I’ve made a habit all my life of doing whatever people tell me I can’t.
It’s why I, a petite girl (5′ 2″) own a beautiful, wasp-like Yamaha FZ16 motorcycle. It’s why I moved to Mexico City after more than two decades of a sheltered, rather superficial existence in southern California. It’s why I threw myself into a waterfall in river rapids six months after a near-drowning experience that left me with PTSD. It’s why I just quit my steady job at one of the world’s most respected newswires to be a freelance correspondent in Latin America.
I think one of the unpleasant kind of people are the ones who discourage others from doing things they love. I have never in my life said to someone, “I don’t think that’s possible” when it came to a dream and I hope I never do. We can all do whatever we feel like.
And that includes this: never working in somebody else’s office for the rest of my life, never spending more than one day of the week doing things I don’t love, and making money covering human rights and other social issues in Latin America.
More than two years ago, before I moved to Mexico City, I was repeatedly told by journalism professors that it was almost impossible to get a job in my field nowadays. That we were doomed as graduates of the Annenberg School of Communication in 2010. The warnings started in 2006, when I entered university, and they successfully weeded out about 80% of the non-committed students who transferred to a major in the much broader communications industry. When I was offered a job as a foreign correspondent in Mexico City three months after getting my diploma, people cautioned me. “You’re getting in way over your head,” one person said. “You should start at a local newspaper and then work your way up.”
This is my boldest attempt to prove the cynics wrong. On Feb. 11, 2013, I quit my job. Yes, that’s the same day Pope Benedict XVI resigned, the first pope to do so in 600 years. I had already planned to put in my 30-days notice that Monday, and was nervous about doing so until I woke up in the morning, grabbed my phone, and read the text message from my boss asking me to go to the Mexico City center to get reaction from Catholic Mexicans to the pope’s resignation. “The pope resigned?” I thought to myself. “This is the clearest sign from God I have ever been given.”
The past 2.5 years with my company have been awesome. I have traveled all around Latin America to spend days on end in the jungle with smugglers, opium poppy growers, coffee producers, subsistence corn farmers, gold miners and more. I have gotten to know the supply chain of our world’s principal commodities, the building blocks of society, to an extent I never could have imagined, all while working with exceptional editors and co-workers at a news bureau cooler than any that could be made up.
But now it’s time to move on. Working for a single news company, you are limited in terms of what you can cover and how. And you only get one life. It’s 2013, the world didn’t end with the Mayan calendar, but the landmark reminded me that the clock is ticking and has given me fuel to make an enormous change. It won’t be easy — I’m certain it will be the most challenging time of my life — but I’ll feel that I have fully earned my victories, and I’ll be fulfilled by the content I produce.
I’m ignoring the advice to play it safe and taking the dive into freelance journalism. Friday is my last day in the corporate world. In this blog, I will chronicle my journey, hoping that it will serve as inspiration for others who are held back by fear or the words of discouragement from, as the neuroscientist Douglas Hofstadter might have called them, “small-souled men.” As human beings, we have been gifted with the unique ability to infinitely conceptualize coupled with the capacity to create. Our minds can envision fictions and make them realities. In this year, 2013, let us more than ever exercise this power and duty.
As the Roman Stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca said so many centuries ago:
“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.”