I’m taking a page out of Madonna’s playbook and reinventing myself. At 54. And, you know, without all the glamour, fame, and fortune. Not that I had those things to begin with after twenty-odd years in local television news. On the tech side, as a director/tech director. We’re the men and women who, over the span of their careers, have found themselves “suddenly” doing what up to five people used to do….but from one chair–just like everyone else these days.
Sure, it was fun to meet Bobby Orr on his way to the studio, playing “Pied Piper” to a bunch of kids about to tape a kids’ sports show. Jimmy Tingle has had me in stitches while he was on-air and I was in the controlroom on more occasions than I can remember. Meeting Peter Jennings and David Brinkley–and running audio in my very early TV days on location for ABC World News Tonight and Good Morning America– during the heyday of New Hampshire’s relevance as a primary state during a presidential election still gives me chills.
But I also watched the live feed for days while Worcester firefighters searched for the remains of their brothers, killed in the Worcester Cold Storage Fire. And went up with live pictures of them bringing each one out of the rubble in solemn procession. I got in “The Chair” just before the first Tower came down on 9/11, a staid and respected journalist on set unable to utter anything other than, “Good God.” On the flip side of the dark things I’ve been party to bringing you ….I was in “The Chair” when they got Bomber #2 (who’s name shall remain unwritten by me for all the rest of my days), our reporter and photographer so close to where he was hiding we could hear the police shouting, “, come out, we know you’re hurt. Come out, we’ll help you.” The spontaneous eruption of cheering and clapping among the assembled crowd as law enforcement left the area brought me to my feet in the controlroom, cheering, too.
And maybe it’s these things that pointed me in my new direction. I know I’ve been a compulsive helper all my life, organizing care and being a patient advocate for friends and family. Through both parents having lung cancer at the same time. A treasured uncle who succumbed to complications from emphysema. A mother-in-law diagnosed with lung cancer who lost her battle, too. I’ve wanted a career change for nearly a decade and the search for a new niche, where my uber multi-tasking skills and desire to help could be put to use has finally come to fruition.
And it’s a job I’ve been wanting to do full time since I got a part time taste of it several years ago. I’m excited for the change. And yet, 23 years is a long time to do the same thing. Many of those years with the same people. I’m finally not so shy with them any more. Not afraid of not being good enough, because I know I am. In the last year and a half of being in the same place full time instead of sporadically freelancing, I feel attached to these people. The people with whom I’ve been “in the trenches”…. with whom I’ve shared long hours in “The Chair”, horrific scenes, scrambling to get on with breaking news, the strain of the back-breaking multi-tasking, the “do more with less” management style workers face all over the USA. One day, years ago, a crew member of mine had a grand mal seizure just before we went to air. I got my arms around his torso and eased him down just as he started convulsing. When I told my Dad how emotional I felt he said, “It’s like combat. You’re in the trenches with those people every day. And you come to love them.”
And so I do.
And I’ll miss them. At the same time, where am I going? Into a different trenches with some of the same challenges, and a whole host of new people I’ll come to love. And instead of bringing people pictures of horrible scenes, I’ll be sending people the help they need. I’m going to start my third career, proudly, as a Fire/EMS Dispatcher next month.