As a journalist, every one of us probably wants to be an Anderson Cooper or a Christiane Amanpour. We all want to do the high profile stories, bust rackets, hob nob with those who matter. The power trip seems important to many, which leads to the misconception that if you are not there, then you are nowhere. In my short career so far as a journalist, I have seen that view being reiterated many times. You cannot be just a reporter, that’s not done is what you are told. You need to be seen with the right people, appear to be leaning on the acceptable side (no matter what your personal views are) and have a slightly if not totally elitist approach. The last because as a country we still have a colonial hangover and we believe that it is fashionable to say that ‘I can hardly speak Hindi/any regional language.’
And when you are way down in the corporate hierarchy, all these issues seem to have the potential to ‘make or break’ your career choice. I firmly believe that talking things out with other experienced people, with people from other professions and also reading up and watching movies help a lot when anyone faces such problems that are common to youth all over. So it was not a surprise when I found some of my answers in the movie Bruce Almighty. Jim Carrey plays a journalist who does happy go lucky stories about blood donation camps and cookie making contests. But he is not happy even though his editor says that he has the rare gift of making people laugh. He wants the anchor job and that’s all he cares about. He messes up his first live opportunity (which he gets at the age of 40, my boss would probably say look we give you these opportunities much earlier), because he gets to know that his rival has been given the anchor job. He messes his relationship, when Jennifer Aniston goes to dinner with him, expecting a ring, Carrey quashes all her expectations by saying that the party is for him getting the anchor job. Carrey is so blinded by what he doesn’t have that he fails to consider what he has. It’s a habit we all get into. Eventually God comes in and straightens things out in true Hollywood style and Carrey is seen telling his editor in the climax that he is ok with doing the funny stories and making a fool of himself, because that’s what he is good at.
Watching that movie, I realised how many times we all fall into this trap of aiming at something we may not be. In some ways, we never grow out of high school, always trying to fit in with the ‘in’ crowd. It is a trap and many times we know it, but fall into it nevertheless, because we are conditioned to believe that our self worth depends on what others think. Maybe its not that important to get that exclusive, maybe its not that important to boast about an address book with contact details of the who’s who in the world. What is more important is whether you were happy when you did that story. Whether you were satisfied with what came of it. This fact was reinforced for me by an assignment that I got this week. A story on how a group of owls were rescued by some rock climbing experts from a crack in a building wall. It was a totally random story, something some may even scoff at. But it was by far one of the most interesting and enjoyable stories I have done. I met interesting children, interesting rock climbers and some homemakers, one of whom I interviewed later on for another hard news piece. So it was a win win story, even though I may never get an award for it.
Over time I have realised that though ambition is good, it should not be to the point that you lose your own sleep. There is a need to draw the line, know how far you should go. I know I don’t want to be Christiane Amanpour. I know I want to be just me and want to be remembered however faintly, by whatever non descrepit story I do. Its easy to get disappointed that one is not among the ‘chosen few’, but maybe one would start a creed of one’s own :-)