Seriously, Am I Married to My Career?

(Forewarning: Contains a flashback to the worst moment of my life)

I love my career as a high school sports journalist very much — but I think that’s the reason why I have so many problems elsewhere (like being single).

I love it so much that I tried to spend a whole day thinking about ways to improve myself in my career. This all came to a screeching halt JUST NOW when I realized that I may be thinking too deeply about improving.

I’ve been a journalist since I was 16. It was in the fall of 2002 when I told myself that, wherever I was going to school at, I was going to study journalism. Fourteen years later, college degree and all, I’m still in the same profession that I told myself I was going to be in.

Not a lot of people are lucky to have stuck with their career plans dreamt as a sophomore in high school. Right now I’m at the bottom of the sports totem pole, and there are ranks to rise up to which probably involve more dedication than what I’m doing now.

* * *

Since running Northern Illinois Sports Beat, I always wanted to be an innovator of sorts. I always wanted to create new ideas and new concepts for an active sports website. What were the newspapers not doing that I could start doing?

Right now, we have a very good print product at SVM. We’ve tackled the world of social media fairly well, I think, for the most part. We have an active Facebook page, a sports department Twitter account, and I have a Twitter account for my sports stuff.

The thing about print is that only so much can be put into it. Many other items get left on the cutting room floor (in my notebook). Finding a way to utilize such stuff has been a challenge this past year. We experimented with a weekly “notebook” feature where I included bits and pieces from things that I couldn’t put in my game stories.

Darn Twitter only has 140 characters per Tweet. However, a couple of our sister newspapers in the suburbs had this clever idea to put more written word into its tweets. We work with Macs at Shaw Media, and “strictly-writers” like myself and our news reporters use MacBooks.

Did you know that you can use Command+Shift+4 to take a screen shot of something on your screen with the MacBooks? You can form a box with your cursor and letting go of the mouse creates a picture file of what is in that box. As long as the resolution of the picture file is clear enough to read, you can Tweet out that particular “picture” and it will have WAY more than 140 characters.

The opportunities are endless when it comes to this! Instantly tweeting box scores, conference standings, local sports shorts, whatever … no waiting for the print product to go through the plate room, through the printing presses, on the loading dock, in someone’s car, in someone’s sewn-up newspaper carrier, and on your doorstep. But does that weaken the print product? I’m not too sure. That’s the great debate that I ponder.

We started utilizing video software called Tout last year. We haven’t been doing much with it lately, and I about threw out the whole thing one night — I wanted to get a video of a local basketball player’s record-breaking point total, and the video wouldn’t upload. I was extremely mad and upset. However, this was before I bought my current phone, which I have the Tout software on.

I have a problem managing my data on my phone — too much YouTube, too much Wikipedia, too much Facebook — that I always run out of data at the end of the 30-day cycle of Straight Talk payments. I can’t run Tout without a sufficient amount of data.

The stuff that I can “Tout” (using this as a verb) is endless. Action highlights are popular, but I think our photographers are starting to come around to including such stuff in their duties. It’s still hard for me to hold onto my clipboard and take video at the same time (try doing this with a camcorder, like I tried with NISB). Video reports? Someone stop my head from exploding!

* * *

I haven’t mentioned high school sports history yet. That’s an entirely different animal.

I’ve lived in Sterling and Rock Falls all 30 years of my life. Only one other person in our five-member sports staff has more such years than I do, when it comes to the Sauk Valley (he’s an Amboy guy). I was around when Brian Vance hit “The Shot”, when Nicole Williams won four straight high jump titles, when classifications were simply “A” and “AA.” I wasn’t around when the Ohio Bulldogs had their magical run, or when the Golden Girls made girls basketball history, or when Mt. Morris had that really unusual year of football (1993).

I appreciate such history so much that I find myself losing track of time researching all of it. It’s stuff I enjoy sharing, whether it is through Notebook articles I write, or my weekly football “By The Numbers” feature. I want people to read the newspaper and go, “Wow, I didn’t know that!”

* * *

My Casey’s Crew probably wonders, “Why can’t Cody put as much dedication into our job like he does his journalism?”

I didn’t go to school to be a gas station attendant. Rather, it is the backup profession in case the journalism thing collapses before my eyes. I’ve been doing that almost 10 years now. You never see me think about better ways to work at a gas station, because I have the mindset that I’m not going to be doing this forever.

My two jobs are like apples and hamburgers.

One involves people working in a professional setting, and the people you work with are all interested in the same subjects.

The other involves people working and feeling physically exhausted at the end, and the people you work with come from all different types of backgrounds, and are all interested in different things.

I often think that my Casey’s co-workers (and Shell co-workers) have gone through more hell in their lives than I have. Therefore I’m not able to relate on their wavelengths, their way of thinking, their actions based on their past experiences. Biggest of all, I have difficulty understanding the magnitude of their dedication to their job, as it is different than mine. This is because most of them have children. Their dedication level is much greater than mine based on the need to survive — they are working to support more than one person, as I am working to support just me, myself and I.

The only time of hell that I’ve went through was all that fallout with my ex-best friend. That all deeply hurt me — all my fault and everything — and I don’t ever want to feel that hurt ever again.

And that is why I’m so timid.

* * *

There was a time when I tried my hardest to forget a lot about sports journalism. A greater love than high school sports journalism existed for me at one time: Jordan, Mikel and Elijah. I went from running my Northern Illinois Sports Beat website, to scaling back to just 3 local schools to save on the travel, to not doing anything sports related at all for a time. My dedication to being a surrogate uncle to my ex-best friend’s three kids meant more to me than the career I was deeply dedicated in.

Then SVM called. While I was excited to be back in print journalism once again, it did take up the time I would have normally spent with the kids (on top of my work at Shell). So I would try to find ways to make my stays with the kids extra special. That’s why I did my “strength deception” trick that one night — where the strongest kid couldn’t pull me off the couch, but the smallest kid could. Wound up causing an injury.

With the greatest loves of my life now gone — and finding myself being mentally lost inside myself during a battle with depression — the only thing I could turn to was my sports journalism work. And, 16 months later, I’m at the point where I’m constantly thinking about ways to improve myself as a sports journalist — and as a person.

Right now, at this present time, it’s all I have. My sports journalism is the only thing that I have a grasp at improving on. I do have dreams of having a woman in my life, and perhaps a child or two — a family of my own in my life — but that effort doesn’t seem to be working right now. I think that if I can shake off this gas station job, I can have the time to dedicate to more social endeavors.

But right now, I’m just going to try the best sports journalist that I can be.

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