I'm taking my News Writing class to the News & Record today. It's a homecoming of sorts - I worked as an editor there from 1997 to 2004, good years, growth years as I broke the shell of a failed marriage and a constricting job. New state, new job at a larger newspaper, eventually a return to college.
As I stood at my closet, trying to figure out what to wear (on another 90-degree, humid day) it became clear that this was also a bit like re-encountering an old lover - somewhat bitter, mostly sweet. The old Dan Fogelberg song "Same Old Lang Syne" captures that feeling.
The newspaper business demands a piece of your heart and soul, an emotional investment that creates a persistent tie. I tend to overdress in such situations, and realizing that tendency, I hung the "nice dress" back up and chose something suitable for the day and an occasion that was special only in my mind.
I miss the newsroom, the intensity, the feeling of doing something of value, the camaraderie of a team on deadline, working always with too little time, too few people, too little resources. I tell students it's akin to being a firefighter, cop or soldier. You bicker and bond with the very different people thrown into the same situation.
I don't miss the crazy hours, the unpredictability of holidays or vacations. If you want to do the job well, you spend more hours than required at the desk and more hours awake at night worrying about the source you didn't reach or the paragraph that still didn't sound right.
If you do the job well as a teacher, it's for the same reasons - the knowledge that you have helped someone along, done something of value for even a small portion of our common world. And that means more hours at the desk, more sleepless nights thinking about the class session that didn't go well, the exercise that flopped, the student who turned off.
I'll enjoy seeing old friends again today. I'll feel at home in the newsroom, but at the same time removed - wearing my Visitor name tag, seeing new faces where I expect to see familiar ones.
I'll step back and let others tell the story, remembering the days when I looked up to see students touring between the news desk and the copy desk, and smiled and went back to whatever I was editing.