How do you go from digital journalism to long distance truck driving? This isn’t a riddle; for me it’s my disjointed career path in progress.
In 2011 I was content in my work at CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. I was part of a great team producing a fantastic project, the CBC Digital Archives website. The site is a treasure trove of Canadian historical content through the eyes of the national broadcaster. I’ve never had a better job or worked with better people. Then cuts to the team hit me and I got moved to the post production department. I did well but was never a good fit. Then in late 2012 the entire department was eliminated. That was that for my CBC years.
What came next started with hope and optimism. I applied crazily for jobs and started to build an online presence with a simple LinkedIn profile. Then slowly, throughout long weeks and months, I was hit with brutal reality. The world of journalism – and digital communications – was in a perpetual state of chaos. There was little room for an experienced and skilled worker who demanded reasonable pay and benefits.
The four years that followed would lead us to about now. I can’t easily condense the heartache and disappointment that I’ve endured into one short blog article, so I’ll try to summarize. You might be amazed if I told you the combined number of jobs I applied for, interviews I had for jobs that didn’t fit my skills and experience, networking meetings I attended, emails and letters I sent and responded to, resume and LinkedIn profile revisions I did, former colleagues I spoke with about my plight, politicians I contacted about said plight, job search programs I completed, counselors and therapists and doctors I consulted about losing hope in my life, freelance projects that I did and hated, freelance projects that I tried in vain to get and wasted a lot of time trying, one four-month contract that proved slightly fruitful and not too painful, and (whew!) number of hours I spent running and working out just trying to keep my sanity intact.
There were many emotional moments and times of despair. But in the end, I always remained grateful that I have an amazing family, a roof over my head and food on the table. And, I still live in first world comfort despite my travails. I’m very fortunate for that.
Now for the good news: After many long weeks contemplating, I’ve decided to train to become a long-distance truck driver. What led me to this decision? I was looking for a field that offered most of what I really want: a job that’s in high demand, decent working conditions, good pay and benefits for the hours I’m willing to put in, work that I can be at peace with, and the requisite travel. I’ve always loved to travel and don’t mind living out of my duffel bag.
I’ve already done the written test and the preliminary paperwork, and I start training in two weeks. If all things work out well, I could be on the open road by February 2017. Meanwhile I’m gaining more information and insight to try to assuage a few concerns I have about life as a truck driver. Among the concerns: Is this a viable career path for me at this point in my life? Are there legitimate companies that will treat me well and pay me decently for my time? Will I hate this career before too long? Also, will I like the open road as much as I think I will?
Perhaps my biggest concern is this: Will I miss being away from home and sometimes working long hours? Then I think back to my twelve-plus years of commuting from Burlington to Toronto. I never got paid well for sacrificing time with my young family. Now my daughter is 15 and often doesn’t seem to notice if I’m around (I’m kidding). I think it’s okay to be gone a few days here and there, as long as it’s worth my while.
The early feedback is largely positive. Several Facebook friends have said they know someone who is a long-distance trucker and they love it. I’ve heard a few others say their trucker friend or relative isn’t too happy. I take these pronouncements for what they’re worth: secondary accounts of other people’s experience. As for not being happy in a job, I went into journalism for all the right reasons and with much enthusiasm, and I’ve hated much of my time in it.
Now I look forward to life on the open road, with a few obligatory road bumps along the way. I’m also looking forward to the possibility of doing journalism within the trucking industry. I’ve been told there’s a great need for content marketing from someone who’s “been there and done that” – a truck driver who can write, in other words.
I’ll be sharing the stories that come from my travels, and I’m guessing they may include some sordid details. Mostly I’m looking forward to shedding light on the great people who bring the goods to your city. I just want to be one of them.