I was instructed to write a 750-1,000 word biography in relation to the field of journalism for a scholarship application. After recruiting a couple of friends to proofread it and effectively sealing my outbound envelope, I decided that I should post the bio. So, here’s me, in a nutshell.
While packing up my things to return to school following my winter break, I ran across an old moleskin notebook, a black and gold collector of dust wedged between a pile of old temporary tattoos and extra dress socks.
I remembered that notebook — it was one in which my mother wrote to me each night when I was younger. After thumbing through a couple of pages, I stumbled on one that will stick with me forever. It read “Good work on your report card today, Jimmy. I know someday you will grow up to be a great sports writer.” The date was January 7, 2000.
Previously, I had been trying to trace back the origination of my infatuation with storytelling. I had dusted off some old plaques from middle school writing contests, uncovered a poetry book from fifth grade and glanced through a couple childhood English assignments. But I didn’t realize that I was destined to inherit the life I live today from the age of seven.
So for more than 10 years, I have been destined to live vicariously through my work, travelling the Midwest in search of nothing less than a good story. Seven-year old me wouldn’t be surprised that I wedged a quick spring break at home in between extended trips to Columbus and St. Louis, where I made another step toward figuring out this profession that I set aside for myself. Nor would he think twice about my decision to move 450 miles away from home for the summer, only to purchase an apartment in a bustling faraway city so I can work full-time for no reward more than a pat on the back, the experience I take away and the impression I leave behind.
I wonder what would four-year old me, the kid that “broadcasted” hockey games on his Little Tikes recorder several nights a week, think of the life I’ve made for myself? How would I like the prospect of moving out of my parents’ home the summer of my 18th birthday to take up residence at some university in the rolling hills of Southeast Ohio, just far enough away so coming home on the weekends isn’t really an option?
On that note, I wonder how Jim Ryan the baby would comprehend the field I’m trying to make a name for myself in. I always understood the value of a good story, as I wouldn’t go to sleep unless my favorite book, “Scuppers the Sailor Dog”, was read to me at least once or twice. I always was a tough sell, but that book captivated me.
If it weren’t for my parents, who stayed up late running through fairy tales, nursery rhymes and the insatiable need for Scuppers, I wouldn’t have inherited my love for the English language that I have today. So, to trace it back to the very beginning, I wonder what Mr. and Mrs. Ryan think about what their eldest son is doing with his life? I can’t speak for them, but I hope they’re proud. They know I’m entering a field that has a very uncertain future. That has to be scary for them. But on the other hand, they know that I have had one career goal since I was smart enough to realize that I wasn’t going to play sports for a living — telling stories.
Right now they see me doing that to the best of my ability. And as the days roll by, every one different than the next, they can see, although I don’t live with them any longer, that my passion for that goal increases every time my alarm rings in the morning. What they can’t see is that just as often as not, I lie with my eyes open in bed as the hours tick by, only to grab for my legal pad, phone or computer three or four times before I drift off to rest. I don’t delay going off to sleep because of my roommates raucous snoring, although it isn’t especially conducive to a good night’s sleep, but because I have to wind down, lay off and let this crazy life I live slip by the wayside for the night, if only for a couple hours.
As much as people always say that it doesn’t matter what others think, I adamantly disagree. I have always strove to be different — to be someone that others look to as a role model and gravitate to for leadership. Other peoples’ opinions absolutely matter to me.
But in the end, it’s my perception of myself that I take into account most. I believe that everything in my life has happened for a reason and that there’s a purpose, whether pre-defined or not, for this self-proclaimed prophecy that I attached to myself way back when. The future of media is anything but concrete and this profession needs innovators. No longer will a journalism degree get you a job and no longer will those who have worked in this field be guaranteed a position. Journalism needs modernization and commitment. Some say it’s scary, others question the worth of a degree in media and many proclaim journalists are a thing of the past. I say it’s what I was born to do.