If you count my days at my college newspaper I've been in journalism for 14 years. And in that time I've left journalism four times, voluntary and involuntary, only to return back to a newsroom.
Last month I accepted an assistant editor position at a weekly business publication after exiting my startup that I co-founded. What was that startup? Of course - a local news(ish) startup. I can't help myself.
Maybe it's because I don't have any transferable skills but I'd like to think I keep making the conscious decision to stay in journalism because I genuinely love being a journalist. Every time I leave journalism it's always for the same reasons everyone else does - the hours are bad, the pay is worse and there's not exactly a lot of job security when your customers don't think there's any value in the product you produce.
The first time I left journalism was when I was actually fired. It was my first job out of college at a small(ish) daily in central California. I was distracted from my father passing away and made a really bad mistake in my reporting. The publisher decided to can me. I would argue other journalists and editors there made worse mistakes while I was there but regardless I found myself being an unemployed journalist.
I've regretted leaving journalism and I've sometimes regretted returning to journalism.
In 2008 I accepted a job as the digital editor (aka social media guy) at a large daily in New Mexico. Within the first two hours of my first day I regretted my decision and even called my boss at my previous job seeing if I could have my old job back. I found myself at a news outlet that was digging its heels in being anything but a daily newspaper - emphasis on PAPER. It ended up I was at that paper for less than two months because my startup was accepted into an accelerator in Austin. Some editors at the paper still don't talk to me because of my extremely short tenure there. I don't blame them.
I did the startup thing for almost three years until I found myself making less than I was as a journalist with even bleaker prospects. So what calling did I take for my next gig? Journalism, of course. I've actually been very fortunate to be able to land on my journalism feet time and time again.
Maybe it's my natural state in the universe. Maybe it's a fulfilling prophecy. Maybe it's like that thing in time travel movies where no matter how much you change the past when you get back to the present the thing you wanted to change doesn't change. Something like that. Maybe I'm just destined to be a journalist. There's been worse things.