Why am I always on the crossroad between Media and Academics?
A thousand things running in my mind after that disappointing interview i gave for the position of Guest Faculty at the college I studied at (it’s a University now).
I wonder if i am, at all, made for the world of academia which almost all of my peers and seniors and basically anyone who studies English or literature does!
I remember how my once-childhood-friend told me that I was giving up on myself, compromising by deciding to quit media after just one experience as a content writer at a regional news organisation (that organisation is the #1 channel in my city, by the way). He kept on persuading me to opt for what I really wanted to do, which, he insisted, I knew deep inside of me.
Most of my friends have this very vague idea of what journalism and media is. They want it to be ideal, they refuse to believe that, like all other institutions, the media, too, is a product of capitalism and consumer-culture. They’d keep on saying I should have gone for core journalism and become a crime reporter or something. They think highly of me, I guess. They don’t know me well enough to know my skill set.
Also, I’m not rich. And journalism isn’t the same anymore. Not just the paper I worked for and now freelance for, it’s the same with all media. In any case, print media is fast disappearing. My friends know nothing.
I was always rebellious. Growing up, when my parents and teachers would say I’d make a great teacher/professor, I’d get angry. Why?
Because everyone in India feels women are not suitable to be journalists. Women should be teachers and professors because – it’s a safe, secure job without any exploitation which gives you enough time for your hobbies and also provides you fulfillment. You could fulfill your marital duties. Journalism is for men who can go into jungles at midnight and fight with ghosts!
I should be a lecturer because I am a woman. I can’t be a journalist because I am a woman.
This attitude was one of the key reasons why I did not want to be a professor in my adolescence. I wanted to change this mindset.
I had my heart set on working in the media. I was fascinated by news anchors. On top of that, I loved writing and public speaking. I have a host of awards and trophies for debates, essays, speeches, etc. I was always praised for my good voice. Heck, that led me to an internship as a voice-over artist too. And also, I landed my first job because of my fluency in English.
I don’t have a journalism degree. I got into the largest selling (yes, it still is) newspaper of India because of my love for English and my knack for writing, which I knew would improve if I work with them.
I took up Humanities.
I graduated in English Literature.
I took up media.
I wanted to be tough, physically and mentally, to prove I am equal to men.
I always wanted to prove myself, to prove that being a woman should not be a limitation – it’s all in your head!
I work out mostly with weights because I don’t think I will be able to protect myself if I don’t make myself physically resilient, learn to fight back when attacked.
Nobody is born physically or mentally powerful. We all train.
And that’s why I thought that maybe I should try teaching. I teach a ninth grader and I think I might enjoy it. That’s why I appeared for this position of a guest faculty at my college.
Other colleges also have vacancies from time to time, but I am picky. I don’t wish to teach just anywhere, even though I need some classroom-teaching experience. Like that once-childhood-friend of mine who, when I was offered a position at my school (yes, that too happened in 2015), said, “Will you be able to handle kids?” Yes, that was a problem. Kids, teenagers are all a pain in the ass, anyway.
But, I do enjoy teaching that kid. I have been doing that for 3 years now. I never thought I’d be a tutor. But, I became one.
I guess, a very small part of me wants to try teaching. I have my teachers supporting me. I wouldn’t have known about this had my teacher not messaged me. And they seemed disappointed too when the interview didn’t go well.
After getting laid off, I thought of using my time to catch up on studies as well. I didn’t. But, that’s not what I am angry at myself for. It’s because –
I forgot that Robert Frost is an American poet at the interview! That man’s “The Road Not Taken” is the basis of my whole life. If I could have answered his name quoting the lines from the poem, I’d have won their hearts over. Yet, I didn’t. Could not. He crossed my mind and left.
How did that happen?
The man’s poem was the first big motivator of my life. And I forgot him. Have I begun hating Americans? Thank you, Trump!
That is what makes me feel. Why did Frost just come and go? What prevented me from uttering his name and saving the interview? I had nothing in my favour anyway. I have been away from literature for a year and a half. That one man could have saved me today. I remember the lines from his poem!
It felt as if his spirit told me to say, “I’m afraid, Ma’am, I am not into poetry!” Just sabotaged the whole interview. Why Mr Frost? Why?
I keep thinking – do I still have something more to do in media than I already did? Am I not made for teaching?
In 2015, when I interviewed for the same position at the same place, I was selected – I got the #1 rank.
And the very same day, the newspaper I worked for calls me and tells me I was shortlisted for the position of copyeditor.
I took it. This was an opportunity I couldn’t have gotten again. You see, they have now closed the department I worked for. So, that was it!
I don’t regret it at all. The newspaper was my favourite and I have been its reader since my childhood. People say all kinds of crap about the newspaper now and, during my tenure there, I could see why, but, nevertheless, I was happy to be associated with it. The environment at the branch I worked was toxic, thanks to the misogynist pig who was the marketing head (and wanted all of us to acknowledge him as our “be all and end all” in spite of the fact that I and some of my other colleagues were part of a different department with our own reporting managers), but it was worth it. The 2 years I spent there made me grow up, to some extent, and I understood a whole lot about human psychology. I was the youngest there, and while I was showered with a lot of love and forgiveness, I was also the first to be shown the door when things turned bad at the company. No regrets though! The work was non-existent and I had nothing to do there. I wanted to go, anyway.
I’m happy as a freelancer. Yes, it is difficult to manage finances and there is absolutely no security or guarantee of anything. But, i am happy to have developed some little bit of my own. I am happy to have not spent days wailing and pitying myself (while everyone else did) and gained so much out of it.
I got a laptop last week, from my own money, something I never thought of doing in the last 2 years.
Is the universe conspiring against me, trying to say – No, dear. Not academics. Go back to media. That is where you belong!
Am I really not cut out to be a teacher?
Is it mere coincidence that when last year I was selected, my marksheets of Masters’ were not out and I was offered the job by the newspaper, all in the same day?
Is it a coincidence that I could not quote my favourite poet and the life-changing poem he wrote today at the interview? I even taught my kid that poem recently!
What the hell happened?
Why do I feel there is some roadblock to my being a lecturer? That something out there doesn’t want me to be in a classroom, teaching?
I sort of knew I wouldn’t be having a good interview – something told me I wouldn’t do well.
My teachers wanted me there. But, I just couldn’t do well.
I can say all of it in retrospect. Brother says I am having all these thoughts because being in media was something I wanted to do since I was a kid.
It was, indeed, the dream of an innocent, uncorrupted mind. It is always there, as if it is a part of me.
As if, that’s what I am meant to do.
And, if I’d decide to quit, something will, most probably, come up and stop me.
It will be that one road I won’t be able to take!
“I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood and I?
I took the road less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.”
I have made a promise to myself since I was a kid that the day I am acknowledged for my work – I’d quote this poem of Frost in my “Thank you speech”.
Now, I’d really do!