Photo of lightning in a night sky

By Jacqui Banaszynski

My house crackled with energy for a couple of days last week as I hosted a young friend who is in the prime-time of a reporting/writing career — even if she can’t see it herself right now. She was in Seattle for a series of interviews and needed a place to stay on a freelancer’s non-existent expense budget. I was more than happy to oblige, and in return was dazzled back in time 30 years, to memories of my own reporting adventures.

My friend is far more daring than I ever was — more skilled, more instinctive and maybe even more determined. For starters, she has embraced the feast-or-famine life of freelancing, when even feasting is sometimes little more than the last leftover hors d’oeuvre. (I was grateful with the steady-if-small paycheck of a newsroom career.) She is smart about multi-purposing story ideas, and chases a range of magazine pieces to pay the bills while she pursues her passion for nonfiction books. She frets about financial security, time away from her husband and son, boundaries in source relationships, the challenges of pitching, the whims of editors, the vagaries of the publishing industry. She frets about her writing voice, comparing herself to other writers, studying what she admires about their work, questioning the perceived limits of her own. She teaches narrative classes as one of her many side gigs, even as she continue to study and learn with a  ferocity that leaves me in awe. She sucks at saying “no.”

I found myself, during our visit, doing some older-sister scolds about the pace she’s keeping. At one point, I told her she risked working herself to a nubbin and erasing through the paper of the rest of her health. Then I realized I was talking to my younger self — and that my younger self would not have listened.

Nor should my friend. For all the exhaustion and anxiety, she’s in full immersion — what I think of as “full story.” It takes its toll. Its pulse is not steady. It can look quite insane to non-journalists, aka civilians. It’s not for all journalists. It can’t be sustained forever.

But for those for whom the fire burns hot, it’s a ride that exhilarates more than it exhausts. It’s an open ticket to the world — no visa required, just intense curiosity and an all-in willingness to do the work. It’s what it sometimes takes to find and give the best stories back to the world. And — and, for some of us, to live (and remember to love) our own.

I’m grateful to my friend for the work she does, and for the glimpse into memories.

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