In a follow up to yesterday’s post, Soledad O’Brien said she graduated with a $100,000 college debt and her first job in a newsroom was pulling staples out of a wall. Whenever she got a chance to do an interview, she asked leading questions so that her voice would have to be included as part of the interviewee’s response and she held the microphone close to the end so that her fingers would show in the shot. Having your voice or any body part appear in the final cut meant extra money and she needed it to pay rent. When a young black woman came to the microphone at the end to ask her a question, she lead off with a few minutes of pure butter…praising O’Brien for her accomplishments and saying how much she wants to be like her. Not just for the fame…but so that she can cover hard-hitting stories. She expressed frustration at the many barriers she’d already faced and wanted advice. O’Brien told her that anytime she felt like she was hitting her head against the wall she was getting good practice for the work. She described how, especially in her earlier years, everything was a fight. And then she looked at her and said: “Don’t be a good black, female journalist. Don’t even be a good black journalist. Just be a good journalist.” When someone asks you to cover the fire story, she said, go and do it better than anyone else. When someone asks you to cover the opening of the new department store, do it better than anyone else. Eventually, you’ll earn some credibility. And slowly you can begin to ask for the stories that mean something to you.
Show up. This is a theme I continue to see lately. Showing up, apparently, is half the battle. After starting a blog, I got caught in the trap of waiting for inspiration before writing. My entries grew further and further apart. But now that I’ve accepted the BlogADay Challenge, I show up in front of my computer every day and somehow I find something to write about. When my exercise habits wane, I ask a friend to show up for me and that keeps me going.
O’Brien talked about how her parents met. Her father and mother both went to mass before they knew each other. He drove and she walked. Every day he slowed his car down when he saw her walking, leaned over, rolled down his window and asked her if she wanted a ride. She said no. The next day he slowed down, rolled down his window and asked again. She said no. He just kept showing up until eventually she said yes and they rode to church together for the first of a lifetime of such trips they would make.
It’s not glamorous and it doesn’t offer the short cuts I often desire for my many aspirations. But I can keep putting myself in the place where I hope to be. I can keep opening up my computer. Putting on my running shoes. Rolling down the window and asking someone for help or advice or for friendship. I can keep showing up. And so I will.