Thursday, May 18, 2006

I Still Don't Miss It

It’s been nine months since I walked out of the newsroom with no plan or expectation to return. I’m still asked if I miss it. In fact, I was literally stopped on the street yesterday and quizzed by a viewer. Where have you been? What are you doing? Then, the kind lie: “we miss you.” And, of course, the inevitable question followed, “Do you miss it?” My standard answer has become “not yet.”
I think that answer honors those who are asking the question, because I don’t want to devalue or diminish their supposition that I’m yearning to return to the not-so comfy confines of local TV news. It’s flattering that they ask and reminds me that I might have had a positive impact on someone out there.
I’m still deep in the throes of decompression. Last night, there was something of a big local news event in town. Two local police officers engaged in a gun battle with a man who was trying to shoot his girlfriend. The girl was shot. It’s not clear whether the police hit her or if the boyfriend wounded her. Since he was wielding a sawed-off shotgun and the police were firing service revolvers, I’m assuming the girl was caught in the crossfire. The guy is in critical condition. The girl has a gunshot wound in her hip, but she’ll be okay. No police officer was hurt.
This was an all-night news event. I certainly can imagine what was involved in the local news rooms. Crews were called in, live trucks were dispatched and there was enormous pressure to get the facts together for the morning shows. Did I miss it? Did I long to be out there or back at the assignments desk coordinating all this? I can answer honestly and emphatically, “no.” I was interested, to be sure. My overwhelming response, though, was relief. I heard about the shooting, rolled over and went to sleep. I woke up fresh and saw the reports on the morning news. I know how hard everyone worked all night long. I celebrate that and congratulate them. I’m just glad it was them and not me.
I can’t predict how I will feel three months or a year from now. Maybe I will want to mix it up again. Like I said, I’m still decompressing. Twenty-seven years of deadline pressure will extract some of your sanity if you allow it, and I did.
There are opportunities to express myself. Periodically, I guest-host a local radio talk show in afternoon drive, and I’m doing Arena Football games on the radio on the weekends. So, I’m getting to experience the fun part of what I did for a living for so long.
Over the weekend, I received another affirmation that I’m in the right place. My wife is kind of executive producing a video for an end of school year event. I watched the first cut, and it was awful. She knew it, too. I was asked to help and I happily dove into the project. I transcribed interviews and on-camera presentations and made suggestions about edits. However, I was becoming increasingly frustrated by things I could not control, such as the quality of the video and the framing of many of the shots. I got that old familiar feeling of futility. This could be so good, but there are so many limitations! That’s how I lived my professional life for twenty years. I actually got mad at the guy who shot the video because it just isn’t good enough to suit me. That’s when I realized I was sick. It’s an eighth-grade end-of-year video. They’ll watch it once and stick it in a drawer.
I will say this: after we tackled the project and insisted on revisions, it IS much better. Those who ask if I miss it might say that I have something to offer and can make a positive impact. Maybe so, but I fear it would be significantly underappreciated. My ears started popping as I was watching the first version of that video.
It’s much easier to breathe these days. I have the all-nighters off my chest. My office is quiet. The people around me are highly intelligent and well motivated. I’ve made tangible, positive contributions to health care in my community. Only people within the organization would know it, and that’s a good thing. It doesn’t matter who gets the credit as long as the work is done. That’s quite the opposite way of thinking from that of my previous profession.
No, I don’t miss it. Not yet.

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