I just finished two weeks of working as a reporter/photographer for the newspaper I left nine years ago, filling in until a new reporter could be hired. The first week was exhausting, coming as it did on top of my granddaughter's accident and a period of daily trips to the hospital. But even tired as I was, I realized on some levels I was enjoying myself. By the second week, I was able to analyze why.
I felt competent. I'm a decent writer, a good newspaper photographer, and an ace at fielding calls from the crazy public. The staff made it clear that I saved the day by agreeing to come in for two weeks, and they were grateful. At home I save no one's day. At home I'm surrounded by jobs undone, and proof that I'm not a very good housekeeper. At the newspaper I met my daily deadlines and didn't need editing.
I had a field. One reason why I loved being a reporter years ago was that I could call myself one. Over the decades I've gotten paid for being a writer and an editor, but I've also gotten paid for being a secretary, a lab tech, a symphony telemarketer (that one didn't last long), and an administrator of census tests. Probably because I never graduated from college, I never felt as though I had a field. I always wanted one.
I experienced community. At a daily paper, we all strive toward a common goal. We're all in it together. I have sought community on one level or other my entire life. I'm convinced a feeling of community is one of the biggest benefits of belonging to a church. But I don't go to church. At home these days, most of my community is felt online. It was nice to experience it with audio.
And speaking of audio.....I had such fun bantering with my old friend Kevin and others on the staff. The newsroom gets quiet around four o'clock in the afternoon every day as everyone starts writing in earnest, but earlier in the day the atmosphere is light. Laughter is often triggered by our interaction with people outside the office. As I said to Kevin a few days ago, "So many funny things happen here, and we all share them. When I'm at home again next week, nothing funny is likely to happen—and if it does, I have no one to tell."
So now you're probably wondering why I didn't take the job myself. I was never seriously tempted. In addition to all of the above, the job also entails covering interminable night meetings, getting to work in all kinds of weather (the paper must get out no matter what), overtime on a regular basis, driving all over the countryside to get stories, and expending more energy than I possess. As a retired editor said to me recently, "Reporting is for the young."
The paper hired a young woman just out of college. I wish her the best. Now I have to figure out how to incorporate some of the above into my retirement. It was a good career while it lasted.