We moved to Brooklyn eight years ago. Manchild was about 4 months old. I was starting grad school at NYU. The program I had been accepted into was an interdisciplinary program and was not what I had planned to do. In fact, I only applied to it after NYU rejected me from the journalism program. However, they had helpfully recommended that I apply to this other program just a few weeks later. I was accepted into it, and promptly turned down two other journalism programs because I knew that New York was really where I wanted to be. I planned to fill my elective hours with journalism classes—assuming I could find a teacher that would let a non-journalism student into his class.
So I did some research. I looked at the intro-to-reporting classes. And I googled the professors. One of them stuck out to me. He had a daughter who shared my named. I sensed an in. So I emailed him. I asked him if I, as an interdisciplinary student with an interest in journalism, could take his class. And I held my breath and waited.
Within a day or two he responded. Sure, why not? was the gist of it. I showed up on the first day of class to find Tim, a somewhat rough and gruff guy who had all the softness of an eggshell. (I know several of my classmates felt like they were walking on eggshells whenever he addressed them . . . .) But I surprised myself by not being intimidated. My pathetic attempt at a news story was the first he critiqued in front of the class and I didn’t even cry when the first paragraph was deemed too long and too wordy and too academic. Actually, I felt . . . grateful. I knew I wasn’t any good. That’s why I was there. To get better. And I appreciated that Tim didn’t bother to sugar coat anything.
I didn’t love being called out and put on the spot, of course, and I also put a lot of pressure on myself to not let my status as a new mom be an excuse for me. So I worked hard. I completed my assignments on time and I stepped out of my comfort zone even more to pitch some of my student work to real newspapers.
By the end of the semester, Tim was asking what I was doing in a silly interdisciplinary program and I was telling him I didn’t really know. He told the head of the journalism program that I was in the wrong place. The head agreed, and let me reapply and be accepted into the journalism program.
The next semester I was a full-time student there, in the second half of Tim’s intro-to-reporting class. I would say that the rest is history, but Tim has continued to mentor and encourage me, even though my career has been mostly fits and starts since I graduated. In fact, it’s often Tim’s voice I hear in my head when I am feeling a little skittish or timid about taking a step forward.
There have been times when I’ve wondered if I really should have gone to grad school. I’m willing to bet that not a lot of journalists have a graduate degree. But I’m sure I couldn’t have found a mentor like Tim without going to school, and without his encouragement, I’m not sure I would have done anything or gotten anywhere.
So cheers to Tim.
(Photos are from Tim’s lake house. He’s kind enough to invite us out every year.)