My reaction is intermittently similar to that of Hugh Grant’s character in Four Weddings and a Funeral. As Charles prepares for his first wedding, he awakens in his London flat in a stupor and looks to the clock on the table beside him.
It only takes three words to sum up how he’s feeling: “Oh, fuck. Fuck!”
In the course of the film, which focuses on an ensemble of friends and their encounters at a series of weddings, a funeral and other happenings, that four letter obscenity he utters is the accurate reaction of how he is feeling at the time: from its simplicity to the usage of it as two words in the first wedding between the ensemble's mutual friends, Angus and Laura.
As I sit down and try to think, I realise that despite our different problems, the character, albeit fictitious, and I have something in common– well, sort of.
Charles wants to settle down and find that perfect person to be with for the rest of his life. He has a few ideas but is afraid of commitment, until ultimately he finds that perfect someone at the end of the film. And yet, along the way, he is uncertain– uncertain about events around him, uncertain about interactions, uncertain, most of all, about himself.
Though the concerns, worries and anxieties I face are not the scale of what Charles faced, the amount of uncertainty is the common point. My problem is one about creativity– centred around a desire to do the best work that I can possible, a desire to be authentic, but most of all a desire to attempt to make a difference, while trying to keep going all the while.
A changing environment
Journalism is going through a period of evolution. In this digital age, the culture of the internet and social media has resulted in a crowded and noisy environment, where all that appears to matter is not the type of content you produce, but how much reach it can have.
It is a tricky balance– whether to do something that is meaningful in a time where the subject(s) have been discussed at length, or produce something that you know straight off the bat will be an instant hit.
The questions about how to navigate journalism in the digital age are constant, and early career journalists, whether they’re studying at university, pursuing their NCTJ or in an apprenticeship, have been asking those questions a lot over the course of the past few years. As the business model changes and the methods of consumption evolve, the questions arise. Will I be able to get a job in the field? Did I make the right choice in studying journalism? Will I be able to do meaningful work?
Stress exacerbates this– the worry that you’ve let everyone you know down, the personal stresses from student life and the convincing thought that you need to do more and more as you try to keep your own head afloat.
Just keep going
The resonant piece of advice has come from my mum (and has likely been said by your family and your mates)– keep going. Indeed, it would be immature to write off the industry that you envision your career in as you know you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else.
But the questions are still nagging at you in the back of your mind, and they will always be constant. While I don’t have the answer that will solve the million-pound question, I know that journalism will continue to be necessary, even if you’re shouting obscenities inside (as I have on multiple occasions).
We’re all human. We’re all trying to figure out how to make this work with the cards that we are dealt, and while the long-term answer is not easy, the short term one is– just keep going. Even if you have no idea what you’re doing, just keep going.
If Richard Curtis allowed Four Weddings and a Funeral to have an analogy for life in the 21st century, it’s this– we’re all human and we’re doing the best that we can under the circumstances, even if we should be doing more. We still have questions, and those questions will still worry us, but all we can do is keep going, even if we don’t know what the end is going to be like.
You have to keep going, even if you have to internally shout Charles’ favourite obscenity, “Fuck,” along the way.