In the beginning
I can’t remember why I wanted to study journalism as a child. Growing up, I didn’t watch TV because my family didn’t have one. So, whenever my peers told stories of the latest cartoon they watched, I either listened with rapt attention or looked away. To this day, when I hear people talk about newscasters from the 90s, I can’t relate to their experiences.
As a child, the only chance I got to watch a TV programme was to peep through our neighbours’ windows or slightly open doors. By the time my family had a TV, my sisters and I had gotten over it. Moreover, it was barely switched on. No thanks to my father whom we were really scared of.
However, I grew up talking a lot. In fact, I was flogged by my teachers on many occasions for being a part of the class’s noisemakers. I don’t remember who planted the seed of broadcasting in my mind, but I recall that whenever I was asked what I wanted to be in the future, I always said, ‘a newscaster.’
Nobody questioned my choice of career. Everyone I told believed that was the best thing for me because Olorunnisola WAS a talkative (for those who want to argue that I am still a talkative, please face the wall 😋).
Almost two decades later, I believe I’m in the right career as a journalist!
Did I just refer to myself as a journalist? 😂
The journey to becoming
My first degree was in Linguistics and Nigerian Languages. A friend of my late cousin, who was a student at the university I schooled at, told me the course was like Mass Communication.🙄 I believed him.
I did not enjoy studying the course but managed to graduate with a second-class lower result. No child of my father would DARE disappoint him with a lower grade than that or a spill over.🤣
K’a ma ri, ni Paulu wi 🤣 which means ‘May it not be heard (seen)!’ said the biblical Apostle Paul (my Yoruba people would understand).😁
Anyway, shortly after I finished serving my fatherland through the National Youth Service Corps scheme, I registered at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism in Lagos where I studied Broadcast Journalism for my Post-Graduate Diploma and graduated with Upper Credit (I had to mention that so you don’t think that I’m an olodo (dullard😉)).
At last, I was doing what I wanted.
When it was time for my internship, I tried to get into a broadcast media house, but it was futile. Thankfully, I got an opportunity at the PUNCH Newspaper, a prestigious print media house in Ogun state.
Rather than sulk that I didn’t get my first choice, I consoled myself that I would be honing my writing skills at PUNCH. It turned out to be the best decision as I became close with a senior colleague turned uncle who has helped me grow in my career and continues to support me.
My internship ended and I got a job at Woman.NG, a women-focused media platform.
And then, it began. 😔
I started referring to myself as a writer. I wasn’t sure I was a journalist because at that time, I believed a platform dictated my title. It didn’t help that society judged journalists based on where they worked — a traditional newsroom and the type of stories they reported.
When I was at PUNCH, I proudly described myself as a journalist, but at Woman.NG, it was a struggle. It also didn’t help that the stories I covered was on women only. At that time also, Gender Beat was not popular, hence, stories in that area were scarcely reported, read, or taken seriously.
The mentality that I wasn’t a ‘proper journalist’ affected how I applied for jobs. Even though I knew I could write and report stories like other journalists, I avoided traditional media houses because I felt I didn’t measure up.
When I left Woman.NG, I got a job at Legit.ng, a digital media company where I wrote entertainment stories. I rose to become one of their best editors and grabbed two awards two years in a row.
Due to the perception of society towards entertainment reporters (they aren’t taken as seriously as others), it took a while to celebrate my wins online because entertainment stories weren’t what I wanted to report.
I later left Legit.ng for an NGO where I didn’t write news stories.😩
To cut the long story short, until recently, my career of six years had been filled with doubts, identity issues, impostor syndrome, fear, and uncertainty.
But everything changed a few months ago when I took a decision that started me on a journey to owning my career as the burden of inadequacy became too heavy to carry.
I have heard from friends, colleagues, and even bosses that I am a good writer but I found it difficult to believe them. The problem was that, I always thought others were better than me. Whenever I read my colleagues’ stories, I would start criticising myself and wishing I could think in their direction or write as they did.
While writing styles differ, I knew I could perform (and I do) in the same capacity as they did.
A deep self-evaluation made me realise that I had been constantly comparing myself to ‘the journalists living my dreams’, and seeking validations from colleagues whom I felt were doing better than I was.
One day, while I was going through some of my stories on Woman.NG, and other platforms I had written for, I was astonished by how beautifully I wrote. These were stories from when I just started my career. Although they had a few errors, they were well-told.
My career journey hasn’t been straightforward. While I started in a traditional newsroom, I’ve had to figure a lot of things out on my own. For instance, I didn’t have the privilege of an editor or senior colleagues to guide me except for my uncle. I decided it was a disservice to myself, my hardwork, and my process to constantly compare to others who may have enjoyed what I didn’t.
And this brought me to the realisation that I may be on the same path with someone, our destinations are different. I believe that a certificate in Broadcast Journalism and writing stories that educated, informed, and entertained, were sufficient to be a journalist.
Also, just as I dreamt at the beginning of my career, I have written for local and international platforms, and won a few awards.
Having settled that, I decided the word Storyteller perfectly describes my work. Don’t get me wrong — I am a trained journalist and I don’t mind being referred to as one but I prefer to describe myself as a storyteller. For me, the ‘journalist’ tag was restrictive.
So, I made some changes. And the first thing I did was to edit my social media bio.
Proudly wearing my storytelling badge
I went from the boldly written journalist to STORYTELLER.
Looking back now, I realised that even though I enjoyed writing most of the stories I have told, comparison and identity crisis denied me from the joy of the engagements they gathered and other achievements that followed.
Although dealing with these issues is still a journey in progress, I make conscious efforts to embrace my journey, be confident in myself, and believe in my work.
Today, I am thankful for the journey so far; the work I continue to put in to finding, knowing, and walking in my path; the progress I have made; the clarity I gain as I continue and I fully embrace all the processes that led to my current position.
On that note, permit me to do a formal re-introduction: My name is Olorunnisola. I am a STORYTELLER and a TEACHER. I tell stories of real people (especially as it concerns women and girls).
Wait, did I just refer to myself as a Teacher? 😱 That would be a story for another day 😁.
My two cents: Dear beginner, as you journey through your career, don’t be fixated on what name to call yourself, just do the work. As you continue, you would gain clarity on who you are and what you want to be called. Own your journey from the start by focusing your energy on what you can control while enjoying the moments/processes.
It may sound cliché but it is true that your journey is different from everyone else’s. You may be on the same path with someone but you’ll be surprised that it would lead you both to different destinations. Embrace your journey, and never get tired of evolving.
Don’t give in to impostor syndrome. It talks you out of competing with others even when you have a level playing field with them.