Category Archives: News

A bridge over troubled water

I don’t remember the first time I heard the song, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” It may have been in my Dad’s hunter green Tahoe listening to a “Golden Oldies” radio station. It may have been in the living room of my grandparents house listening to an album on their record player. (That I now proudly own, *humble brag*)

It’s a song I just… know. That many, many people know. From the mega famous to the ordinary. It spans generations, continents and cultures.

When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all

The London Gay Men’s Chorus sang it in solidarity with the community of Orlando at a vigil held this week in London.

For obvious reasons, this video moved me significantly. I watched it several times. Thinking about Orlando. Feeling heavy hearted for lives affected, and my own. How my life right now seems like a deep, long stretch of troubled water.

I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found

I have struggled to put into words what I have been feeling for months on end. I’ve written several unpublished drafts on this blog. Searching for the right way to explain myself. It’s a lot of confusion and hopelessness. Feeling unworthy of opportunity and acceptance. I have felt angry with myself for failing to achieve certain things professionally — and for failing to be someone I am proud of.

I feel lost. All the time. I never seem to know if I’m making the right or wrong decision. I keep looking for “answers” in people, ideas and things… Expecting to have a moment, an “a-ha!” A “now I understand the workings of the universe” epiphany. But after a talk with my mom that went something like this: SOMEBODY SEDATE ME. She told me I wouldn’t understand any of this until I was on the other side.

I’ve heard that being in your 20s is a rollercoaster. I’ve heard it’s for exploration and self-discovery. I’ve heard it’s for dating and traveling. I’ve heard it’s the time to f*ck up before it really matters.

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street

But I hadn’t heard how painful it would be.

Then Orlando happened. And instantly, I am hit with a sweeping wave of guilt. Guilt for failing to appreciate the life I’ve been given. Failing to remember my “troubles” pale in comparison to others. Like the 49 mothers and fathers who will never hear from their child again.

When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you

Last weekend my brakes went out in my car and I hit a wall. Like an actual wall. At a grocery store. And that’s just the first *real* wall this year, the irony isn’t lost on me.

I’ve hit many “walls.” Walls in my personal life, my professional life. Walls that I keep hitting over and over again. I feel like a windup toy, stuck in a maze. I keep making the same mistakes.

I grew up about an hour outside of Orlando. It’s a city where people vacation. It’s the home of the “happiest place on earth.” It’s a family town in many ways, with pockets of charming neighborhoods and lakeside porches. The highways are flanked with lush green grass and palm trees.

It is no place for the largest shooting in U.S. history.

I’ll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around

I’ve seen pretty gruesome things during my short time working in news. I’ve seen the worst of humanity, not personally, but close enough to rattle my organs and make me question what my purpose is in this life. Questioning the very industry I work in at times — wondering, what is the point?

As journalists, we are committed to you. We are committed to explaining what is happening in the world. And during catastrophic events like Orlando and Paris, we work long hours. That sometime require talking to a deceased person’s family. Keeping accurate counts of death tolls. Verifying pictures of the dead.

I’ll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around

We are not doctors or nurses or first responders or police or trauma surgeons. But we see things in exquisite and alarming detail.

In some ways, we are the bridge over troubled waters.

There are times when I resent my job. There are times when I curse those 3 red letters. There are times when I’m *so pissed* I have to to go to work. But there are times when I talk to people who have done extraordinary things, and I’m reminded of the wonderful humans in the world. I come across stories everyday of people demonstrating remarkable kindnesses, and those are only the ones that get reported.

Sail on silver girl
Sail on by

When I read a tiny thing about a tiny person, in a tiny town, that made a tiny difference, it’s like a lighthouse in my brain. Almost instantly, I’m like, “I do believe in fairies, I do, I do!” Those stories are the bridge over my troubled waters.

Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine

It’s so easy to think that the world is against you and that the only people here are bad. That people live to see you fall… But I would argue, and I believe in the rawest part of my heart, that they don’t.

Oh, if you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind

Life is brutal sometimes. It’s one lesson after another. It’s a struggle. It’s a climb. It’s one that constantly changes when you need it to be still. And it’s one that’s still when you need it to change.

One of the most comforting things to me have been seeing my fellow colleagues, even if silently, work next to me. We are all doing the same thing. We are all tired. We are all, I assure you — heartbroken.

And sometimes during this life, all we can do, is be a bridge.

For each other.

I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

How #ONA15 helped me face my networking fears

Do you like meeting people?

I’m going to be really, really honest here — I don’t. I hate it. (Keep reading.)

Earlier this year, I bought myself a pass to go to a conference in Los Angeles — the Online News Association’s annual gathering for digital journalists and badasses to come together to share industry knowledge — and talk to each other. 

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What the hell was I thinking? I can’t even drag myself to a professional event in Atlanta, let alone fly across the country to do it.

I’m an introvert. Before you dismiss that claim because you’ve heard my extreme laugh, hear me out.

I am easily overwhelmed by crowds and I generally err on the side of, uh, complete avoidance when it comes to socializing with people I don’t know.

In the days before the conference, I didn’t have much to say about it. “I’m mostly stressed,” was my answer when questioned. I spent most of the night before my flight thinking, “What have I done?”

How was I going to deal with this? How would I survive this mortal combat known as  — “networking?” I gave serious thought to completely ditching it for the sake of “saving money” — and my scared and fragile psyche. But it was a trip to California, for God’s sake. I wear a compass around my neck with a map of Los Angeles pasted to the back of it most days. (It’s cuter than it sounds.)

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There was only one option — a one way ticket to getting the hell out of my comfort zone. So I committed. I packed my favorite blazer, an enormous stack of business cards —  and an attitude synonymous with “Long Black Road.” They used to tell me boy you ain’t goin’ nowhere…

On Wednesday, after a painfully early flight (of sideways sleeping and freaking out) — ONA hosted a Google event in Venice Beach. There was going to be a presentation, preceded by the scariest words in the English language — “light refreshments and mingling.” Oh. God.

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Now, normally, the mention of a mixer would have sent me running for the hills. With my head on fire.

And I didn’t have to go to it. I was tired. So exceedingly tired. I could have just showed up for the presentation and crawled into my plush hotel bed. But I forced myself to go.

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And at first, yeah, I felt really freaking awkward. As expected, I didn’t know a soul, and I just kind of wandered around the room like a lost little kid. Like maybe this cement wall will strike up a conversation with me? I prayed.

But I remembered a simple piece of advice I’d read earlier in the week while prepping for the conference — act like a host, make other people feel welcome, instead of focusing on how weird you feel. So I found someone who wasn’t talk to anyone, and we had things and people in common.

(Funny thing about media conferences, you’re bound to have something in common — you know, like, everything?)

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Once that conversation ended, I picked up another, and another after that. And that’s really all it took. One conversation with one stranger to propel me to have more conversations with more strangers.

I learned a ton of stuff at ONA — including how to negotiate a salary, how to write more engaging content, how to effectively use Snapchat, what the HECK Yik Yak is…

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But the biggest thing I learned was how to face a really tangible fear in my life, a fear that has interfered with my success and growth as a person and a professional — a fear that manifested into a lie about myself that I started believing: That nobody cares or wants to know me.

But they do — and they did, and I want to know more of you in return.

So thanks to all of the people who made me feel welcome, and thanks to the Online News Association for forcing people like myself to face of some of their silliest hangups. It was worth every penny and every anxious thought.

I read and finished Into the Wild during my flights on this trip for the first time. I both admired and pitied Chris McCandless for his bravery, his brashness — and his fear and distaste for intimacy. But we have to assume near the end of the book, as his health deteriorated beyond repair, he began to crave human relationships. Days before his death, he wrote in the margins of a copy of Doctor Zhivago — “HAPPINESS ON REAL WHEN SHARED.”

Indeed.

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Professional jealousy & why it’s the WORST

Jealousy.

We all lug that ugly beast around in some form or another.

If you don’t, you’re a saint, move onto something more your speed — here’s an article about kittens. But I’m all about sharing the good the bad and the ugly.

So without further ado, my name is Jamie, and I’ve probably been jealous of you.

The green-eyed monster, for me, lives mostly in the workplace. Which is basically the worst place it can live. It’s embarrassing, and it’s something I really struggle with.

Here’s some background:

When I started interning a bunch back in college, I was super focused on getting a job in media after graduation. But the media industry is ridiculously competitive, so I developed a mantra.

“If odds are one in a million — be that one.” I wrote it at the top of my agenda every week.

I was super ambitious, but relatively raw. When I got my first big “intern” gig, I was clueless — like what’s a “SCOTUS?”

But I worked like a maniac (quickly learned what SCOTUS was) and found myself learning at an aggressive pace. I was like a brand new horse trying to stand on its hooves for the first time. But evenutally I figured out how to stand up on my own, and it turned into my first job.

For about a year afterward, I lived in a continuous state of feeling “bad.” Beyoncé “FLAWLESS” bad. I developed an ego that rivaled Kanye West and Kim Kardashian combined.

But that sense of pride and accomplishment quickly turned green. Puke green.

I thought I was entitled to success, and I developed an overly inflated sense of my self. I thought I was better than I was.

Working in digital media, being surrounded by superstars is a given. I have a lot of crazy successful friends.

I’m talking about a new species that can write, code, and shoot video in under 5 minutes using an app they developed over a craft beer after the game on Saturday. Millenials are no freaking joke. You wanna feel like a lame-o? Just sit in a room with a journalism major from the University of Georgia for half a second and you’ll run home crying. (Trust me, I’ve done it.)

So despite all my premature success — I came to the abrupt realization that I wasn’t “one in a million,” rather, I was just one in a sea of a million badasses.

Every time I see a friend or peer achieving, I’m happy for them, but I wince with envy deep down in my heart. As shameful as that is, it’s true.

But writing helps me sort out my problems. Which is part of the reason why I air my dirty laundry on this blog. It helps me gain clarity and perspective on things I can’t seem to figure out. It keeps me honest.

Often my editor hacks out some of my favorite lines in the stuff I write for CNN, and though I can’t control that, I can control this “jealousy” thing.

Treat people like they treated you when you got your first job. Revel in their successes, not their failures. Work hard, be nice to people, quit talking a bunch of crap.

Just because your peers are succeeding doesn’t mean you aren’t — and just because your rivals are killing it, doesn’t mean you can’t.

“Jealousy’s a weak emotion.” – Jay-Z

#DearMe: Be the heroine

Have you heard of this #DearMe thing?

According to YouTube: “In celebration of International Women’s Day, take part in YouTube’s global #DearMe initiative to inspire and empower young girls everywhere.”

Obviously, I loved this. I wish I could look my younger self in the face and tell her a few things. Like, don’t drink Vodka, ever. Am I right?

So I wanted to take part in this #DearMe thing. It sends you to a website to create a GIF with a pre-made quote or an option to make your own. I wanted to make my own.

So I sat there and stared at it for a long time. I’m usually good with this kinda stuff. I can whip out a solid piece of advice pretty easily most of the time. But I completely drew a blank. Everything I would tell my younger self, I haven’t even learned yet. Simple lessons, like, “everything will work out for the best.” Or, “you’re capable and you’ll figure out a way.”

Probably because recently, I came up against some good old fashioned failure.
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I didn’t get something I really, really wanted, and I tried like hell to get it.

And if I’m gonna be honest here, this doesn’t happen to me a whole lot. I have a really strong vision for my life and I’m generally extremely committed and driven to get there.

So when reality didn’t line up with “the vision” it was a brutal, brutal letdown. The stuff of nightmares, breakups — nasty disappointment in myself.

I haven’t been a good sport about it all.

And no amount of goodwill or encouragement has helped me. (You’re like, OMG you are so annoying. I KNOW.)

I’ve got all these people (friends, coworkers, parents) barking at me to get the heck over it and feel proud of myself.

As much as I want to listen to that, most of me just wants to say, “ehhh get out of my face.”

Rejection is one of the hardest human experiences to endure. Rejection from a person, a place or a thing. It just sucks. You become a victim to your extreme vulnerability.

Here I am! I can give you THIS, and THIS and I can be THAT, and do THAT, and contribute THESE things, and succeed at THAT and change THIS and BY THE WAY – I’m hardworking and funny AND! I’ll do anything for you. Even move my life across the country! WITH BELLS ON.

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Eh… no thanks.

BUT I WOULD HAVE DONE ANYTHING FOR YOU.

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How do you recover from that? Beats the hell out of me, honestly. I really don’t know. I guess like most things, you have to sweat it out. Work through it somehow and set your sights on something else.

I feel so behind, though. There are high school students out there writing apps, and songs and books. And here I am writing about failure on some blog I made a year ago. Who the heck am I?

I feel I’m in no position right now to tell my younger self anything at all. I wish she could tell ME a few things.

So I’m going to try to imagine myself a little bit older and a little bit wiser. What would she say? She would probably say something along the lines of, “suck it up, drama queen, you’re gonna make it. Have some faith, be courageous, and listen to yourself.”

Ugh.

It’s a tough pill to swallow. And I’m not even sure I’m ready to swallow it. But I know I’m gonna have to eventually. It’s unbelievably easy to feel sorry for yourself when stuff like this happens. But that’s not me, that’s not my personality. It’s not who I was raised to be, someone who becomes a victim to a situation instead of rising above it.

So, #DearMe – Past me, current me, future me:

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