In the summer 2008 issue of Colby Martin “Moxie” Connelly ’08 wrote thoughtfully about what his future might hold. With humor he imagined a few scenarios—including becoming a journalist.
Moxie’s fantasy journalism career included exciting international postings, an exotic wife, kids, and finally a comfortable university job teaching journalism. But in the end Martin sidelines the idea because, as he writes, the news tends to be too boring or depressing.
I have a perspective on these complaints because I ended up a journalist.
At Colby I pursued a major in Creative Excuses to Backpack in Europe (i.e. German). It all passed quickly. Suddenly one morning in 1989 (I think it was in the spring) then-president William Cotter was doling out diplomas like the Wizard of Oz distributing hearts and brains. Incredibly, he called my name.
A couple of hours later we were free. But nothing else was. After inadvertently trying to walk out of an Arby’s in Providence, R.I., without paying, I realized my dining-hall lifestyle was over. So I started working. For the next seven years I held jobs I couldn’t stand. Then I talked my way into an unpaid internship at public radio station KPLU in Seattle.
Thirteen years later, with a mix of glee and embarrassment and disbelief, I suggested to Moxie that I had become a bit like the reporter he’d described in his essay. The foreign correspondent. The exotic wife (at least I think so!). A couple of exciting postings in Mexico and Europe. And the best part, a couple of kids. These days, when the radio is on, my 4-year-old daughter Lula sometimes asks, “Papa, is that you?” Coolest part of the job, hands down. Except when she confuses me with Don Imus.
And, though I haven’t landed the journalism professorship yet, I figure there’ll be time for that when this horse’s legs finally give out.
From inside the news game I can say that I’ve never found reporting boring. The lead that begins ‘Town officials say…’ almost always has a direct, if small, impact on our lives. Moxie also complained, understandably, that the news is usually bad: “Another car bomb goes off in Baghdad… .” In response I can only say that I am very happy not to have been sent to the Iraq War. When most reporters were scrambling onto military transport planes bound for Baghdad I was hiding under my bed in Mexico City. Later I won front-row seats to the bloody fall of the Aristide government in Haiti, which goes to show that under-the-bed is a lousy hiding place. But the point is that somebody has to cover those events and apply the truth test to the endless cascade of official lies. Otherwise the doo-doo we’re standing in would only get deeper.
Now I live in Spain, where the dangers are considerably less, if you don’t count olive-oil fires. When I’m not reporting on events in Europe, and when no kids are climbing on me, I happily peck out my memoir from Latin America. The idea is to get back on track with Moxie’s fantasy by publishing this beast, going on tour, and riding the wave of rave reviews into a cush job teaching journalism (you listening, Colby?). I’m already developing a curriculum. My first class will be entitled “Cable Management: How to Keep Your Microphone and Headphone Cables from Getting All Twisted Together.”
But here’s the point: As you get older you ramble more. No, no. This: Moxie was right when he wrote that graduating is like choosing a college all over again. But it’s even better than that. Because any day along life’s journey you can switch schools, as it were. And you don’t have to walk across the snow to the registrar’s office to do it.
Thank the liberal arts. That alleged education in problem solving, drawing connections, and placing events in their larger perspective means that you’re adroit enough to dump firefighting one day and become a math or history teacher the next. Because you already know the calculus of water arcing from a hose and that the first firefighting vehicle was built by the Thracians.
Buoyed by this breadth of education, Moxie doesn’t seem too worried about the future. This suggests he’s off to a good start. Because for the next 10 or 15 years, like any young graduate, he can keep doing whatever he wants—and changing what that is. As long as he does it well.
Moxie wrote how at Christmas parties past he would dodge the “What are your plans for the future?” question by quipping that he was “thinking about getting a job, to support myself.”
Cheeky, no doubt. But in the end that’s what we all do. And one day Moxie—a blink of an eye from now—when you’re 40 and making the Christmas-party rounds and people ask you what you do, I hope that you’ll keep the joke going. That you’ll hoist one of your kids to your shoulders and say, “I’ve been thinking about getting a job, to support my family.” I can all but guarantee that your exotic wife will laugh. You will already have worked so much. It will all seem like a dream.
Gerry Hadden ’89, based in Barcelona, is Europe correspondent for The World radio program. The original essay by Martin “Moxie” Connelly ’08 is available online.