Riding Past, Sinking In

POSTED BY LauraFries.com IN About Me, Travels @ April 20, 2009 - 12:03 pm

Joe’s Coffee, ATLANTA, Georgia, April 20, 2009

My interests have changed in recent months; my time here in front of this screen limited to short bursts of productivity, never self-reflection. But still I should update, shouldn’t I – because the posts up on here reflect a me that was. So here, a post written during a train ride in Spain, full of confusion and misdirection, a former journalist wondering what her future held, watching the farmers from the comfortable distance of speeding train and laptop. I re-post it years later, flip-flops caked with thick red Georgia clay, arms tanned from this past weekend doing something that the girl below could never have imagined.

Spain, 2006

Train from ALMERIA to SEVILLE, España, September 28, 2006

I got a letter, about two years ago. The envelope was thick; yellow, with horizontal grains. In the top right corner, there was a black embossed logo. Simple.

Classy.

The New York Times.

I had met Nancy Sharkey, the NYT recruiter, at Poynter a few weeks before. She sent me a letter to let me know that the New York Times was interested in tracking me. Interested in seeing how my career went. To paraphrase the ending of the letter, I was instructed to “make the most of my opportunities in journalism.”

Astonished, I emailed my classmates from the Poynter program.

Had anyone else gotten a letter?

If anyone had, they didn’t admit to it via the listserv.

There I was, in my one bedroom apartment in San Antonio, clutching the letter that every journalist wants to get someday. They were interested in me.

Immediately, my head filled with plans.

Yes, I would write Ms. Sharkey. Thank her for the interview. I’d send her my college thesis – the one we’d talked about for so long – and then, in six months, I’d follow up with recent clips, prima facie evidence of my suitability. I was 23, then – I couldn’t hope to work for the Times until I was at least 27 …

On and on.

My head made plans my body never followed through on.

I’m shamed to admit that it’s been two years, and I haven’t sent a thing.

Nor, in complete honesty, have I really done anything worth sending.

I’m on a train in Spain now, riding backwards yet again. The desert that stretches from Grenada to the Mediterreanean is mountainous, and arid – scattered with small towns and shrubs. The train clawed its way to Almerîa a few days ago so I could swim in azure waters. Now it claws its way back, backward over tracks slung between mountaintops.

I ride by small farms, crumbling houses made of stone, where one could wake up, look out the window, and see the day’s work ahead. Pick tomatoes. Weed corn. All those farmer-type things I’m too citified to even know how to describe.

How different it must feel to be able to stand firmly with toes dug deep into red dirt, and feel to your bones that this is who you are.

Unlike this journalist-cum-blogger, whose last byline was a year and half ago; who traded in her reporter’s badge for the mantle of corporate responsibility, only to find it too heavy to bear.

Spain, 2006