Friday, September 5, 2014

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

I had no clue whatsoever that June 12, 2014 would be the last live shot I would ever run for Channel 9.

All I knew was that the only thing that stood between my 17-day European vacation with my wife was 4.5 hours of live hits from the government center.

What would unfold over the next three weeks would dramatically change my life... And it would be a change for the better.

I slowly found I would never be the same.

I boarded a plane to Toronto, then another to Dublin, and then another to Warsaw to meet the sweetest woman in the world.
From Warsaw we would spend the next 4 days at the BGEA Festival of Hope.

Kristy had to work, and while I was there I figured I'd offer up my services to the video team as a volunteer as they gathered interviews and b-roll.

For a couple of days I watched and took instruction and witnessed the life changing decisions that hundreds, if not thousands of people made as they decided to enter into a relationship with Christ.

The experience would forever change me.  It would give me a broader view of the world.  It would give me insight into the desperate longing that human beings have for relationship with their creator.

It would awaken a stirring in me that wanted to use my talents and gifts for more than just the daily grind of television news.

Once again, I would be reminded that I was being molded and changed for a new experience.

The next two weeks after our time in Warsaw would find my sweet wife & me traveling to Barcelona, Paris, London, Cambridge, Oxford, Orpington, back to Dublin, and then home to Charlotte.  The experiences we had and the memories we made will serve a lifetime, but what really stands out to me are the ways in which our marriage was strengthened.
We would go on to visit the beaches in Barcelona and the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

We would have coffee while walking the same sidewalks as countless artists, poets, and figures of history.

It was the most romantic two weeks of my life, and I got to spend it with my best friend.

We made a ton of memories and had our own share of bumps in the road.

The most glaringly obvious of which would be when I dislocated my shoulder while exiting the London underground while en route to second row seats to see The Mouse Trap.

Through it all, my sweet wife was by my side and encouraged and helped every step of the way.

Again, I noticed that something bigger was in charge here as we were met with strangers who carried my bags, Irishmen who offered assistance, and the general good nature of human beings stood stage front in this spectacle of ours.

Arriving back in Charlotte would find me in need of repair of my shoulder for the four years I'd spent putting it off.

I had arthroscopic surgery on July 24, 2014 to repair all the damage that my left shoulder had endured due to my neglect.

Again, the sweetest gal in the world would be by my side... Helping, lifting, bringing me food, helping me clean myself up.

The phone calls, cards, emails, text and Facebook messages flooded in.  Coworkers of my sweet wife would join forces to make sure we didn't need to prepare a meal for nearly two weeks.  The fridge was stocked to the brim.  We had gift cards for restaurants when we didn't feel like tampering with tupperware and the microwave.

I was, am, and continue to be overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from friends and family and strangers who showed us compassion.

The weeks that followed my surgery would find us with several unique opportunities.  We had time together.  We had time to just sit and be still and think and pray and ponder, and above all else, to give thanks.

And then a phone call came from an unusual number, and on the other end of the line was someone who wanted to talk to me about a job.

The weeks that followed would find me moving from having my arm immobilized, to a job interview, to starting physical therapy, and to leaving the only job related constant I've known for almost ten years... Television.

After a couple of weeks of prayer, over thinking, under thinking, pondering, getting angry, cursing, giving praise, crying, laughing, feeling worthless, feeling restored, and seeking counsel from people I feel are knowledgeable, I made the decision to leave television news.

With a minimum of six weeks of physical therapy left to gain full use of my shoulder again, I submitted my resignation to Channel 9 yesterday.  When I entered the building I was overcome with emotion.  I was anxious, fearful, and scared.

What I was met with from my managers was an outpouring of support for my decisions, and a keen understanding that someone in my position has a decision to make.  And I made it.

I accepted the job offer to join the communications team at Wingate University.  I'll be splitting my time between working social media and updating the web site, with shooting, writing, and editing stories for their campus television station.  I'll even get the task I've longed for for quite some time, mentoring.  I'll be able to talk with and guide students who want to enter TV news as a career.  I won't be standing up in front of a class, so you can all save the "Professor Etheridge" jokes that've been pouring in since this announcement.

I can only end with this: my life is not unique, and I hope my self indulgent writing has never given that implication.  I am simply a man who has surrendered to the call of my Creator, sought Him in earnest desperation, and responded to the choices I have been given.

This entire process of a European vacation, to returning home and taking leave, to surgery and continuing recovery, to finding and accepting a new job have not been by any of my own doing.  They've simply been the orchestration of a power higher than I am, that far exceeds my own understanding.  In todays day and age, it is cliche... but I can write this in honesty and tell you: To God be the glory.

There are two constants in my life that I strive to live by.  The first is that I have surrendered to a life that isn't my own.  I'm simply a vessel of reflection to the One that made me.  I try to assign all acknowledgment of good things and praise for blessings to Him.  The second is that I married way out of my league.  My wife is the most beautiful and treasured person I have the privilege of knowing.  Getting to spend life with her is proof that God loves me and wants good and great things for my life.

My cup runneth over...

"God of mercy, sweet love of mine.  I have surrendered to Your design.  May this offering stretch across the skies, and these 'hallelujahs' be multiplied." -Needtobreathe

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Become Original

You may or may not have noticed, that I've basically been silent here for almost 6 months.

No snarky, biting or cynical quips of insight into the depraved mind of a man who commits television for a living. 

No insistent reassurances that what we're doing for a paycheck directly affects the cosmos.

No signs of remorse for acts carried out when one pushes glass for a living.


When I started this thing almost two years ago, I had no idea what type of monster I was creating - both in this blog, and in myself.

I didn't honestly think anyone would legitimately read about the crap that goes through my head while I'm at work.  I didn't imagine anyone would become upset if I ever stopped.

And I did stop...  I took a writing hiatus after my last post at Christmas.  Whether or not it was a conscious decision to stop writing remains to be revealed, even to me.  But I knew that with the coming New Year, the amount of time over the holidays I'd worked, and the crippling self introspection I tend to have, it was time to take a hiatus.

I had quite honestly become obsessed with news, and more over, with being a news photographer.  I let my job become my identity.  I became fixated on getting my story right and doing it my way.  I'd stay up late to watch the 10 & 11.  I'd catch the A block on the weekends... and this eventually ruined the facets of this job that I love so dearly.  

A week after I posted my last blog back in December, a series of events unfolded as I sat quietly in the back seat of an SUV while it wandered through the winding roads of Pennsylvania Dutch Country.  My entire perception of our profession was flipped on its head.  If you want the rest of the story, find me and ask me in person... (In the business, we call that a stealth tease!)

And in the coming weeks and months, I would begin to rediscover myself, both professionally and personally.  Sure, I'm a news photographer... but that does not define me. 

I'm a lot of things.  I'm a husband, a son, a brother, an uncle, and an aspiring amateur chef.  I've worked production on a nationally televised teen soap opera.  I used to be a lumberjack.  My first job was waiting tables.  I look just like my dad did when he was my age.  I didn't have a bank account until I got married.  I've only been clean shaven 4 times in 10 years. 

If that laundry list seems gratuitous, I assure you that writing it was more for my benefit than yours.  The moral of the story is this, kids: it's easy to become entrenched in this business and let it consume you. But it will only do so, if you allow it to.

C.S. Lewis said, "Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it."

And I think that is what I've been doing the last 6 months or so.  Slowly becoming original.  Not writing about work.  Not becoming entrenched in it.  Not allowing my occupation to determine my level of happiness.  

It's a job, and alot of times it can be a damn fun one to have.  But it's not everything.  It's simply the machine that allows you to do everything else that makes you happy.