It's not very often that you get opportunities to meet people that really inspire you. So when they come along, for crying out loud, please take them. I learnt last week that taking those chances is completely and utterly, one hundred percent worth it.
"Nothing is thrilling about being shot at. There is something thrilling about being in the centre of history".
I got an email from One World Media about six weeks(ish) ago about a day all about foreign reporting careers, which consisted of three mini-seminars/talks. They all looked really interesting - and at £30, was a brilliant deal for such a valuable trio. But one of the three stood out to me - the talk with Sky News' Alex Crawford. She's inspired me big time for a while now - the reporting from Libya in 2011 made such a huge impact on the world and proved that some people are simply willing to work their arses off to show others the truth, no matter how difficult or controversial it may be. And also, it can be women that kick butt. Ever since, I've looked out for her on Sky News - whether this be when reporting from many locations around the globe or from the recent Oscar Pistorius trial.
I learnt a number of valuable lessons during the hour and a half-long talk with her:
- There is nothing that replaces experience.
- Safety is the most important thing.
- Something is wrong if you do not get upset - as a journalist you must feel the story. It's impossible not to get affected.
- [On the topic of interviews] "Don't be so set on the questions that you don't listen to the answers".
- Do not be afraid to make mistakes or decisions.
- You build a 'scar tissue' when you see bad things - you become stronger and learn to cope with them.
- Have faith in yourself.
I can report that she is absolutely lovely in person - you would think that having experienced so much, she would have a permanent 'shell', but that really isn't the case. She answered numerous questions afterwards, and one of the responses in particular really struck a chord. The question was something along the lines of becoming famous as a reporter, how that is, whether that was the goal and whatnot. And Alex's response essentially declared that it is the story that you want to become famous, not the reporter. And that being famous as a reporter would probably do you no favours whatsoever.
And it was at that moment that reality kicked in. This woman has a family, lives in South Africa, and travels all around the world for her job. The intention was never to become well-known. It was to tell the truth and shed light on the situations you may not even want to be informed of.
And to me, that's incredibly inspiring.
Towards the end of the session, I asked a question about how living in Delhi made an impact on her life as a foreign correspondent and the influence it had. I did this as a fellow previous expat-Delhiite who was interested in the impact it made on her. And this was her reply (along with how she loved India, and that it made a definite impact).
"Travelling opens up the windows of your mind. You're always learning. You should always travel".
And I sat there, nodding happily (probably to the extent that I looked like an absolute lunatic), thinking 'yes girl 100% preach it yes yes yes'. Yes. Travelling is the way forward. And having someone else remind me of that had me itching to hop on a plane and explore another crevice of the world.
At the end I spoke to her and she signed my book, gave me advice and even got in a photo with me, despite how my camera refused to co-operate and took a good two minutes to do anything. It's times like that when I'm standing next to one of the most inspiring women on the planet and my camera simply refuses to photograph and I'm thinking 'please seriously this will probably never happen again, do not give up on me'.
So that was the day I got to meet an idol. I've wanted to be a journalist since I was twelve years old. I recently applied to study it at university (and fortunately, in the past week I've had some pretty decent responses and things are looking up). But even if they weren't, I wouldn't stop now. I couldn't. Alex mentioned in the talk that as an aspiring journalist, you must really want it - interviewers can tell if you do or not. And I do. And I'll always look back to the signed message in my book.