Why do you do what you do: thoughts on what makes your heart race


I have been a full-time professional journalist for a decade and a free-lance, half-time writer for the past 3 years. Those who knew me then, when under eye dark circles were the byproduct of nicotine abuse and frantic nights in smelly press rooms keep asking: don’t you miss the thrill? The traveling, running around, caffeine addiction, anonymous hotels and incongruous schedules? I usually giggle and say I still have all of those: raising kids is a hell of a ride, too and to cope you need concealer and caffeine in equal amounts.

I had wanted to be a journalist since I could speak: I simply never conceived any other daily occupation. When that became a reality I had just turned 21 and felt as if I had won the lottery. I got paid to do what I always wanted to . It didn’t even feel as a job. I was blessed enough to have an amazing woman editor, who was an endless source of inspiration and funny, smart colleagues to hang out with till early morning. That precious set of circumstances changed after the first couple of years and  – as most humans do – I started living the reality of having a job: the occasional narrow minded boss, the sneaky co-worker, the internal politics and the back stabbing. If to that we add that being a journalist in Italy can be especially frustrating in terms of exposing the truth and correctly informing your readers, it’s easy to understand that I wasn’t sorry to leave. At the end of my working day, I didn’t feel uplifted at all. Rather depleted. 

Still, when Brussels started going crazy with anticipation of the US President visit in these past few days, the first gushes of nostalgia in many years resurfaced. 


I stayed home for the whole day as advised on TV: the whole city was fibrillating, traffic was closed or blocked all around, Obama’s security detail was impressive. And yet I didn’t see with my own eyes any of that. I didn’t wake up at dawn to go to some hotel where the leader of the free world was staying, hoping to catch a glimpse of him or to have the opportunity of asking him a question. I didn’t observe the huge bodyguards nervously talking on their radios and I didn’t have a cigarette with shaky hands in the chill of yet another morning on the street, waiting for something to happen. I just had to switch on the TV to have an HD sight of many things I could not have seen with my eyes. Yet, it was not enough.

So I spent some time surfing the net, in search of the most accurate image or video footage of Mr. Obama’s EU tour and thought: why did I enjoy that much being a journalist during those years? What was that made my heart race and the fatigue go away? It wasn’t the news. I was bad at finding scoops and not shrewd enough to sail through sources and compromises. I was good at writing down what happened and lucky enough to keep some clarity of thought even at 5 am (but, well, I now realize that is what being in your 20s means). What made me feel alive was of a more anthropological nature. I loved observing power. People in power. Dissecting their gestures, their tone of voice, read their insecurities and their flaws. Their humanity.

Those I can’t see in HD professional video coverage of the news.


Have you ever thought of what makes your own heart race?