was completely stupid, I wouldn’t be spending every single day researching post-grad options. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from filling in family members on my possible plans, it’s that you can’t always expect family to understand you and support you in your choices.
A few weeks ago, I applied for the Peace Corp – just waiting to schedule an interview with my recruiter. I’m also looking into teaching abroad in the Middle East, specifically Georgia. The minute I told my family that it was a place I was considering going, they were concerned and jumped to conclusions. “You’re gonna die over there!” “What if you get hurt?” “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather go to Europe, there are plenty of safe programs there…” These are all the comments I hear on an almost daily basis. I expected my family to jump to support, not negative conclusions. Then again, I guess I can’t really blame them for being concerned, especially if they’ve read what the US travel conditions warn of in Georgia.
There certainly aren’t a lot of positive thoughts that come to one’s mind when they picture the Middle East. Shootings, terrorism, crime, sexual assault, kidnappings, war, corruption, unrest. The list goes on. But, if I’m being completely honest, I’m getting to the point where I almost want to completely ignore everything my family has to say about it. Sure, I get it. I watch the news like everyone else (although I watch it more often). I see what is most aired. It’s crazy over there. The only people who make it a point to go over there are those who are respectable, brave, motivated journalists on a mission. Of course, every time I remind my family that if no journalists ever went overseas, we wouldn’t have world news, they sigh and look away. One time I cited Diane Sawyer as one of those brave journalists. I asked a friend why it was okay for Diane to go overseas and do this kind of work, but not me. My friend simply replied, “Well you’re not Diane Sawyer. I don’t love Diane Sawyer, I love you.” (This same friend then went on to tell me I was effing crazy for wanting to go over there.) I get where she’s coming from, but what if I’m aiming to be someone like Diane Sawyer? I have the utmost respect for journalists who venture to dangerous territory. Men and women putting their lives in danger for the sake of passion. For the sake of telling the world what is going on. We’re all on a mission. And for me, I guess I can’t really call myself a journalist or a writer if I am not writing about things that matter to me and that should matter to the world.
I think there will always be a sense of duty and of responsibility for us journalists. If I am ever half as passionate and brave as Diane Sawyer and Ann Curry and Christiane Amanpour (and I like to think I am), I could only be so lucky and blessed.
The other thing I am constantly telling people is that we can’t assume everyone in a particular country is out to get us. Yes, I realize journalists are often targeted and/or portrayed as spies, but that’s often the government or terrorists, or people like that, who are paranoid and defensive – as they have every right to be. I realize I can’t just go into a country hoping for the best. I will have to be on my guard and I will have to be prepared. (Hmm.. now I’m wondering why there aren’t classes for this kind of thing.)
It’s almost an insult to me that friends and family just assume I haven’t done my research. I get the impression they think I’m going into this with a blind eye; naive. I’ve talked with former journalism professors of mine and current foreign correspondents. Why is it they seem to understand my passion and sense of adventure better than my own family and friends, who are supposed to be my biggest supporters? Is it because I don’t exactly know these foreign correspondents on a personal level… or is it more?
Anyway, I just wanted to throw this out there. This is one of the things I miss most about my grandmother, who passed away almost a year ago. She was so incredibly supportive and encouraging of me. She never shot down or criticized my dreams and choices. She was my biggest fan. Biggest fans push you to do what you love, even if it is “effing crazy.” She would’ve told me to keep going with this, and I will. I didn’t realize how much encouragement could really mean to a person until I lost her.
I hope my readers have a biggest fan. Everyone needs someone like that. Who knows how many people are holding back from their true potential just because they don’t have the right support?