Saturday, August 21, 2010

After El Greco

Even though it's good that I did what my heart wanted to do with regard to going to the museum, I still feel a little sad. That guy is gone for good and there was something special about him. I suppose he wasn't the right guy for me. And I suppose this has little to do with my career transition. But I have to admit I was hoping a little bit that he would be the one for me -- and that he would have been in the museum and happy to see me.

And maybe it does have something to do with my career transition.

Maybe it most effectively illustrates a particular point about me: I'm quite a socially awkward and sincere person. There used to be a place in society for people like me. That place was the local newspaper. That's where people like me belonged. We had community. It was swell.

Now we have Facebook and blogs. And our words and news updates are mixed in with the masses. What we have to say is often overshadowed by the words of those who are cooler and more trendy and opinionated. Most of us who worked at local newspapers were not especially cool or trendy or opinionated. We had a guy at the Ann Arbor News who actually cooked raw fish in the microwave. Ask Susan Oppat about him. I forget his name but it's true. We're generally people who don't fit in so well in corporate America. We just don't. We're nerds. We keep writing through tears and laughter and everything else. We just tell stories. That's all.

I suppose I just like old fashioned things like democracy and front porches and neighborhood events. And that's why I like canvassing even though it can be stressful. It's an opportunity to tell stories about the Great Lakes on front porches, to do something positive and to get some fresh air and exercise.

When I started with Clean Water Action in the fall of 2005 after I'd lost my job at the newspaper (It was the first job I had apart from waitressing for a week and weeding gardens for my friend who is a landscaper) I bumped into a state legislator at an event whom I had known quite well from my tenure as a journalist. His jaw literally dropped to see me with the Clean Water folks. He said to me, "What are you doing canvassing?" I told him I had lost my job at the newspaper. He said he was sorry. He said, "Something will turn up for you soon."

To be honest with you, it hurt my feelings a bit. I feel as though people in our culture really look down on canvassers. They put us in the same category as door-to-door evangelists and salespeople (incidentally, I've developed quite a respect for door-to-door evangelists and salespeople from my work canvassing).

Canvassing is good for democracy, I'm certain of that -- especially in this post paper newspaper age in which so many people spend far too few hours communicating about issues face-to-face. It's very healthy for democracy to get people off their couches to talk about political and environmental issues -- regardless of their opinions. Engagement is healthy and good.

Where is this going, exactly?

Well, I just reread yesterday's post about finding El Greco and I thought it might have seemed a little polyannaish. I think it is good to follow my heart and I felt happy yesterday when I found the courage to follow my heart. But it is also quite often sad to follow my heart.

My heart leads me to some lonely places -- empty rooms in museums, front porches on houses with people who refuse to come to the door.

My heart has a melody of its own.

A few people who are reading about my career transition have given me leads on journalism jobs -- online media opportunities. Maybe I'm a little crazy, but I feel somehow that I need to keep following a different path at this time. Maybe one day I'll be ready to work for online media but that day hasn't yet arrived.

Online media seems too far removed at this time from the values we were taught in journalism school. Canvassing seems to me a more healthy way to participate in democracy. Maybe I'm overly idealistic. Maybe there are things happening in the online media that are very good and I am being too stubborn.

But my heart just isn't there yet. My heart is old school, I guess.

Maybe I will canvas up a husband or something. You never know.

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