Before leaving DC to take the staff job at the journal, I told quite a few people of my impending move. While some reactions were positive, a fair amount of them were what you might expect them to be; a grimace followed by an incredulous and confused “South Dakota?”
There are a lot of reasons why I took this job. I wanted to do something that was outside of my comfort zone, working for a small newspaper in an area that I’ve never been to. I also wanted to use my time here to gain experience in aspects of photojournalism that iv’e always had trouble with, such as finding and pitching my own stories, shooting sports, improving my lighting skills, etc.
but one reason in particular stands out. It’s one that I don’t usually share with a lot of people, as its nothing to be proud of. But in this case it might just be the most important.
Not long after ending my internship with the San Francisco Chronicle, I was arrested for a DUI. .11. About a drink and a half over the limit, but more than enough to do lasting damage. My license was taken away for a year. The financial cost was in the thousands (I still owe my parents the money for court fees) and it denied me opportunities that I otherwise could have had.
Instead of building on the progress that I made at the Chronicle with another summer internship, I spent summer 2015 in a three months long DMV program in Ventura to get my license back. Even more damaging was that the DUI also made me a liability to company insurers. As recently as six months ago, I was offered and accepted an internship with a newspaper in Ohio, only to have the offer rescinded a few weeks later because I couldn’t be covered to drive on business for them. I interviewed at another newspaper in Virginia shortly after, and was initially chosen by the photo department before they were overruled by HR for the same reason.
I learned that while there are some exceptions, most HR departments won’t vet you until about three years have passed from the offense, so I wouldn’t be completely eligible for another internship until mid-2017. The thought of sitting on my hands for another year in DC just to become eligible again, and at that point a year out of college (which lowers the pool of possible internships i could apply to even further) was paralyzing.
However, I also applied to the Journal earlier in the summer, and was considering it before a hiring freeze was temporarily enforced for a few months. It wasn’t very long after I had been rejected from the internships that my editor got back into contact with me and offered me the job, despite the DUI.
So the truth is, I didn’t necessairly plan on being here. And just as a matter of fact, i wouldn’t be had I never made that mistake two years ago. But now that I am here, I’m determined to make the most of it that I possibly can. Because this isn’t just a job for me. It’s a chance to start up again after almost two years of having everything on hold.
And Iv’e got a lot of catching up to do.
ps. Don’t drink and drive. Really, if you only get one thing out of this post, I hope it’s the weight of the consequences of doing so.