I have clung to a single identity my whole life. For years I was fanatical about Africa. After that I was a store manager at Starbucks. Now I am a journalist.
I am a serial single identifier.
The ability to focus and throw myself into something at triple digit percentages has brought me success, but it also has its downfalls. The problem with this worldview is that it ignores the complexity of human nature.
If I don’t acknowledge myself as a whole person, I don’t have to pay attention to anything outside of journalism. That doesn’t sound so bad to me, until I remember that I need to, say, eat.
I threw myself into the Journalism MA program last semester. I would leave my house at 7 a.m. and return at 7 p.m., reading the paper and scrolling through Twitter on the train. Some days I wouldn’t get home until 9 p.m. And even then I would turn on the news and/or research for or write a story, I wouldn’t eat properly throughout the day, so by the time I got home I had no energy to make food (I would say “cook” but those that know me know that word does not apply). And forget yoga or healthy relationships. I was also working two part-time jobs.[flickr id=”8387694790″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”true” size=”original” group=”” align=”none”]
I became easily discouraged and plagued by anxiety. I finished the semester strong—I got good grades, was offered internships, and even had a few stories published, but on a personal level I was a mess.[flickr id=”8387701680″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”true” size=”original” group=”” align=”none”]
Reporting is intense work. Sources generally don’t appear out of nowhere, meaning you have to cultivate them. Questions to ask sources don’t appear out of nowhere, meaning you have to constantly research. In this field, you never turn your brain off.
Because I only recognized myself as a journalist, I didn’t save any energy to take care of the other parts of my identity. I stopped doing the things that I enjoy and know keep me healthy: journaling, praying, crafting, or working out.[flickr id=”8387688508″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”true” size=”original” group=”” align=”none”]
I did the same thing as a store manager. I ate, slept, and breathed Starbucks. When I left last February, I literally felt like I was leaving parts of myself behind. I could see myself in the wood paneling that surrounded the espresso bar. Thankfully, they have since remodeled.
Meanwhile, I would constantly beat myself up for not taking care of myself. I’m smart enough to know what I need to do, but I would tell myself I wasn’t smart enough to actually do it. When I would actually write in my journal, I would just say, “what is wrong with me?”[flickr id=”8386605989″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”true” size=”original” group=”” align=”none”]
Then it all came together—today in fact. I’m a whole person. I’m not a journalist. Journalism is a huge part of who I am, but it’s not the only thing. So from now on, I plan on taking care of myself—my whole self.