Recently, I found a movie on one of the many streaming services I have and watched it late into the night. It came out in 2010 and I saw it in the theater with my then best friend, who was also a rookie in the broadcasting world. I was about to start my senior year in college, studying sports journalism. The world was our oyster, or so we were told in the hallways of campus, so the movie spoke to us me.
Morning Glory stars Rachel McAdams, Diane Keaton, Harrison Ford, and Patrick Wilson. According to IMDB, it tells the story of “An upstart television producer accepts the challenge of reviving a struggling morning show program with warring co-hosts.” A stellar cast and an endearing story. Who wouldn’t love it?
When I watched it again, I noticed a scene that didn’t stick out to me the first time around, but certainly did now. It’s with the main character, Becky (McAdams) and her mother after Becky moves back home after losing her job as a morning show producer in New Jersey:
Becky's Mom: Did you get any severance? Becky Fuller: Uh... there were some budgetary cuts last year, so they weren't really offering. But I have feelers outs. Lots. Becky's Mom: Yeah, great. Honey, you think "The Today Show" is gonna call you up and hand you a job, and you have since you were eight, and it's not gonna happen. Becky Fuller: I don't... I know that, I do. I get it. Becky's Mom: This is partly my fault. I... I let your father get your hopes up. He was not a happy person, let's face it. When he saw you aim high, he started to feel better about himself, so I never said anything. Becky Fuller: What are you saying? Becky's Mom: You had a dream, you know? Great. When you were eight, it was adorable. When you were eighteen, it was inspiring. At twenty-eight, it's officially embarrassing. And I just want you to stop before we get to "heartbreaking".
It helped that the actress playing the lead character’s mother is on one of my favorite shows so I instantly recognized her. Not only did I recognize the actress, but I recognized a bit of my own mother in the character. Were my dreams and aspirations starting to become embarrassing?
When I was in high school, my desire to be a broadcast journalist was all I talked about. No one told me I couldn’t do it, no one told me that it was a pipe dream. What was I told? That you go to high school to figure out what you want to be when you grow up, then you go to college and it all works out. Not once during my high school career did a guidance counselor call me into their office and ask me what my plans were. We may as well not even had a counselor. I never had to take the ACT or SAT. I graduated with honors and took a year off to save up a little more money for textbooks. I went to the local community college on the MEAP grant for two years while working a part-time job. I looked for the next school to attend and get my bachelors from:
Michigan was my dream school, but ungodly expensive and didn’t have a journalism program.
Western Michigan was a dream school as well AND had the program I desired, but was so expensive and on the other side of the state from everything and everyone I knew.
Oakland was also expensive, but close enough that I could commute.
Eventually, the University of Michigan-Flint announced they were launching a journalism program. In my head, I had just about everything that drew me to WMU: the program I yearned for, in a city with a sports team (the Flint Generals), local TV stations to intern at AND the school had a campus newspaper, so I could get experience in two mediums (I’d already served as an intern for a radio station during my time at Mott, so I’d graduate with experience in three).
Let me be clear: I do not regret my decision to attend UM-Flint. I met some of my absolute best friends there, got great experiences with covering the club hockey team and the Flint Generals for the campus newspaper, and served two tours as an intern at WEYI. My degree was signed in Ann Arbor and says “University of Michigan” and no one can take that away.
Out of the group of journalism nerds I became friends with in college, I am the only one that is not currently working in the journalism/broadcast/communications field. That stings. Bad. That popped into my mind a lot as I was watching the movie the other night. I thought about how hard Becky worked, how much passion and drive she had. I started to feel like maybe mine wasn’t enough. Maybe I should have tried harder in college. I mean, at the time, I gave it my all. I worked weeks without a day off from school, my job and my internship. I missed family gatherings, events with friends - all to dedicate to my dream career and doing whatever it takes to land it. After graduation, I sent out over 350 resume packages across the country. I know I tried, so why wasn’t it enough?
The movie is obviously just that: a movie - and a recent one. It’s not as hard-hitting as 1987’s Broadcast News and is meant to have a rom-com undertone. The chances of someone going from Good Morning New Jersey to EP a breakfast television show in NYC are slim to none. One of my best friends produced the news in both Detroit and Flint and I can tell you that from hearing her experiences over take-out and wine, it’s not nearly as glamorous and easy as the film made it out to be.
Still, an hour into the movie, in the thick of the plot, I kept going back to the scene in the beginning, with Becky’s mom. Was my pipe dream starting to become an embarrassment? Should I really give up on all of this and find something else to become my career?
My birthday is in a few days with the party in about a week and I’m struggling. I really am. I’ve already branched out and applied with more sports (not just hockey) and different positions within communications. I feel like I wasted years at the law firm and hair salons and other menial jobs since graduation and that the clock is ticking. This birthday is another mile marker of that. I certainly can’t deny my birthday four years ago. It was my first birthday back from Pennsylvania and I was unemployed for almost the entire summer. I went out in Detroit with some friends and although it was muggy and miserable weather-wise, we had a blast. This birthday is another mark in my journey, a journey which has become a train stopped on the tracks in the middle of nowhere with no meal car.
While in school, there was only one other career that even popped into my mind: elementary art teacher. Should I have double-majored in elementary education? Probably. But at the time, I was so focused on becoming a sports reporter, that a back-up career didn’t make sense to me. Looking back, it would have been probably another year or two of schooling had I double-majored, but would it had been worth it?
You never think you need to have a backup dream.