“Nothing seems to be going on here. I have to get out of here,” I often complained.
In college, I often thought about plans to leave as soon as I got the chance and wondered why my father chose to come to the Tri-Cities when he left Iran during the Iranian Revolution.
While I always enjoyed living nestled in the Appalachian Mountains and remain a proud alumnus of East Tennessee State University, a large part of me was simply bored with living in the area.
Then I became a journalist.
After nearly a year of working at the Press, I’ve realized just how much you can learn about where you live by working as a journalist. I’ve often joked to other coworkers about learning more in a few months of journalism than a few years of academia, and to an extent, I still think that’s a fair statement.
But much like academia, tapping into that curiosity most of us had as children – that inquisitiveness that made us ask incessant questions to the point of driving our parents and elders crazy – is an essential part of enjoying the profession. Meeting children while covering local education stories often reminds me of this.
Sadly, it seems like a lot of people lose touch with the thirst we had as children for knowledge and exposure to new ideas, and it gives way to the type of cynicism I often felt growing up here. But the truth is that there’s always something to learn about the world around you, no matter where you live or where you grew up.
We reside in a region teeming with life, culture and thousands of compelling stories from unique individuals, each of whom have their own perspectives.
In my few months of working as a journalist alone, I’ve talked to local activists who’ve dedicated their lives to various sociopolitcal causes; musicians who perform a variety of music; people who’ve survived critical medical conditions against all odds; veterans who’ve lived to tell tales of apocalyptic battles in World War II’s Pacific Theater; locals who work hard to save lives; great artists; the educators and students who live in our region; and ETSU academicians making breakthroughs in various fields of science and liberal studies.
What is most striking about many of these people I’ve spoken with as part of my job is their devotion to what they’re doing and how they engage with the community around them. From working-class residents to the prominent professionals in their respective fields, each of them helps make up a crucial piece of what this community and its essence are.
Contrary to what many people believe about the region they’ve grown up in, it doesn’t take living in a large metropolitan area like New York City to realize we’re surrounded by a plethora of interesting stories.
My advice to anybody feeling jaded and bored with their hometown is to tap into your inner journalist and stay curious.
Every place and every person has a story. You just have to ask the questions.