Thursday, March 16, 2006

Momentary flashes of insight

You know those moments in your life when what you're doing suddenly makes sense? I think I had one of them yesterday. It wasn't an I'm-bringing-people-a-better-understanding-of-world-hunger-as-a-journalist-eureka moment (honestly, I'm not sure I understand it myself). No. My moment was at a coffee shop, while talking to a young man (YM), who I'd met for the first time yesterday. Two hours and one vanilla latte later, YM says to me: "I don't really know you. But... I think I'm going to ask you something anyway." The question was about a girl. 20 minutes later, I'm vehemently insisting that she likes him, "take it from an older woman who knows how women think." And that's when it hit me. YM and I are on opposite ends of every kind of spectrum there is. And yet, in two hours, we'd built a trust. I understood where he was coming from (which is totally separate from agreeing, I still don't) and he felt comfortable enough to confide in me. And it occured to me that this is it. This is what being a good journalist is about -- being able to see things, standing in another person's sneakers, whether you agree or not, and having the person realize you won't judge him. Because that's when he really lets you into his life.

I'd been wondering for a while, before this, whether the comfort level I reach so quickly with strangers is normal. I mean, a couple weeks ago, I was meeting with a senior journalist for an assignment and out of nowhere we were talking about my relationship with my father. Then, a few days later, my career services counselor and I veered off "magazine journalism" and ended up discussing long distance relationships and whether 30 and single is ok. And last Thanksgiving, I visited some people for the first time, went to a huge family dinner with them where I knew nobody, and yet, by the end of the night, everyone assumed I was the younger son's long term girlfriend -- a guy I had just met that evening.

I'm not sure what all this says about me. But I know what it says about how I see other people. I know this is going to sound cheesy, but I think most people are interesting. Ok, I'll amend that. People who live with intention, whatever the intent is, are interesting. And I think that's what leads me to form an intimate writer-interviewee bond with them. Because I want to know what's going on inside. I guess this could have made me a decent psychologist too. But the thing is, I also think I'm interesting (hey, I'm an Aquarian, we're vain, can't be helped) and am tempted to share my life. Which wouldn't do for a shrink. Writers, on the other hand, have enough room in their professional lives for an ego. Yeah, I think I'm in the right place.


At 12:57 AM, Blogger sinusoidally said...

Beautiful entry! There has to be a certain element of 'interesting' in your own personality to find others interesting. I am not a journalist by profession but I do feel a lot of what you feel towards other people.

At 3:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isnt it so beautiful that everyone has something or the other to offer...But lot of us are quite self obsessed...Human tendency you see!!! But Do you really think that empathizing is the only attribute of a good journalist??? (Out of curiosity)

At 8:45 PM, Blogger rhea said...

no, i definitely don't think it's the ONLY attribute of a good journalist. i just think it's a useful one to have. especially if you're like me and thoroughly disinterested in "hard news", "total objectivity" (is there such a thing?) kinda writing -- and more interested in people's stories.

At 1:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey rhea

I used to say a lot of people as interesting and was wondering what i mean by that .....when i read ur article , now i actually know what i meant by interesting ...yeah that was too beautiful ...


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