Do what you love
A couple of weeks ago, I interviewed the three female deputies at the Carroll County Sheriff's Office. Cpl. Janet Galland talked about how it can be difficult for women to work in law enforcement and described her history as a law enforcement officer. It was an honor to speak with such a strong, professional woman; somehow, Galland spoke methodically and with passion simultaneously.
She struck me most when she talked about her field as a whole.
"You don't get in law enforcement to make money," she said. "You have to want to help people."
That empathy for others, she continued, is what drove her to get into law enforcement and what drives her to do her best every day. She didn't realize it, but that comment caused me to re-examine what I'm doing. In a larger sense, it caused me to question exactly how I measure success.
Though I spend a painful amount of time agonizing over my budget, I realized I don't equate having a lot of money to being successful. Don't get me wrong. Money is great. I very much enjoy having it.
But if I earned it doing something that doesn't have a positive impact, I'm not sure I'd enjoy it as much.
I thought back to what I dreamed of when I was a kid. Back then, all I wanted was to write something that reached others. I spent hours daydreaming on my trampoline about the future, seeing myself typing away in a little office. I believed I'd be happy if I could find work writing and didn't even consider that I couldn't get rich doing it.
Now that I get paid to write, I don't think my dreams were that far-reaching at all. I love what I do. I get to talk to people and write their stories. When I wrote my first big feature story in college, I interviewed the former director of my school's choir. She paused near the end of our conversation and thanked me for talking to her.
"I really didn't think anyone would find my stories interesting," she said.
That was when I understood that journalism is much more than writing stories. It's about making people who have never felt important feel that their story matters. It's about honoring others in the community. It's about helping people.
What you do should matter more than how much money you get paid to do it. I'm not saying there's honor in being a starving artist; if you can't afford to take care of your responsibilities, perhaps you should reconsider your financial situation. I've never had to worry about not being able to pay my bills, so it might be easier for me to say you should do something you're passionate about even if it won't make you a millionaire.
Still, I stand by it. You should do something that makes you feel good about yourself and reaches others in some way.
That's worth all the money in the world. That's how I measure success.
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Samantha Jones is a reporter for the Carroll County News. Her email address is CCNNews@cox-internet.com.