I hate flying. Loathe may be a better word. I am a control freak. I have accepted this about myself and when I’m in the air with nothing underneath, and someone else is steering the vessel, I start to sweat bullets. Put me in a car and I’m cool as a cucumber. If danger is heading my way, I at least have a fighting chance– I can veer! Or if my husband is driving, I can grab the steering wheel and veer (very rational, I am). Believe me, I know all the statistics about how flying is the safest way to travel, yada, yada, yada, but I’m not a fan of the unknown. If I can see the ground below through the window, I feel slightly relieved. I can at least see what is coming. And that is why Friday is such a big deal for me. I jumped off a cliff and into a thick cloud of fog. Without a parachute. And I have no idea what is at the bottom. I quit my job.
For the entirety of my professional life post college, I have been a news reporter and anchor. I have spent many years chasing stories around the country and have covered everything from tornadoes to high profile cases to wildfires. I have a great passion for sharing stories in a meaningful way. It is a great privilege when someone is wiling to open up and allow me into their sometimes brightest, but often times darkest life moments. That is something I do not take lightly. In those moments I pray that the right words will come to me; that I will do the story subject justice, and that the family of that subject will cherish my story as a way to honor their loved one and have a few minutes of peace at a terrible time. I know that I am not a reporter who can separate myself from a story, so I don’t even try. I regularly cry during interviews and while other journalists may scoff at this notion, I believe this is a gift. I become so personally invested in each report, it is as though their home destroyed by fire or loved one killed in an accident is mine as well. How would I want the public to see them? That is how I try to proceed.
Now, why would I leave a profession I am so passionate about? To find that answer has taken months of pondering, brutal self examination, prayer, moments of personal doubt, and is all centered around a precious little person who entered my life last year: my sweet baby girl, Ruby.
I always felt it would be worth it to leave her every afternoon to work as long as I felt I was making a difference, moving toward my ultimate goal, and being fulfilled. But a funny thing happened the first time I held my first born in my arms–my entire world became about her. My every decision is first weighed by how it will affect her and as I found myself covering more shootings and bomb threats and council meetings than ever before, the sacrifice became too great. She comes first. Always. And so, I knew I had to jump.
This is not to say I am putting the professional part of my life on the shelf to collect dust. I am so grateful this little blog is serving as a way for me to continue to share stories I believe are important, and also explore other areas I am passionate about in ways I’ve never been able to before. I am excited to devote more time to withHEART and can’t wait to see where it takes me. I have some big plans. I will occasionally report on a freelance basis and that will help me get my news fix, but the little lady who has my heart is now taking center stage. Someday I may return to television if the timing and opportunity are right, but I know this time with my baby and my husband will pass far more quickly than I would like and I want to be present for as much of it as possible.
I have great admiration for each and every woman who has been faced with this very difficult decision– those who have decided to leave their careers to stay home, and those who have decided to stay, whether by choice or financial necessity. Both are equally difficult choices and as women, I believe both deserve respect and support.
I am not a brave person, but it was time to be brave. And a brave new world awaits me. Wonderful things happen when you follow your heart. As we say in TV… STAY TUNED…
Jennifer Stagg is a two-time Emmy-award winning journalist who pens the blog, withHEART.com. She has a one-year-old daughter and lives with her husband in Salt Lake City, UT.