What I don’t have

Perhaps I’ve written these words before – a long time ago, someone at my first job told me I don’t have the stomach for news.

It was in response to jokes she was making about a public figure who’d hanged himself. I didn’t find the jokes funny.

I was told I would either harden my heart and brain in this job or I’d get out.

A lot of people cope with hardening. I completely understand that. It’s easier for most of us to separate ourselves from the darkness – to make it not feel real.

That’s not me. When that comment was made several years ago, I didn’t take it lightly. I was upset for a bit, but mostly at the prospect that I wasn’t cut out for the one thing I’d studied to do. It was a straight shot to my ego to think I might be made for something else and I’d just wasted four years of my life making this something happen.

I’ve thought about it again and again over the years, as I left the newsroom on the day the Sandy Hook shooting occurred so I could take a few moments to myself in a bathroom. I thought about it on the day a man walked into a church in Charleston, a city I love so dearly, and killed 9 people during a bible study. I thought about it the day I walked the streets of Greenville’s Nicholtown neighborhood asking people what they knew about teenager accused of gunning down a Greenville police officer before turning the gun on himself.

And I thought about it again this morning as I stood with neighbors of a home on Greenville’s westside and watched forensics teams pull a body out on a gurney and load it into a medical examiner’s van.

I don’t often report on breaking news. It’s not my “beat”. I am typically only drawn in if someone is on vacation, busy or the story is big enough that we need several people working on it.

Every experience I’ve had with violent death has been on the job. It’s foreign to my personal life and yet it’s something I take personally.

I realized something on a dead end street, in Greenville County, lined with old mill houses and a small mobile home park – I don’t have the stomach for news. I don’t even want the stomach for news, if it means I ever leave a scene like that and don’t think about what was lost.

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I don’t care who you’re voting for

I’ve watched news stories that are not even remotely about politics turn into political fistfights on television station and newspaper Facebook pages. I’ve seen comments on a blog post about coupons become a laundry list of what’s wrong with Hillary Clinton.

I’ve felt my blood boiling as I saw my own words twisted into a politically charged skirmish and I’ve bitten my tongue.

I’ve leaned back, taken a few deep breaths and reminded myself that people see what they want to see.

This is the world we live in. Things entirely unrelated to politics still become jabs at Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. The great majority of us are assuming everyone’s heads are in the political game. We’re three weeks ahead of the most heated presidential election of our lives – how could we be thinking or talking about anything else?

But we can and we are.

I’m thinking about the people I love. I’m thinking about how I’ll spend my next weekend and when I might see my friends who live far away again. I’m thinking about what I’ll cook for dinner and where I’ll get my next story idea. I’m thinking about what I can do on a small scale to help make Greenville a better community. I’m wishing I was at the beach and dreaming of a nice, long hike through fall colors.

To think that I’d reserve valuable space in mind for petty politics where I could fit poems or books or song lyrics to terrible early-2000s pop songs is ridiculous.

I’ve never wanted to change anyone’s mind when it comes to politics. If I ever ask(ed) you questions about your preferred presidential candidate, it’s because you were open with me and I wanted to learn more. It’s because I know you’ve given your decision serious thought and I believe there’s value in the opinions of someone I respect.

But I don’t actually care which box you’ll check on the ballot.

I care that you’re kind. I care that you’re happy and healthy. I care that you have all of the things you need and some of the things that you want.

None of these things is changed by which name you choose on Nov. 8.