I walked into my first newsroom at the age of 18. Eager and excited, I was certain that I was meant to be a journalist.
My heart pitter-pattered as I listened to reporters make phone calls, and the sound of a fax machine made it skip a beat. And the song of a police scanner gave me goosebumps and caused a rush of adrenaline.
I spent that summer, my first after high school, typing honor roll, dean's lists and marriage licenses. It was far from a glamorous life at the group of weekly community newspaper but it was something and I was sure that that something would lead to something else.
And it did. From that June on, I never spent more than a summer outside a newsroom. I wrote stories and edited copy. I covered government meetings, court hearings. I wrote feature stories and news pieces. I became one of the youngest editors-in-chief at the daily student newspaper at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and kept the position for nearly a year. My fist job out of college began the day after I graduated and I followed the work to Fort Wayne.
When I joined the morning daily in 2004, I was excited to be at an operation with a respectable circulation and have the opportunity to grow. There was good journalism happening, veteran editors and reporters and an atmosphere of curiosity, excitement and security. And grow I did. I quickly moved into middle management and thrived on the challenge of the work.
But somewhere down the line, things changed. Maybe it was me. Maybe it was the business. Maybe it was both.
My passion to discover and share the news dulled and the work became just that – work. The eager, excited girl who got her start at the Western Hills Press had been replaced by someone weighed down by office politics and growing responsibilities that were a direct result of the decline of print media.
It wasn't until my office experienced its first round of layoffs at the beginning of the year, though, that I really accepted that I was no longer where I was meant to be. I was no longer where I wanted to be, doing what I wanted to do.
Of course, that knowledge didn't make anything simple. Working wasn't just a choice; it was something I had to do – personally and financially.
At first, I thought I would just find a traditional job, 40 hours a week Monday through Friday, that would make use of my skill set. Writing, editing, social media. I figured I could jump into public relations, marketing, content management. However, it was much harder than I imagined and I found myself continually frustrated that I was not finding the right fit. I doubted myself, my abilities – all the things that had seemed so certain many years ago.
The thing is, though: The obvious plan might not always be the right one. And the right plan might not be the perfect one.
One day, when things seemed particularly frustrating, I sent an email. I had spent months thinking about sending that note to our pastor, putting in my application for youth director, but it always seemed far-fetched. I was a journalist. I was a working woman. I was a mom who could not stay at home. I was not the model of Christianity. I was not a leader of children. I was not a mom who could work part-time and stay at home.
And yet, I am.
Because the email I sent that day was the missing piece in the puzzle I had been trying to solve. When I snapped it in, everything else came together. My family, my passions, my life outside a newsroom.
So, on Nov. 4, I worked my last day as a full-time journalist. It was ... is .. bittersweet.
I know, though, that I am doing the right thing. And what is it I'm doing? I'm the youth director at church, leading the junior and senior students. I am a freelance writer, contributing a weekly column to the newspaper as well as other features. I am a wellness coach/personal trainer/LiveStrong coordinator/fitness instructor at the YMCA.
I am someone who followed her heart, rebuilding that fire she had at 18. Only this time, it's not to tell someone else's story. It's to write my own.