My journey to becoming a journalist started four-and-a-half years ago. I was working at an Employee Assistance Program as a gambling addiction counselor on LaSalle Street for corporate America.
I won’t say how much money I was making at that job, but it was more than the minimum wage that I make today.
I was so burned out by counseling this person for substance abuse and that person for depression that I said, “This is it. I’m going to pursue my dream of becoming a writer.”
I knew going back to school would entail numerous sacrifices and pay cuts, but I didn’t really care. I was ready to venture out into a world outside of social work.
My first semester going back to school was probably the hardest. It was difficult to make ends meet after leaving my other job. I ended up teaching a college class at St. Augustine College at night while I attended my classes at Columbia during the day. Going from full-time work on LaSalle Street, across from City Hall, to teaching one night a week seemed like a recipe for homelessness.
Because of how difficult that first semester was, I had to take the following semester off and go back to my counseling job. I absolutely hated it. All I could think about was figuring out how I was going to be able to complete this degree in journalism so I could be done with social work forever.
Needless to say, it was a very depressing time for me. At that point in my life, I hated where I worked and whom I worked for; I just wanted it to be over. I just wanted to move on.
In the fall of 2013, I was able to figure out a way to come back to Columbia and continue with classes. I was still working full time as a social worker—I had no choice; I had to pay the bills.
But I was still unhappy doing that job. I wanted to do more and I felt like I was ready to do work as a journalist. I wanted to write because getting experience as a journalist is the reason I wanted to leave that job and go back to school.
It was difficult to stay at that job, but during that semester I discovered an opportunity to build my skills as a journalist.
I had a classmate in my “Reporting and Writing I” class who worked at The Chronicle. Every time we got out of class, he would head into the newsroom to work.
I would always press my nose against the glass of The Chronicle’s newsroom and look in and think to myself, “I want to work here.”
I finally built up enough courage to apply for a job at The Chronicle, but I guess I didn’t get that position because I never heard anything back about it.
I felt bad about not getting that job, but not as bad as I felt still having to go to my social work job. I told myself that I was going to have to make a big career move if I was ever going to be able to achieve my dreams and make it as a journalist.
I knew the importance of getting experience in the field if I wanted to eventually become a successful journalist. I knew I wanted to get my experience working at The Chronicle.
In April 2014, I quit my social work job, and in August, I was hired as the Assistant Metro Reporter for The Columbia Chronicle. The job did not pay as much as my social work job, but I was happy because I was doing something that I truly enjoyed.
That reporter position ultimately led to my current position as the Multimedia Editor for The Chronicle. Who would have thought that the past four years would lead me to pursuing becoming a sports documentarian?
That’s what happens when you step out on faith: It leads you to the right path.
I came to Columbia as an insecure and discouraged social worker, but I’m leaving Columbia and The Chronicle as a better writer, editor, co-worker, multimedia journalist and, most importantly, a better person.
Thank you, Columbia Chronicle—you were the big push I was waiting for.