After officially leaving The Oakdale Leader a few years ago to pursue my fiction writing career, I’m excited to say that the “B” is back in the newsroom, ready to ask the hard questions, tell inappropriate jokes and wear pants again.
Yes, I said pants, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Even though, wearing socially acceptable clothing has been the most jarring transition — bras and shoes are dumb — returning to the role of reporter feels like coming home after a long absence.
In spite of my protests to the contrary, I missed the laughter of the news team, the camaraderie of the office staff and the unique conversations that could only pop up between such a diverse cast of characters.
When I made the decision to leave, my youngest sister (who is a card-carrying introvert) wasn’t sure I would do very well in isolation because I’m an energy vampire (otherwise known as an extrovert) and I thrive when I’m around other people.
But I’d been looking forward to the peace and quiet environment of a novelist and I was enamored by the idea of spending hours of uninterrupted time with my imagination. It was going to be me, my laptop, a cup of tea and quality time with my muse.
On paper, it sounded great. In reality, what a nightmare.
Don’t get me wrong, I managed to get my novels written (to date, I have about 100 pieces of work, spread out amongst multiple pen names) but I slowly started to devolve as a human being and my family had started giving me side-eye glances.
I’d become entirely too comfortable wearing the same tattered shirt and soft, terry cloth work-out shorts for days on end, my hair in a messy bun plopped on top of my head and my mental health teetering dangerously between “unstable and prone to biting” to “anti-social hermit with a touch of nihilistic apathy.”
When my HVAC unit completely died in the midst of a record heat wave filled with endless triple digits and being in the pool felt like marinating in a crock-pot, I was about to run screaming into the streets in a fit of hopeless despair and unmedicated depression.
But, sometimes, life is funny.
In the midst of my meltdown, I received a phone call from Marg Jackson, The Leader editor, wanting to know if I could cover an assignment. I told her I couldn’t because of the current situation of Hell being relocated to my living room and she responded with a job offer to do some additional stringer work.
Here’s the thing, not more than ten minutes prior, I had said to the Universe, “I’m open to solutions” and then I got the call. To me, it seemed as if the Universe had been paying attention to my desperate plea and had delivered exactly what I needed, not only for my unexpected expense of a new HVAC system but for my mental health, too.
It’s hard to admit that you need people. Especially when you consider yourself fiercely independent. But the reality is, as human beings, we all need people. We need laughter, camaraderie, shared stories, compassion and a reason to get out of bed (and, apparently, get dressed).
It’s only been the second week and I’ve already been more productive, both personally and professionally, than I have been in months. Having deadlines, structure and responsibilities above and beyond my own enables me to focus my ADHD brain. It might seem counter-intuitive but the weight of responsibility keeps me grounded. Also, I’m never bored by the newsroom, which also helps keep me on the right track creatively.
For many, 2020 has been the year of big change. I’m definitely in that camp. Some changes have broken my heart; some have lifted my soul but through it all, I’ve taken the opportunity to learn and grow as a person.
The thing is, while change often gets a “zero stars” rating, it isn’t bad.
Sometimes, it’s exactly what you need to keep moving in the right direction or, as in my case, put you back on track after you’ve completely derailed and the contents of your railcar are strewn about like the carnage left behind after a hungry T-Rex attack.
So, here I am, ready to report the news, listen to your stories, and hopefully, make a difference.
And yes, I’m even wearing pants.
Kim Van Meter is a former reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Escalon Times and The Riverbank News; she will continue to provide occasional columns.