A remedy

Everyone finds themselves, from time to time, in situations where they don't quite have the upper hand. Your first day of work, a trip to the doctor when you're worried about your health, a first date or a public speaking engagement. There's a lot out there to get stressed over, and now that I'm not a reporter at the Chatham News, not covering the same meetings and events, not working with the same individuals and not writing for the same audience, stressful situations are bound to come up more often. Because when you forge ahead, let's face it, you've got to do some new stuff. It is also quite possible to stay home and read murder mysteries late into the morning and avoid the situations. But that won't really get you anywhere.

Last night I was doing some work for a local AM talk station. I've covered stories for them before, when I had time while working for the paper, and figured I could do a little more of that now that I do - well - nothing. Covering stories for radio is similar to covering stories for a newspaper. You look for similar angles and pick up the same quotes. You ask the same questions and gather the same information, basically. It's just that in radio you, obviously, record everything while in print journalism you write it down.

I remember the first meeting I covered for the paper. It was a big one for the town of Pittsboro. A semi-judicial meeting that went well into the night and I thought to myself, "What have I gotten myself into?" I remember trying to put something reasonable together the next day for that week's paper, but not really having any training I was very, very nervous about what the editor, and other reporters, would think. What I'd done was fine, luckily, and the next week it got easier and the week after it was easier still. Pretty soon I was sending text messages during meetings to catch up on baseball scores. I ceased scribbling pages upon pages of notes and just took down what I knew I'd need the next day. I'm not saying I was a slacker. I wasn't. In most cases I sat through every minute of every meeting, for fear of missing anything. I just, as most people do, became comfortable with the responsibilities of my job.

Last night, however, even though I've covered meetings before, and even though I've done some work for the radio before, wasn't exactly easy for me. First of all, I had to carry all this equipment around, like a microphone for instance, that I don't know much about. After I'd plugged into the system in the back room, in order to record the commissioners, the woman working there asked "how my levels" were. "Fine," I answered, unwilling to tell her that I couldn't judge anything by looking at my mini-disc recorder except that it was on, thank God, because if I couldn't get it to turn on I was just going to have to go home and get in bed and eat several chocolate truffles. Like maybe 20 of them.

There are other, more difficult facets to the whole regime, like having to go back to the studio, listen to and edit the tape, and then put together a nice 30-second news story. The worst part is that these things aren't difficult for basically everybody else there, a crack team of young journalism students and recently-graduated broadcast stars who are total pros. I've learned how to do the basics, but not without freaking out a little each time. It's like my first day on the job, over and over again. Since I've never been a regular, I have to relearn a little each time.

I really can't complain though (even though the above paragraphs might suggest I do, and a lot). I'm learning a whole new skill because the people at the station trust me enough to do some work for them. And knowing a little bit about of broadcast journalism will, no doubt, help me when the people from NPR show up and ask if I'd be interested in hosting a show.

The other thing that gets me through is these earrings I have. I'm not about to go all Harry Potter on you guys or anything, but right before we left Maine, Max and Jennifer gave me a present - two sets of earrings - as a thank you for the summer, with a really nice card, and when I wear either of these pairs of earrings, I think about them and all my friends and J and my family and realize that some stupid meeting is not enough to get myself worked up over. So when I start to lose it because I may have just missed an important quote, or in other situations, like when I'm home alone and haven't heard from anyone I've contacted about writing or anything else and am feeling kind of lost I just remember that I have these magical earrings and I feel better. Not only better, but I feel so much better.

I realize that's a pretty simplistic way of looking at life, but it works, and also, it may just be a sign that I'm losing all the edginess of youth and becoming, like, a mom-type, or maybe I'm just going straight to grandma-hood, what with my "magic earrings" and all, but anything to save me from the stomachaches and sleeplessness of worrying about totally non-important things is worth, I think, risking my reputation as a cool, confident and mature person, which, come to think of it, may have already been destroyed on many other occasions, including, but not limited to, ah, everything that I get myself into every single day.