Well, this wasn’t something I planned to be writing. Not at all.
Let me give you the low-down, at least to the best of my ability. So I was working on a short story for my employer, just another assignment for the intern. (I mean, hello, I was pumping out multiple stories a day). It was based off a tree planting for a recently deceased teacher, so obviously more of a feel-good little tidbit.
Did I make a mistake? Yes, and I fully admit to it. Journalists should be stringent on their sources and quoting, and I had a miscommunication in there, mixed with quick deadlines, multiple assignments, and just general anxiety. I don’t expect myself to be a robot who makes no mistakes and has some misunderstandings among all the people I talk to for that killer quote.
I make a mistake in the name of the person I’m quoting. I’m quickly moving onto new stories that I let it slip through the cracks. But not until the school district comes back saying I never called anybody (which I did, twice) and I had no permission to say anything without the family’s consent (which why would you post photos on Twitter of something you don’t want to publicly talk about?). On a morning where I was literally driving from one location to another to write multiple stories, along with stumbling a couple of new great ideas, I’m asked to come back to the office, where I’m essentially cornered and right there fired. No second chances. Apparently not for a young learning intern trying to get experience. Nope. I was the scapegoat in a collateral mess over a little tree story.
I ended up standing in the lobby of that building for probably half an hour. I immediately called my brother at a loss of what to do. I wandered the streets downtown with no destination in mind. In that moment, I placed every speck of blame upon myself. That I had only done wrong and I truly do deserve the punishment.
I straightened myself up to at least drive home, at that time which I went to see the elementary principal that was also stuck in the middle of this. I avoid conflict and confrontation like the plague, so I really had no idea what to expect after this whole ordeal. Boy, was I surprised by what happened.
After telling her I wanted to apologize to her in person for any harm I’ve done, she wants to get up and hug me, saying, “Bless your heart, you didn’t have to come all the way down here for that!” But I knew this was the right thing to do, especially when she goes on to tell me that she and the family involved loved my article. That it was beautifully written. That she saw this exactly as it was: a learning experience, a mistake to move past, not something worthy of punishment. She was outright appalled that I was fired for this. Because this article wasn’t something making front headlines. It was about 200 words honoring a teacher who passed away from brain cancer last month. Their argument that their “tight relationship” with the school district is tainted is obviously not true. I spoke to living proof of that.
And I was ready to do anything to make up for my mistake, by the way. Recant the article, write a public apology, do anything. Nothing could apparently solve this. Being fired is a “learning experience,” but how am I supposed to learn by getting kicked to the curb? If I’ve learned anything, it’s that I’m not cut out for hard-news journalism if it means navigating cut-throat political games and fast-paced perfection. That’s not me.
You may be wondering, where do I go from here? How do I live with myself knowing that I was fired by a news organization, having no genuine idea if I’ll still have references to fall back on? How will this affect my reputation, my future career? Trust me, I’ve been thinking there, too.
But especially after talking with the sweet elementary school principal, I’m okay. Actually, a little weight I placed on my shoulders has dissipated. I had my time to dwell, but that isn’t helping anybody. They can take my job away from me, but they will never take away my writing, my work ethic, or my passion. I don’t want to be an intern and not even have a slither of wiggle room for actual growth. I don’t want to support an entity of any kind that shows no mercy for a short-term intern just learning the ropes of journalism. As an industry promoting itself as a means of free speech, storytelling, and getting every side to a story, then how does it look when one person is targeted? If you want more people pursuing journalism, they just lost one person.
Yes, this can easily be a devastating loss. Instead, this is an opportunity. I have a summer to find something completely different in an interest area I truly enjoy. Why not sell books? Work at a pet store? Work in a health market or do grocery shopping for others? I’m blessed to be living in a growing city overflowing with possibilities. I can also devote time to volunteer for causes I really care about, like suicide prevention and mental health awareness. I’ve never been one to particularly strive for top positions up any corporate ladder. I just want to help people. However I can best do that.
I continue to believe that everything happens for a reason. This is no exception. Life is a cavernous landscape, constant falling and climbing. I wouldn’t want it any other way. The turn of events that come out of nowhere form the foundation to your next peak. It feels like a wake-up call, a snap back into the fragile reality that now exists and the promise of what can be, so close within reach.
I don’t know where the next path takes me. Maybe that in of itself is a blessing, an excitement for the unknown rather than an outright fear. I’ve fallen plenty of times before, and every time, I’ve gotten up stronger than ever. I have a good track record for screwing up and being okay.
Life goes on. I go on. To the next beautiful moment, the next consuming passion, the true opportunity for me to fully thrive.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie