EDITOR'S NOTE: The Chapter Ahead of Motherhood, Meeting My Co-workers, Learning How Journalism Works | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Chapter Ahead of Motherhood, Meeting My Co-workers, Learning How Journalism Works

Editorial Assistant Shaye Smith began working with the JFP in June 2020. Photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash

Editorial Assistant Shaye Smith began working with the JFP in June 2020. Photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash

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Shaye Smith

Life happens in stages, it seems. I'm a reader, so I tend to think of it in terms of chapters, or maybe even books in a series. When you're living it, as when you're involved in a good book, you get caught up in the story and sometimes don't realize you're rapidly approaching a cliff-hanger.

This may be where my analogy starts to break down, though, because in books, cliff-hangers are generally resolved pretty quickly with a turn of the page. There may be another chapter thrown in to prolong the suspense or—heaven forbid—you might have to wait for the next book to come out, but you can feel pretty secure in the expectation that a resolution is on its way.

In life, though, resolutions aren't assured, and it may be up to you to decide what comes next.

My most recent chapter started when my youngest child started college. When my first child, a son, was born, I had completed a graduate degree only weeks previously, but I, along with my husband, made the decision that I would be a full-time mom (as if any mom isn't a "full-time mom," but you know what I mean) and would not pursue licensure in my field at that time.

A few years later, my daughter was born, and with two young children, I was plenty busy and fulfilled doing my best to keep them safe and healthy and help them grow into the best possible versions of themselves. The next thing I knew they were leaving for college.

I realize that I was incredibly fortunate to have the option of being a stay-at-home-mom, and while it's not for everyone, I don't for a moment regret making that choice. I loved being able to spend my time focusing completely on my children while they were young. If I'm honest, though, I stayed in that role longer than was necessary. I wanted to be available to do things like take them to music lessons and chaperone school trips, and because my daughter has a chronic illness, I wanted to be on hand if related issues arose.

In reality, though, they would have been fine if I had gone to work full-time at that point. It was probably, more than anything else, that I wasn't ready to give up that role, yet. I did work part-time for several years during that time, at a job unrelated to my educational training, but I never went back and completed that licensure.

As a result, when my daughter left for college and that "full-time mom" chapter was suddenly complete, I wasn't sure what was going to come next. I had put all of myself into my kids for so long, I didn't know what I the next chapter might look like. I didn't even know what I wanted it to look like. I had lots of education, but I didn't know if I could get licensed to use it two decades after the fact—or if I even wanted to, if I could.

Even before finishing my master's degree, I had begun to worry that the career path I had chosen wasn't going to be a good fit for me. So, there I was, at the end of that chapter, dangling from a cliff, looking around for a resolution.

As I mentioned before, I am a reader. I always have been. I read fiction, mostly, along with a constant stream of articles—news, current events, pop culture, etc., whatever my Apple News feed puts in front of me. And like many readers, I also write. I had written a few articles for local magazines, as well as some devotional writing for my church, and of course, like so many of us reader/writer types, there is always a novel in the works.

So, when a friend who knew I was looking for something new saw a notice that the Jackson Free Press was looking for an editorial assistant, he forwarded it to me, and I jumped at the chance to apply. I had been a fan of the JFP for years. I already appreciated their perspective and the unflinching journalistic work that they do in the city and metro area, and I wanted to be a part of that, if I could.

Fortunately for me, I was hired for the editorial assistant position and joined the JFP in July. My foremost responsibility is maintaining the events calendar, although I also assist the managing editor with other things as they come up, and I'm learning more about journalism all the time.

I have to say, it has been a bit strange to begin a new job in the middle of a pandemic. I am in my eighth month at JFP and, so far, I haven't actually met any of the staff in person. The whole staff is working from home, and since I've been on board, personal engagement has been limited to Zoom meetings, but I look forward to getting to know everyone in the post-pandemic world when interacting with people face-to-face is a thing again.

I also look forward to getting a better sense of how all the "moving parts" involved in creating a publication like this one fit together when the staff returns to the office. As things are currently, it can be hard to grasp the bigger picture sometimes.

For now, though, I am enjoying working from home and learning about local journalism and what goes into bringing a community news source like the Jackson Free Press to its readers. And I'm happy with the new chapter I've started. Who knows, it may turn out to be the best one, yet.

Shaye Smith is the editorial assistant and events editor at the Jackson Free Press. Send your events information to events@jacksonfreepress.com.

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