How do I become a stringer?
Katrina changed everything.
In the space of a few hours, I went from an anxious bystander to a journalist with support to cover the news. I quit my job. I quit with one day's notice. I just had to pack up and go.
My boss had been logging 18-hour days for as long as I could remember. On Labour Day, I emailed him to say that I might have to leave town on Wednesday. On Tuesday I was in the office by 7:45, but I already had a message on my voicemail. It was my boss. I had orders to be in his office at 11:00. I nearly threw up.
Honestly, shame is a pretty rare emotion for me. One of the best things about my life is that I go years without feeling ashamed of anything. Guilty, occaisionally. Disappointed, often. But not ashamed. If I have anything to be proud of, it's my solid track record of avoiding behavior I might end up ashamed of.
Yet, I was deeply ashamed of what I was about to do. I was going to walk off my job in the middle of a project. I was about to let my team down. I never let my team down. I'm the person stays until 5am to meet the deadline and goes back to Brooklyn, showers, changes, and comes back to Manhattan to meet the client. I smile the whole time.
I went to see my boss at the appointed time. It's a big buildingm, so I set aside some time to puke in the 7th floor washroom if I needed to. Instead, I showed up early, feeling like a psychopath.
I sat down.
My boss spoke before I could say anything. I couldn't believe what he was telling me. He said he'd been a stringer for Gulf War I. He said he understood that I needed to go. He said that if he was my age, he'd be doing the same thing.
My gratitude was a headrush. I just couldn't get the words out.
Luckily, he started talking about what it was like to be a stringer in a war zone. He told me about water purifiers, editors, oil rigs, and special metal cages you could get for your backpack.
I clenched the arms of the chair.
He told me that being a stringer was a hard life, that I'd be broke and miserable. That I'd be sorry that I'd ever left advertising, but that I'd have the time of my life.
"It's like a vacation to a war zone!" he said, "You'll love it."
I was flattered that he considered me the sort of person who'd like a vacation in a war zone. I might have blushed.
He went on, "But do you want this life?"
For a split second, I wasn't sure what to say. Then, I knew the answer.
"Yes," I said.
So, hivemind... How do I do it?