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Finally finding time in the pause

My cat, Pete, is chilling out on the window sill in my Graduate Hospital apartment unit in Philadelphia in mid- August 2020 prior to moving back to Birmingham
Pete chills out on the window sill in Philadelphia after watching me packing up the living room last week.

I walked onto the plane in Birmingham for the first leg of my flight to San Jose on August 22, 2017, as an emotional wreck. Right after I’ve composed myself, a woman I knew from my Sunday morning coffee habit saw me on the way to her seat. She pointed out how excited she was for me, and I lost it again.

I kept wondering what was ahead for me; what could happen if I spent some time investing in myself? (I wrote about it that fall… and I feel fine.)

Fast forward to earlier this summer. In advance of a video chat in July, someone asked, “What would you like to do next?” I’ll be honest; it wasn’t top of mind. Well, that’s not completely true. I was forewarned about a time post-JSK where you wonder if you’re actually exploring what you want. The isolation due to the pandemic left me with a lot of time to wonder if that’s what was wrong with me.

I remembered writing a one-page brief as a way to answer the question for a potential opportunity in 2018. I found it while prepping for this more recent chat. I realized I’d been able to do or explore most of the things I’d listed on it.

The only thing was, I wasn’t doing any of this in the South.

Now a significant part of me would rather be up North closer to my mom and my (still relatively newborn) niece. But, it makes sense (mentally and financially) to re-group where I’ve spent most of my adult life. I’ll spend the better part of the next month putting a dent in my “to read” list while enjoying the front porch in Birmingham.

There’s some other stuff I want to explore.

I’ve spent several years wondering if I belong in the journalism ecosystem. I’ve spent most of the pandemic thinking I wasn’t having an impact on my organization’s work. I realized I shouldn’t have worried about those things as much thanks to notes I’ve received from Broke in Philly partner newsrooms in recent weeks. I’m grateful for the chance I had to work with and serve them.

The question of what I want to do next is still popping up often as I walk away from my pre-JSK dream job and return to the Magic City for an undetermined period. I’ll pull into the driveway exactly three years to the day after I left. I’m “back” though I know so much has changed in the interim.

What’s on that list? I have no idea. Here’s what I’ll be attempting to explore in the near future while I try to figure it out:

Write about The Great Reset. Solving for what’s happened since March is great, but preparing for what’s yet to come is ideal. The way we live is changing, leading to opportunities to address systemic issues. We must determine how we make things better. We can’t go back; it wasn’t working before, so we can’t expect it to work later. I’m most interested in exploring how we share stories and information with one another. There’s also significant interest in how the built environment influences or prevents this.

Hardly, Strictly, Young: 10 Years Later. It’s hard to believe April 2021 will be a decade since more than thirty of us gathered in Columbia, Mo. to offer our take on the Knight Commission on the Information Needs for Communities. Shortly after I arrived in Philadelphia in 2018, Christopher Wink, and I talked with David Cohn about how we could get the cohort back together. For several reasons, it didn’t happen. That group is now able to change the way we approach producing and distributing news. I want to find ways to help bring those voices together again. I also want to be sure new perspectives are added and considered.

Restart the Carnival of Journalism. I want to merge all the previous versions of the popular journalism blog carnival on to the new website. This way, folks can find those pieces still on the Internet. It’ll also make it easier to invite new voices to join in on the fun. There’s a need to expand the conversation about what happens next in journalism. – including those “not” in journalism.

Is it time for a Southern-based mid-career journalism fellowship experience? This is the one that’s been on my mind since I hopped in the car to drive back to Birmingham from Stanford two years ago. The term “fellowship” pops into my head first because of my experience. It was a chance to find that time in the pause to dive a little deeper into how you want to approach what’s next. I want to celebrate and learn from quiltmakers, pie bakers, and storytellers. I want to know why communities work and what helps them get over their fears. I want to see what happens when we break the rules so people get what they need and want to function in society. I want the quality of the connection to the stage and the message to carry the day.

It’s a lot, and means I’ll stop relaxing and get back to work sooner than planned… eventually. That said, I’ll spend the weekend celebrating turning 45 and all that goes along with it. There’s definitely a porch involved.

Then, some time for a long-needed breath…

… and some quality time with Pete.


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