I’m a recovering cable and internet news addict. I’m using this global emergency as an opportunity to change my life. A freelance, political news writer, I used to live in the twenty-four hour news cycle. I also used to beg and plead with incredibly talented news editors, hoping against hope that they might purchase my unpublished articles. In my last post I discussed tuning out of the news while tuning into the news
Freelance news writing is a perfectly respectable exercise and I haven’t completely absolved myself of the vocation. On the other hand, consuming news, all day, just to be able to analyze the news was a soul crushing effort. Consuming news all day while living in an epicenter of a global pandemic is emotionally disabling. I’m no longer interested.
In terms of my career, I don’t know what I’m going to do now. In terms of my life, I know exactly what I’m doing right now.
If you’re also trying to break the non-stop, media consumption habit, even while we’re living through the most encompassing news story of the century, perhaps this article will provide informative perspective.
Why and How I Quit Non-Stop News
I have a soon-to-be five year old son. His birthday is in two weeks. My wife works full time at a local hospital and I care for our son during the day. Pre-pandemic, when he and my wife went to sleep, I would work. I would research, report and write news articles.
I, pretty much, disliked every minute of it. I always felt tired, burnt-out and generally disgusted. I really like writing and I enjoy taking care of my son. Why didn’t I like doing both?
On one hand, driven by ego, I hated feeling like a soccer mom all day long. I’m embarrassed to admit that because the soccer mom stereotype is offensive and nonsensical.
On the other hand, driven by the realities of my industry, I despised trying to write against self imposed deadlines. I wasn’t getting paid or read reguarly. Nor was my back stiffened up against any major news outlet’s publication clock. Instead, I was up against my own, emotionally and physically exhausted biological clock. Each day I tried to squeeze five hours of reporting, an hour of research, two hours of writing and one hour of editing into an 8:30 pm to 12:00 am time slot. The work, if and when finished, sucked. I was always more tired when I woke up, between 4:00 am and 6:00 am, then before I went to sleep.
I also assumed that I needed to be constantly informed, day and night. I would try to counterbalance daytime toddler care against cable TV and online news consumption. I would also counterbalance nighttime busy work against a relentless, raging newscycle. Oftentimes, an article written by 8:00 pm would be old news by 10:00 pm.
I Simply Stopped
I stopped. I just stopped. I was working on a story about Covid19, before it was calld Covid19. The mystery virus had just sent the Chinese city of Wuhan into a state of panic and chaos. I conducted an in-depth interview with a US resident who was originally from the region. Her family members, medical professionals in the Provence of Hubei, were some of the earliest, frontline heroes battling the Novel Coronavirus. Immediately after the interview I wrote up an extensive story pitch. I sent the draft to a diligent editor at a mainstream news publication. That night, I went to bed at about 12:30 am.
I woke the next morning tired and worried. Even at that early juncture, those of us covering the virus’s activity in Asia knew that a potential global epidemic was in the works. Wuhan is a major, Chinese transportation hub. Holiday travelers, heading in and out of the city, had unknowingly spread the virus all over the country. It was just a matter of time before it pushed itself beyond the nation’s borders.
The editor who I sent the pitch to was very responsive. He emailed me back immediately, letting me know that he forwarded the story to the publication’s health and science editor. As is often the case, the story probably wasn’t right for the publication and I never heard back from the key editor.
Uneasy and feeling off kilter, I decided that a big decision was in order. Did I want to deal with an inevitable pandemic while ditering about on this unhappy, unhealthy merry-go-round? It was a pretty easy call.
In the weeks that followed I gradually cut down my news consumption. I also stopped pitching. Then, almost overnight (not really), my world and your world changed. We found ourselves quarantined, locked down and ordered to shelter in place.
What am I doing Now, While Living in Bergen County, NJ, an Outbreak Epicenter?
Stepping off of the wrong career path and cutting the non-stop news consumption chord was a remarkably effective decision. Today, I follow just enough credible media to be sure that I’m adequately informed. Every Sunday, my wife and I participate in an online Raj Yoga course. I meditate several times a day. From time to time, I write articles like this and self publish them here, on Medium. When inspired, I post video content on TikTok and Instagram. I’ve reconnected with an old friend. I no longer tolerate, accomodate or acknowledge my own negative feelings about taking care of my son. I love the kid. It’s that simple. I’m peacefully and happily doing my best to home school him until the virus passes and his pre-school reopens.
My wife works as a mental health professional in the largest, hardest-Corona-hit hospital in Northern New Jersey. She’s actively helping overworked, overexposed, and remarkably resilient doctors and nurses cope emotionally. The least I can do is support her unconditionally while caring for our son with a clear, postive mind.
I’m reading and rereading a book called “True Hollywood Blockbuster, The Making of Divine Heros”. I make dinner every night, lunches every day and I help my wife cook breakfast each morning. I scrub hundreds of dishes each week and I toss dirty clothes into the washing machine almost daily. I don’t play games with sleep anymore. I get the all of the hours I require each and every night.
I’ve stopped, absolutely hard stopped, worrying about money and worrying about not having enough money. I will not tolerate a single, negative thought about money. Is this wise? Yes. It’s brilliant. Will it help me discover new, effective, healthy and successful ways to earn money? Yes. It’s brilliant.
Three weeks ago, just before Governor Murphy ordered a statewide lockdown, I started running. I run at least three times a week. Shortly thereafter my wife decided to join me. Whenever possible, we run after she comes home from work. We’re both so out of shape that we can easily run/walk slowly enough so that our son can effortlessly keep up while gliding on his balance bike.
I’m actively changing my life, every moment of every day. It’s a better way of living. Presently, it’s also a coping strategy. I prefer it to binge eating comfort foods and binge watching hours of cable news coverage.