Back to where I started for something new
Greensboro has changed a lot since I was a kid. New buildings silhouette the downtown skyline, the Greensboro Grasshoppers and NewBridge Bank Park have become hallmarks of the city, and my childhood neighborhood, once an isolated suburb out by the airport, has expanded into its own self-contained village with schools and shopping centers.
I had left 10 years ago without looking back.
The truth is that if you had told me in high school that I would be back here as a reporter, I probably would have laughed in your face before silently condemning you with the type of indignant scowl only achieved by the face of a cynical teenage girl. I wanted to be a poet in Paris, not a journalist in my sleepy hometown.
I dreamed of going to college in California or New York, but ended up an hour away in Chapel Hill. When you are a curious girl and hungry for adventures money doesn’t seem tangible until it suddenly anchors you in pace like a string to a kite.
I was determined to minimize redundancies in college and only focus on the new. I wanted new friends, new intellectual pursuits – a new path. I had been features editor of my high school paper, but when hordes of UNC students rushed to apply to the school of Journalism I ran the other way. I knew I wanted a life that was completely different from anyone I had known before, so I was distrustful of any well-trodden road that appeared ahead of me.
Sometimes we can make life so hard on ourselves.
Without realizing it, I repeatedly put myself in challenging or competitive situations. I started writing about music because it had always been a passion of mine without fully understanding that music journalism, especially for women, is notoriously cutthroat.
To use a quote most-often attributed to comedian Martin Mull, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”
Maybe music critics become experts at cataloging albums and mastering pop culture history and the evolving web of industry models because it’s actually much easier than trying to explain, using words, what a piece of music is doing and what it is doing to you.
For a while I felt as though the indie music scene was swirling with sounds that were tailored to me. I was at the center of a new burgeoning soundscape and every new band or song I heard made me feel like I was falling in love with music again for the first time. I had a voracious appetite but I still couldn’t keep up with it all.
I could have spent every waking hour writing about music, but I needed to pay rent and feed myself. Without a journalism degree, or industry connections and personal wealth to afford a big city internship, I had few leads and hardly any leverage.
Like so many people of my generation, I scoured job boards and sent application after application, day after day, with no response. I felt like an insignificant speck of crushed dreams headed into a black hole. Pink Floyd was right, “you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking.”
Time passes. Life is change. I found solid ground for a while at a nonprofit in Chapel Hill. I cultivated a nice little life with plenty of good friends and entertainment. It wasn’t what I wanted to do forever but it was secure.
Sometimes change bubbles up gradually, other times it spills you over sideways. Sometimes it’s a little of both. I had started making moves back into journalism when I got the opportunity to write for YES! Weekly as a political reporter.
I used to read YES! Weekly in high school. I would go downtown to the Green Bean and pretend to be an independent, cultured adult who was plugged-in to everything from music to politics.
My own change from music to politics had been gradual. I will always love music but that wide-eyed time of infatuation has mellowed into a seasoned and innate passion. Music movements change, and the more songs you hear in your life, the more they remind you of those first ones that you loved.
My music writing had become more political. I saw how politics affected everything around me. New buildings didn’t just appear in the skyline but were the product of at least some amount of political deliberation.
Every disappointment, success, or rerouted turn in my life had been affected by the politics of something: economy, gender, class, education.
So now I see that it’s me that has changed a lot since I left Greensboro, perhaps as much as the city itself. I may have returned to my high school pas sion of journalism but it’s with an older set of eyes.
Since starting at YES! Weekly last month I’ve jumped into City Council deliberations, covered the tragic death of a local student athlete, and rushed across town for a surprise announcement from the governor.
I’m back to where I started and yet this path feels new. !
FOLLOW WHITNEY on Twitter to get the latest on local politics at @YesWeekWhitney