Everything Happens to Michael

I wasn’t born a journalist. None of us are born journalists. We’re born babies. Some people feel they’re born journalists, though, and to some extent I guess they are. They know it when they’re, like, 4 years old. Their first scribbles are on a reporter notepad that they carry around from age 0 until the day they die. Those people harsh my mellow big-time. They freak me out.

Within a week of transferring here as an English major, I waited on a bus to see someplace where I’d be able to find a potential subject for my LJ21 Stranger Interview. 10 minutes later I was sitting in the Peet’s on Culver and Barranca, sipping (guzzling) coffee and trying to keep my head down. I felt like so out of place trying to pick out a potential subject. Like a fucking serial killer looking for his next victim.

Journalism wasn’t my ideal; I wanted to be a novelist, one of those bohemian souls that move through life publishing fiction and getting book deals. Stephen King’s “On Writing” was my Bible. But a sophomore year spent alone in my apartment at San Jose State University, sipping hot tea and typing with fingerless mittens because my heater was broken and I became fed up. I wasn’t doing well. So I decided to transfer, and with that came the decision to try my hand at journalism. I needed to get out of my room.

“Excuse me, can you watch my bag? I need to get something from my car.” I hadn’t even been looking when a man in his late 50s wearing a navy suit and red tie from the next table walked up to mine. An hour later, I had his life story. I walked away from the situation, directionless and still reeling from the truly unamazing feat I had just achieved. I called my best friend (because, you know, that’s just what I do).

“God, man, this was fucking exhilarating,” I said into the phone, probably still in earshot of the guy I had just interviewed. “I can do this.”

December 2010, I had just completed my first quarter. In that time, I managed to meet a few people that became my good friends, who are now some of my best friends. But unlike now, when I am constantly surrounded by people I love, I still spent most of that time alone, staring at a map of Post-Its I had put up on my bedroom wall.

On the Post-Its, I had outlined the world of writing in UC Irvine. I promised myself that I would conquer the writing microcosm of UCI. I scanned newspapers, went to club meetings, started remembering names. I learned what it was to be a reporter. I began to immerse myself in this perceived world of writing.

To tell the truth, though, I signed up to be editor on a whim.

I went to my first tear-up meeting reluctantly. One of those aforementioned good friends, Annie Kim, brought me to a meeting after she wrote her first article. I imagined tear-up as a violent act, and as I went through the meeting I tried to dissect the dynamic behind the Big Kid’s Table. The one all of the editors sat at.

“I haven’t even published a single article yet,” I told her, standing in front of the sign-up sheets in the newsroom hallway. “Not one.”

“Just do it,” she said. “The worst they can say is no. There’s no harm in trying.”

So here we are, over a year later, and I’d be lying if I said that being hired as the associate Entertainment editor (Annie got hired as associate Features) wasn’t one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. Through my position at the paper, I’ve been able to have so many great experiences. I’ve gotten a lot of great experience learning how a newspaper works, yeah. But the personal relationships and experiences, both in reporting and not, have been the highlight of my college experience.

Sleeping in the park for a week, going vegan, countless parties, hella pancakes, even more pizza, late nights spent in the New U … What I signed up for that fateful day last year, as fucking corny as it is, was a family. The night of the five writers, sitting on the rocks and sighing tired harmony into frigid air; sitting in a parking lot on Sunset in LA, sipping catharsis from a brown paper bag; hushed laughter inside the intern office of a local magazine. Through all the conquests and crises, those times spent crowing into our wild nights or ones spent trying to make sense of our crumbling lives, one thing has been constant:

Sundays at 10 AM and Wednesdays at 5 PM, I’ve got somewhere to be.