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Outback Observations: Fluttering, focus and an eventual career

April 10, 2013 by

Some journalists pursue their career path out of an innate desire to seek out truth in the vast, complex world around them.

Some journalists may develop their careers and serve at a global level, circumnavigating the globe to cover international wars, putting their lives on the line and driven by an innate sense of adventure that comes with the noble Search for Truth.

Myself?  Not so much. I hate seeing myself on TV and I don’t have any particular affinity toward world travel.

I pursued journalism largely due to a serious lack of other academic strengths outside the writing arena. Writing served as one of the few things I did well in school.  Lord knows I wasn’t a math student.

It was creative writing that initially fueled my interest, as I relished the opportunities to engage in the writing exercises in grade school.  Encouraged by positive feedback from teachers, I continued on with my efforts even afterhours, writing short stories at home in my spare time.

I veered away from my commitment to the craft by the time I reached college, particularly after a rudimentary news writing class I took at Lane Community College.  Taken aback by the realities of journalism, I derailed onto the Path of Miscellany, venturing away from the path of Academic Righteousness into the Gardens of Digression.

As I had tossed aside my passion for cars in light of playing the guitar, I began loading up on music theory courses.  The reality of what THAT entailed led me back to my greasy-fingernail roots, leading to a night class in small engine repair.

Skipping the majority of classes that term and returning the classmate-loaned engine as a box of thoroughly disassembled parts, I made the decision to finish up what classes I had remaining and transfer to the University of Oregon’s journalism school.

It was now or never.

As I progressed into my journalism major, with a focus on magazine writing, I had decided my future was etched in automotive journalism.  I’d published a few freelance articles in a Volkswagen magazine, which further solidified my tenacity.

It wasn’t until after I’d completed my degree and traveled to Orange County, Calif., that I learned how the real world works; to reference a 1994 film, Reality Bites.

Short version is the magazine editor that had assured me a paid internship (with potential for an eventual full-time job) had not even talked to his boss, who then promptly said ‘no.’

Eight weeks later, I returned home to Oregon.  It turned out that I truly hated (and still shudder at the thought of) living in Southern California.

I had to tell those stories to tell this story, as my comic hero Ron White has been known to say.  I learned vital lessons during and after getting out of school about focus and goal-setting.

On one hand, there is the danger of free-floating in the netherworld of higher education, sampling but never settling on one particular subject.  On the other, there is also a very real possibility of becoming excessively fixated on a singular goal.

It never hurts to prepare a ‘Plan B’ alternative in case the primary path doesn’t necessarily work out as expected.  At the very least, I often wish I’d minored in a secondary subject – creative writing comes to mind, given the roots of my interest in the craft – as a buffer, to round myself out while in college and further hone my writing skills.

That being said, over the last seven and a half years I’ve prided myself on learning the journalistic game on the fly, more or less, and trying to do the best I can as I continually learn and try to improve what I do on a weekly basis.

And, of course, something known as a weekly deadline also helps keep one’s focus on track.

Given the choice between reporting on violence in the Middle East or the smaller-scale politics of the Lake County region, I would say I’ve likely found my niche.

I’ll take the quiet life any day of the week.

 — Ryan Bonham

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