I want to tell a story…
There is a young journalist. She wants to write books for a living, but while writing her novel she needs to make cash. She takes a job at a huge fledgling magazine looking to make a turnaround in the digital age. She is really good at her job and gets bigger and bigger stories. She doesn’t particularly like her job. She would much rather write a novel or two and live off the book sales and raise her family.
Her Editor tells her there is big story she needs to go cover for the next issue of the magazine. He sends her last minute to an African village where a new disease is spreading like wildfire. It has already claim the lives of thousands and it is big news. She hops on the first flight to Africa. After a few bribes, shady truck rides on dusty roads, and a few begs and pleads she reaches a remote village where the virus has done the most damage.
She interviews the volunteer doctors who are under funded and over worked. They do their best but the virus is still claiming lives at a rapid rate. She meets an older man and his wife. They are both in their 70’s. He has contracted the virus. He is a strong man. Whose body does not show his real age. Strong features but they show weakness as he loses the battle with the virus. His wife of 50 years sits as he lays his head on her legs. She weeps and plants small kisses on his forehead as she knows the end is near. The doctors have warned her time and time again that she should be so close because she will catch the virus.
She said she doesn’t care. She loves this man too much to let him die alone without her holding him to his last breath. As his words get fainter and fainter he tells the young reporter of his life. He talks about how they raised a family on nothing. How he wanted to be a doctor like the ones treating him and give his wife nice things that he heard he could get in the west. She says she never needed those things. She was happy as long as she had him. The emotion in the room is thick and everyone knows the end is near. He tells the young reporter he envies her. She can go and come as she pleases and will never have to deal with disease the way he does. She has so many choices. She should be happy.
The interview ends and the young reporter leaves the makeshift hospital to compile her notes. A few minutes later she hears a blood curdling scream from the tent. The man’s wife lets out the emotion. The virus claims it’s latest victim.
The young lady finds her way back to the main town and calls her Editor to tell her the story is complete. Expecting a little sympathy and congratulation on getting the story done against the odds he tells her to hurry back he has another story for her to do and hangs up the phone. She hops on the next flight back. She deals with the woes of first world problems in domestic travel. Long lines, crying babies, small seats, delays, and fatigue. She gets back later than she hope much to the anger of her Editor. He is mid 50s, overweight and balding. He is typical of a stressed out baby boomer that in the same industry his whole life. He always wanted to start a magazine but was too scared to do it. He always feared it may fail and he wouldn’t be able to take care of his family, so he decided the next best thing was to work his way up to the top and try to influence the magazine from the inside. He tells he she needs to do better and tells her the next assignment. He glances over her African virus story. Say it needs work but it will do and tells her about her next story. As he tells her of the next assignment the years of fatigue at being berated finally well up and she snaps. She say I’m tired of this. I’m envious of you. You get to sit here and bark orders from this Mt. Olympus and I have to go out in the field and risk life and limb to bring you stories. I just want to do what you do. I just want to have a job in writing and come home to a family everyday.
The Editor is taken aback by her blast of emotion and tells her to calm down. He apologizes for his rudeness and tells her that he has a lot of stress. The publisher of the magazine puts a lot of pressure on him. Magazine readership is down and he presses on me so I press on the workers. She accepts the apology begrudgingly and leaves the building for her next assignment.
The Editor takes the new article from the young journalist and takes it to the Publisher is an older gentleman. Bespectacled in a three piece charcoal gray suit. Very put together gentleman in his 70s. He is a self made man and is very proud of his accomplishments. He doesn’t even really care about the magazine business but saw it as a challenge to turn around a fledgling business and decided to take a crack at it. The Editor goes to the Publisher’s office and shows him the stack of latest stories that are going into the issue. The Publisher is not happy with the editor and greets him with the with just the latest statistics for the month. “Readership is down another 5%. What are we doing to get the readership up? We need better articles.” The editor explains to him again like he does every month that people don’t read magazines like the use to. People go online to read and no matter how good the articles are people are not going to buy the magazine. The Publisher scoffs,” I didn’t get to where I am by making excuses.” Maybe if you didn’t make excuses you would have your own magazine.
The comment cuts deep in the Editor because that was his life long dream. He always wanted his own magazine. He would love to have the creative freedom to shape a magazine into his own vision and tell the story he wanted. He envied the Publisher. Here is a man that doesn’t even care about magazines and has one. And I have to work for this jerk. He only cares about numbers. He doesn’t care about the words written. He doesn’t care about the fact we are exposing this deadly virus in Africa. He doesn’t care about anything.
It was true the Publisher didn’t care. He hadn’t cared about much in many years. As a young man he grew up in abject poverty. Raised by a single mother with 2 siblings. As the oldest he always had to make sure everyone was taken care of. By the time he went off to college he had already started one successful business and was able to make sure college was paid for him and he younger siblings. And his mom would never have to worry about money again. In college he never spent time socializing. He knew that would get him off track and he would never have a chance to build up the great businesses he built in his adolescence. And he was afraid of losing it all again. He never dated. He never partied. He just built his businesses. And soon that is all he had. His friends were his enterprises that he built into a conglomerate. After years of hard work though he decided he would have some fun with a pet project. He find some fledgling business to turn around. So he bought a magazine. Here is today berating his editor saying that is why he never had a magazine because of his excuses. You have to work harder. Do whatever it takes to make it. That’s why I’m on this side of the table. Give me your articles.
The editor gave him the African virus story. He thumbs through it. Suddenly the editor sees something astonishing. Is that a tear on the publisher’s face? He thought it was a mistake. Eventually the publisher starts to sob uncontrollably. I said the article needed work but it wasn’t that bad. The Publisher takes a minute to collect himself and apologize for his break in character. And then utters a few sentences. I envy this African man. When I die no one will be there to hold me in the end. And these business will go to no one.
We spend our whole lives working to achieve something that always alludes us. Only to realize everything we needed was right in front of us.
The African man had already given his wife what she wanted.
The young journalist was already a writer.
The Editor already ran a magazine.
The Publisher had a family already.
The situations weren’t perfect, but they were good.
I struggle with this a lot myself. I’m not where I want to be in life so I do a lot of complaining. But the reality is I have accomplished a lot and if I would have just stepped back and enjoyed those moments I would be a lot happy. That is the point of my mantra, “Enjoy the Journey.” My blog is partly about travel. But best travel you will do is the just traveling down the road of life. And it will leave you with twist and turns, but the Journey is what you make it.
I say Enjoy the Journey.