Wednesday, March 2, 2016

When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.

On Sunday, the movie "Spotlight" won for Best Picture at the Oscars. "Spotlight" was one of the few movies that was nominated this year that I actually saw, and it was so good. Yes, it's about a very important issue that came to light a few years ago, and that's important to talk about. But what I loved most about the movie is that it was about journalism.

Here at the University of Iowa, I am studying Journalism and Mass Communication. I decided to go into journalism because I have always loved to read and write. One of my favorite high school English teachers told me that good readers study English, and good writers study Journalism. I knew I wanted to write, so I followed the latter path (though I am also minoring in English).

When I decided to pursue journalism, I didn't really realize just how much it really suits me. I didn't realize until after about a year of studying journalism that it's right for me for another very important reason: I love to listen. And I'm good at it.

Listening is very important as a journalist. You always have to be listening, even when you're not interviewing someone. You have to listen to your surroundings, even eavesdrop on conversations. You have to be aware.

I think I'm really good at interviewing people, especially because I'm good at listening. But I also just like to learn more about people. I love to ask them about themselves. I could just sit for hours and listen to someone talk without ever jumping in and talking myself. Partly, it's because I'm more reserved and don't usually like to talk about myself. But I also just love to listen.

I like to hear people's stories and translate them into articles of my own. I like weaving the stories of different people together, finding an angle that unites them all.

And I think that's why I'm better at journalistic writing than I am at creative writing. I like hearing and telling real stories. I'm not good at coming up with my own, and when I do, they're usually based heavily on stories I've heard from other people.

When I get coffee or lunch with friends, I find myself asking them question after question, intrigued by their lives and experiences.

Sometimes I even forget that I'm in a room with other people. I get so enveloped in listening to other people that I forget that they may be expecting something from me in return, even something as simple as a nod or an "uh-huh." I guess that makes me a wallflower, and I'm okay with that title. I might even be proud of it. I've learned so much about the world by sitting and listening and watching.

I'm getting better at the other part, too. Becoming a better listener has helped me to become a better writer, which has helped me become a better speaker. It's all so connected, which is just so cool to me.

Journalism has taught me a lot about myself, especially when it came to realizing how good I am at listening and how much I enjoy it. I'm excited to see where my degree in Journalism and Mass Communication can take me. I don't know if an investigative unit like The Boston Globe's Spotlight team would be right for me, but I know that wherever I end up, my listening skills will be invaluable.

What have your passions taught you about yourself? I'd love to hear about it!

Lots of love,

Ernest Hemingway, "Across the River and Into the Trees"