I have been a journalist since I was 17 years old. I’m nearly 26. So, that’s a long time for someone who’s still young.
It started with writing for free for a well-known music magazine, and after blogging about my experience with inflammatory bowel disease through my own platform, I landed a job at Metro.co.uk. Metro.co.uk was my home for five years, I worked with some wonderful editors and met many talented writers who have gone on to do incredible things. I am so lucky that I was given the opportunity and the chance when I had just turned 20.
But now — and it’s not a decision I’ve taken lightly — I think it’s time to take a break from journalism to focus on other things. I can’t quite believe I’ve just written that down, because it is scary and new and daunting. But there it is.
After writing a tweet a couple of months ago explaining that I had gotten into a lot of debt — some due to a toxic relationship, and some mounted up from then — I was inundated with people’s kindness, many telling me about the jobs they had going and some even offering me work themselves. It was a sigh of relief, and, though the burden was still there, it made me realise how much there is outside of journalism.
When I was younger it was different. I craved for every byline, ones that would make me more and more ‘established’, and I squealed when I first got that little blue verified tick on Twitter. But I realise now that it was different because I was different back then.
Journalism has always been a dream of mine. Maybe it comes from watching too much The Devil Wears Prada, or maybe it’s just because I really enjoy writing. I didn’t have the opportunity to go to university, and I come from a working-class background, so I guess I’ve just always wanted something more. I wanted to challenge myself and to create dreams for myself that were not handed to me.
But now that I’ve seen outside of journalism over the past two months, I’ve realised that for right now, it’s no longer for me. And that’s scary to admit because it makes me wonder whether people will think I’ve just given up, or that I couldn’t really have loved it that much. But I do. I love writing. I love writing these columns because I am given no briefs and I am therefore allowed for my words to be authentic. It feels like I am able to write like myself for the first time in a long time.
I’m tired of the briefs and the edits and the to-and-from handing back of my words not being good enough. I’m tired of my best pieces of writing being from the perspective of trauma. I’m tired of traumatising myself over and over just for the sake of some money that is not even going to cover one of my bills.
I love journalism. And I know I’ll still dabble and maybe even come back to it one day — who knows how soon or how late. But for now, I’ve realised that it wasn’t making me happy. And the opinions of other people can’t reflect the choices I make for myself, otherwise I’d still be stuck doing something that makes me miserable.
It’s difficult to freelance write around my son, as it would be working a 9–6 day shift. It’s a constant hustle and you have to be on it all the time, whereas I just couldn’t be. I was finding myself slipping and getting behind on deadlines and filing late, which made me feel embarrassed and ashamed.
But there are issues in the industry that need fixing, like basing worth off of clicks instead of off heartfelt journalism — even though I know that’s where the money is.
I’d also like to remind editors to take care when asking writers to re-go through their own trauma when writing sensitive articles, and to be more approving of anonymity. Freelance journalists are people. We are human beings, and we deserve a duty of care.
Journalism has been a bit like a fever dream in that you never know what’s going to happen next. You can go from no work at all to work in all of your favourite publications; and that’s an amazing feeling and one that I’ll miss. And I’m proud and happy for anyone else who gets to experience this feeling, either as a new or an established journalist.
What I will still do is write. I have this column in InSPIre the Mind, of course, and The Breakdown, and that’s not going anywhere. But for me, career-wise, I’m taking a step back from journalism and focusing more on what makes me happy, what I can do around my son, and what is going to cover my rent.