Today started out as as typical Thursday. I woke up like a zombie at 10am after a late night of furiously attempting to be productive. I did homework on the computer while Gilmore Girls played comfortingly in the background. I drove around downtown a bit and took some pictures for a story, which included a random lady getting out of her car and yelling at me, “I GOT YOUR BACK GIRL!!” Ok, so not entirely my typical Thursday.
I then went to my Ethics in Journalism class where I had the distinct pleasure of listening to CNN anchor Don Lemon speak to our class about his career journey and share advice to a group of young people hungering for his success secrets and hopefully an Iphone snapshot. Additionally, I had the even greater honor of letting him greedily grab goldfish off my plate after I awkwardly rushed to the snack table immediately following his talk.
First. Just check him out.
Lemon is the kind of guy you went to get cocktails with after work and bash Jonah Hill. His quick wit, charming demeanor, and headstrong determination to simply never give up despite being told you don’t have “it” is inspiring and refreshing as I enter a field described to me by many as “dead,” “dying” or “What are you doing?”
The Baton Rouge native’s advice is simple but as lovely as his facial features: Be yourself. Be excellent. Don’t be perfect. That’s not how people are. Appreciate the journey instead of miserably scurrying to the TOP.
“The top is really not that great,” Handsome, baby faced Lemon remarked with a laugh. “Yeah, I get in limos, I get special tables at restaurants, but I don’t care about that…Once you get to the top, everybody’s trying to take you down because they want to be there too.”
Although I find it hard to believe that the limo rides and speedy service don’t put a sparkle in his already twinkling eyes, I do believe that Lemon is 100% on this one. His advice came at a perfect time for me, a grad student wrapped in the chain links of deadlines with a question mark for a future. Neck deep in the “mental breakdown” phase of my Master’s program, I’ve been feeling not unlike a chicken that was recently beheaded. All I can think about is getting there, graduating, finding a job, and MAKING IT. Not that I know what “making it” means but it sure has sounded nice…up until now.
Oh Don Lemon, my little CNN buddha in a skinny tie. I should just appreciate the freaking journey! And what is that journey you ask?
The journey is experiencing all the highs and lows with the grad girls that are in this program with me. All the late nights, the laughs, the tears, the jokes, the funny drawings. The journey is the feeling you get when Rick Bragg scrawls an A on your paper after once referring to your writing as “abstract pretentious bullshit.” The journey is singing “I Will Survive” for your kindred spirit of a roommate while she videotapes you on her Iphone. The journey is interviewing someone for a story and seeing their eyes light up as they talk about Tuscaloosa Civil War history or cooking locally grown peaches.
Lemon was asked how he kept his composure while reporting in Connecticut during the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. He replied, “In Newton, I wasn’t a reporter…I was a human being. I cried on camera. I said things I never would have said. I was there experiencing things people watching from their comfortable living rooms or fancy offices could never understand.” It gave me chill bumps and it made me realize that being a journalist means being a human being and telling stories about what makes us that way.
I think I can do that and not being perfect is definitely something I am excellent at. Here’s to the journey (raises large glass of wine)…and looking as handsome as Don Lemon is when I’m 46! No botox he claims. But a fierce love of goldfish.