A COMING OUT STORY

A few years ago at this time a Facebook status, some stories in the news and a number of You Tube videos on “coming out” compelled me to write on a topic I might have otherwise avoided. 

As you will see below, I could not find a dramatic You Tube video at the time on the harrowing coming out story to which I referred.  I subsequently found it and posted it in a follow-up article.  I have linked it to Angel‘s name here if you would like to see it.  It is a tough 12 minutes.


Despite everything that has been in the news lately, I thought I would shy away from this topic. It is often a political hot potato fraught with emotional arguments that have little to do with rational thinking. There seemed no reason to be another voice among the already countless raised voices. Then I caught a status message on Facebook that got me to rethink my position.

A relative posted a status message that his daughter had put up. As I read through it, I was impressed with the thoughtful counter arguments regarding the opposition to gay marriage, as well intelligent remarks about being gay. I thought I need some of this when the haters start in with their venom.

As I read down the lengthy post I began to realize this was not just a rebuttal to recent actions in the news, particularly the gay marriage ban in North Carolina, but also a commentary by a relative of what it was like to grow up gay. I was totally unaware of the circumstances of her personal life or the problems that it brought her. She did not avoid the most difficult parts of the story, but put it out there bravely for us to see. I was moved by the willingness to try to help people understand by pointing to a personal story.

Unless you are a member of the 1 in 10 who grows up feeling different and alone, it is hard to understand what it is like. You may be picked on at school, bullied by classmates in ways much more hateful than mere childhood teasing. You might find the very thought of going to school as terrifying, and return home each day depressed, perhaps with thoughts of suicide. Recently a 14-year-old boy in Iowa took his own life as a result of the bullying at school and online. “Mom, you don’t know how it feels to be hated,” he had told his mother. He just could not live with it anymore.

What drives people to this kind of hatred? Recently I viewed some coming out stories on You Tube. The story of one young man absolutely stunned me. Angel did not appear to be overtly gay in his video. He told that his coming out was actually an accident.

His father saw him kissing his boyfriend. The boy was often dropped off a block or more from home so his father would not see them. When the father got home he confronted Angel and demanded to know if he was a faggot. Angel knew if he said he was gay, he would get a beating, but he got one anyway. It was a severe beating the boy could hardly survive. When the father had to go out, Angel called for help. He did not call the police, his father was a cop.

He called a hotline and then a family he thought might help. The woman told him to just get out and she would meet him at the corner. He did not make it that far. Bleeding he fell to the ground throwing up blood. He was found and eventually taken to a hospital emergency room. What father would beat his child almost to death because he dared to love someone not of his father’s choosing? Obviously, Angel recovered and was able to tell his story.

Imagine the terror many in the 10 percent may feel, if not for themselves, perhaps for their friends. Will today be the day they are bullied, beaten, or worse? Imagine not knowing who to trust, at home or at school. Imagine not knowing if life will hold anything of worth for you. “Imagine all the people living life in peace.”
Angel has forgiven his father, strange as that may seem. They have even talked since. When I saw his story, I did not have any idea about writing this, so I did not keep track of the You Tube link. I thought I would go back and find it to put at the bottom of this. I searched “A coming out story” since I thought that was the title and I got 149,000 results. For all the young gay people afraid to be who they are, you can be assured, you are not alone. I did find that most of these stories actually turn out well. Some were surprised at the acceptance they received. If you need some hope, search “it gets better.” It is the popular campaign of videos started by syndicated columnist Dan Savage and his partner, Terry Miller. Watch and you will find hope shining through the dark night.

I can not explain to you how people can use the Bible or other religious book to support a position of hate, it taught me that we should love one another as we should love ourselves. If you find it tough right now, for you or a loved one, don’t give in to the haters. It gets better.

http://www.itgetsbetter.org/
http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

Note:  Last year I wrote a short story to dramatize Angel’s video.  I sent Angel a message to ask if it was OK to proceed.  He said it was spot on and to go ahead.  You can read that story here.

THROWBACK THURSDAY

Keeping Old Memories Alive, Rich Paschall

Let’s face it, there are a lot of annoying things about social media.  Even worse than the stupidity being spread, making us dumber by the day, is the proliferation of new games, rituals, groups, pages, chats, instasomethings, broadcast thyself and say nothing.

You Tube channels (I have 2), Google +, tweet and twitpic and twitchat, YouNow, Ustream and the list for You is growing.  You can write it, sing it, chat it, pin it, post it, paste it, repost and reblog it.  The glut of personal pages and activities is beyond gluttonous.

Among the millions of pages and posts lies some golden moments if only you can find them.  Sometimes it is like finding a needle in a haystack, but sometimes a needle is found.  Perhaps you put the golden needle there yourself, hoping others will find it.  If you look hard enough, you may find gold too.

I have used Facebook, WordPress and YouTube to uncover new (or not so new) and interesting talent. In some ways, it has replaced some of my television watching, although I have uncovered more crap online than can ever make it through to broadcast television.

If you have been following along on Sundays, you will notice that I have pointed out some of the good young talent online.  There are some young people doing good as I pointed out when I asked if it was A Screwed Up World? I also mentioned up and coming talent here and on Sunday Night Blog. Recently, I profiled Tom Law in Laying Down The Musical Law. So you can tell I am not completely down on the social media world.

One practice that has grown up on several social sites in recent years did not interest me at first.  In fact, I thought it a rather self-indulgent way of posting your old photos for people who really did not care on a medium that is so overburden with posts few would notice anyway. This now common activity is called Throwback Thursday.  Have you taken part?

The idea behind Throwback Thursday is that you post an old photo, video, article from the past, tag it with #tbt. Thus you will have made some sort of contribution to remembering something important or historical. It’s an interesting idea that has, of course, produced a lot of junk. Seriously, I do not need to see your video of you and your precious cat from 2003. It may bring tears to your eyes, but that doesn’t make it an historic document.

After this practice had gone by for a few years, I began to see the worth hidden in hashtag TBT. Items of merit were coming to light of social, historical and even personal value.  Now I gladly participate.

I still love cake

My personal photos of my charming self at a young age may be of no value in the social media world but I have many friends and relatives on Facebook. I don’t see them often, so they may be of interest to those who knew me at nine.

We are sharing old memories through weekly postings. I’ve been amazed by the relics some folks have uncovered. Perhaps you’ve been lucky enough to see old photos and videos that bring a smile to your face.

The Pajama Game is the game we’re in!

A couple of years ago I started a Facebook group for former students of Mrs. Laurette Kittler. She is a retired high school drama teacher whose instruction and guidance touched the lives of generations of students. I was proud to include myself in those who could celebrate this teacher’s work. I thought maybe, over time, I would find 100 students.

The group now has more than 200 members, most of whom have been posting pictures and bringing smiles to everyone.  While many members of the group haven’t seen each other for decades, they’ve been putting up pictures others may have not seen since the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s.  Maybe they never saw them at all.

When the formation of this group led to a “dinner and drinks” outing, I casually mentioned that among the many pictures I have and I have seen, I have no pictures from my Senior Class play.  I could have purchased them from the high school at the time, but I let it pass. It was my big regret.

During the week that followed, pictures showed up on Facebook, including one of me front and just left of center in a picture I do not think I ever saw.

South Pacific

Throwback Thursday has become a favorite activity. I post something and look for others to post items which will remind me of my high school days, my family and my youth. Nothing brings the past to life like seeing it. This is the value of #tbt.

My departed mother took a camera to many things in her life. In the 70’s and 80’s there is no telling how many rolls of 110 and 126 film she went through. Some months after she was gone, I sent many hundreds of pictures to my brother. I have thousands remaining.

Nowadays, I have a use for these photographs — every Thursday.

LAYING DOWN THE MUSICAL LAW

Tom Joseph Law music, by Rich Paschall

There is no shortage of musicians on You Tube and other social media platforms who wish to become famous.  Some are actually rather good and just hoping to be noticed among a sea of musicians who are covering songs and offering their own work.  How do you get recognition?  How do you produce quality videos to post among the millions of videos already in cyberspace?  How do you stand out among the crowd?

Tom Law has been working steadily for years to become the next “over night sensation.”  Since joining You Tube in 2010, the British singer-songwriter has posted covers and collaborations, original songs and one man band videos.  Yes, Tom has 14 videos where he is playing all the instruments.  You may watch and be suitably impressed at this talent.

From photo shoot in Bath, England

From photo shoot in Bath, England

At age 25, Tom’s persistence, talent and good looks have brought him almost 79 thousand You Tube subscribers and over 3 and a half million views.  It is respectable for sure but there’s a higher level to achieve and that is his aim.

In order to raise some additional money to make quality videos, Tom has found Patreon.  It is a social media site aimed at bringing patrons together with their favorite artists.  This allows people to pledge gifts large and small for each project and the artist has the option of offering rewards, like free downloads of music.  Tom also offers some patrons the opportunity to “hangout” online for a private chat.  On a recent hangout, I got the opportunity to sit in.

A small group of supporters of Tom’s cover of Hozier’s “Take Me To Church”, eight I think, assembled last Saturday for the opportunity to talk with their favorite artist.  Tom’s video was one of those one man band videos, where he is singing and playing all the parts.  It certainly moves away from the more up tempo pop-like tunes I like, but it is a good choice for Tom, especially given the radio play of Hozier’s song with the driving refrain that sticks in your head.

Not being part of this particular group, I was pleased Tom gave me the chance to join the call.  I thought I would just hang out and listen and perhaps learn a few things.  However, the group seemed rather reserved and did not have much to say.  Perhaps they have had other hang-outs with Tom and asked a lot of the obvious questions already.  When Tom mentioned that he felt like he was doing all the talking, I decided to jump in.

The group may have been there to talk about “Take Me To Church,” but I had just seen Tom’s most recent cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Don’t” so it was fresh in my mind.  I decided to go there instead.  First I mentioned that Tom seemed to be apologizing in social media, even before the video appeared, about the “F” word in the song.  He was afraid some might not like it but felt it could not be eliminated.  Usually I find the use offensive, but in the context of Sheeran’s song, it obviously fits and is nothing sensational.  Tom thought of covering the sound over, but these sort of tricks just highlight a missing word we all know is there.

Next I wanted to know how does he put the pieces together when he is the lead singer, all the background singers and all the musicians.  It takes a great deal of patience as well as technical know-how to get this together.  If you watched the video, you may also wonder, “How does he do it?”

Without giving away secrets, as if I understood it all anyway, Tom starts with the main track, that is, the lead vocal.  From there he can add in the other instruments and background Toms until he gets all their parts down.  Yes, there is a lot of harmony going on.

Then, of course, Tom has to film all those Toms.  In order to be in time with the music, you can see the background singers are listening for their parts in the headphones.  When this is all done, I wanted to know how he syncs all this up so the timing is just right.  I thought the background crew would be rather tough, but Tom did not seem to think it was as difficult as some of the rest of the project.

“OK, Tom, how long did the whole process take?”  Tom thought about all the pieces of recording and filming and editing and finally decided it took about seven days and a LOT of hours to give us a video of three minutes and 47 seconds.  If you think Tom can make money off these things, there is little chance, since the song belongs to someone else.  However, it might give him the recognition to do other things.

He does have some of his own songs that you should give a chance. In fact, here’s the song “Give It a Chance” from an EP, Build From Zero.

After the song you will see a link below the video on You Tube that will lead you to a free album of covers by Tom.  Download it from Tom’s website.  If you are a social media junkie, subscribe to Tom’s You Tube and go to his “about” page and find links to all of Tom’s sites so you can stalk him around the internet and know what is coming next.  Give it a chance.

A SCREWED UP WORLD?

What direction are we going? by Rich Paschall

My closest friend lives in France and is one of the nicest people I know.  He avoids conflicts and always has a sunny disposition.  I could sing his praises all day and yet, he surprised me with a facebook post recently.  It was totally out of character.  He exclaimed, “Fxxxxd up world…”  He said nothing more.  It was the day of the massacre in Paris of 12 at the French satirical publication, Charlie Hebdo.  It sparked a massive manhunt and additional killings in France.

The proliferation of terrorist attacks, the wars and various conflicts around the globe, as well as the accusations against police, make the day’s news disturbing at the very least.  Scandals and corruption stun us.  Political hijinks appall us.  Societal polarization dismay us.  The daily news offers little source of comfort.

Recently I followed back someone on Twitter who followed me.  Her followers in turn followed me.  Unfortunately, this led to a group of thugs and rappers that have absolutely no respect for anything,  In addition, there was a substantial number of young men posting the most lewd and disgusting opinion of women (ok, they did not say women, exactly).  Worse were the women who followed them.  I had a year’s worth of disgust posted to my Twitter feed over a few days.  Yes, I followed back everybody, but then had to unfollow many.

All of the crap in the news and on social media feeds can certainly lead one to a low opinion of humanity.  When you couple that with some of the unsettling news of recent times, you can surely conclude that the world is “going to hell in a hand basket.” as my dear departed mother might have said.  Yet, there is a ray of sunshine in the dark, dank and depressing depth that humanity will sometimes find itself.

Voices are rising up from the streets to shout out a more encouraging word.  It comes from society’s young members.  I have mentioned before the comments of young rapper Prince EA in This World Should End and In Search of Peace on Earth.  Consider this rap:

Rapper An0moly was surprised when some social comments on facebook became his most viewed video, despite the many he has on You Tube.  Now he comments in his street wise style:

Young You Tube blogger Alfie Deyes turned his nearly 5 million subscribers onto this anti-bullying song from another You Tuber:

You Tube and social media sensation Tyler Oakley hoped for the second year in a row to use his birthday to get his subscribers to raise money for The Trevor Project, fighting teen suicide in LGBT youth.  His goal this past year was 150,000 US dollars.  He raised over a half million according to The Trevor Project’s web page.  He is not the only You Tuber to raise money and awareness for social problems.  Many have turned the social media spotlight on causes around the world.

Screenwriter, director Dustin Lance Black teamed up with British Olympic diver, Tom Daley, to raise money.  Half going to Black’s charity, Human Rights Campaign and half to Daley’s charity, The Brain Tumour Charity.  Daley lost his father to a brain tumor before he could see his teenage son carry Great Britain’s hope for a diving medal into the 2012 Olympics.  Black promised his now deceased big brother that he would fight for LGBT equality, and so he has.  The two raised a quarter million dollars with one contributor rewarded with a trip to meet the young men in London:

Fundraising organizations like Omaze and Prizeo have teamed up with young stars to bring awareness to social causes and raise money for charity. A Who’s Who of social media and entertainment stars have joined forces with organizations to better the world.  “The Ian Somerhalder Foundation aims to empower, educate and collaborate with people and projects to positively impact the planet.”  Matt Damon and Ben Affleck put their star power behind Eastern Congo Initiative and Water.org.  Jennifer Lopez gave all contributor of 20 dollars or more a chance at meeting her to benefit American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Club of America, and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.  Of course, the money rolled in.  I could give you many examples of this.

From the streets to the studios, from the stages to sports, from Main Street to Manhattan, young people, You Tube and Social Media stars, rappers and performers of all kinds are rejecting the message of violence and offering up positive responses.  The news will give you plenty of reasons to despair.  Plenty of youth will give you reasons for hope.  They raise money, they preach nonviolence, they hold out for something better.    Sleep better tonight, they hold out light in the darkness.  There’s Hope In Front of Me.

TMI

Overload Alert – “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” — Gertrude Stein


There is a lot of noise out there in the world. Television, radio, social media, newspapers.

Thing is, you don’t have to pay it any mind. I don’t. Much — most — of what passes for “information” barely fits the criteria for gossip, much less news. It’s ranting. Bullshit.

Facebook especially is full of unfounded opinions, innuendos, stuff that has been passed around so much everyone assumes it must be true, but hardly anyone bothers to check if it is fact or nonsense.

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When I’ve taken the time to track down these Internet “stories,” I’ve found them to be without basis in fact. If there are facts in the mix, they are out of context and liberally mixed with someone’s opinion. The most lethal kind of misinformation is a mix of fact and fiction which sounds authoritative, but is all smoke and mirrors.

I don’t watch the news. Really, I don’t. Unless there’s something specific going on that I need to know about. It has to be important: a hurricane coming our way, a natural disaster, a major political or international event, a war. I don’t need to know about the “crime du jour” or the latest celebrity scandal. I read book reviews. Movie reviews. When there’s a big election, I like to know the positions of the candidates. We watch at least one presidential debate every four years. And we vote.

Otherwise, if someone wants to tell me what’s going on in their life or wants to know about mine? They can call me, email me. Read my blog.

I am retired. Truly retired. I don’t want to know about, worry about, deal with all the crap in the world. If I don’t turn on the TV or follow it in social media, I don’t need to know. The crisis can proceed without me.

Life is far more relaxing without the constant hysteria of media.

Try it. It’s amazing how peaceful life can be if you don’t pay attention to the nonsense spouted and touted on the airwaves and Internet.

GRANDMA’S BEST ADVICE

The other day, I had one of the increasingly rare moments alone with my granddaughter. She has been going through a prolonged siege of the teenage girl crazies, a ghastly combination of hormones, boys, high school and high drama.

Clearly, she was in need of the best advice I had to offer, so I gave it to her.

“If you are going to be crazy, be crazy,” I said. “I was a basket case at your age too. Many of us were. It’s a girl thing. But trust me. You really can trust me on this. Everything gets better. Not very long from now, you’ll look back on this time and be embarrassed by some of the stuff you are doing.”

High tension wire, golden maple leaves framed by an azure sky.

And then I gave her the best advice I had: “Be crazy if you must. Just — for God’s sake, don’t put it online. Your great-grandchildren will be finding your Facebook posts and laughing their asses off. Worse, your future possible employers will be finding them too, not to mention your potential life-partners, business associates, friends and co-workers. Be nuts if you must, but shut up about it. Don’t publish it.”

I know it’s the current thing to spill ones guts on the internet. I share too, but only if I can make it reasonably elegant and I don’t mind who knows. Moreover, I’m retired. I will never again have to hunt for a job. I have the only husband I will ever need or want. My friends already know I’m a whack job and they love me anyhow.

But my granddaughter is 17. She’s got a whole life to live, worlds to conquer and all that drama published on the internet can turn into the stuff of nightmares.

75-Wires-57

Nothing ever vanishes once it’s “out there” in cyberspace. Everything you ever wrote, ever commented is going to show up on someone’s Google search. It gives friends something to laugh about and you something to blush over … but it’s also something for those who don’t like you to use against you. It provides easy ways for people to hurt you. If you are, as I am, past the age where you give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks or says about you, behave accordingly.

However, if you are still in the job market, still hoping for a career, especially if you are a teacher or any kind of public servant. Or looking for work in finance or something which requires a security clearance … Think carefully before you publish.

Nothing you put on the internet is private, no matter what anyone tells you. I can find posts I wrote that were supposedly private twenty years ago and newspaper articles in which I am mentioned that were published in The Jerusalem Post 30 years ago.

If it goes up on any form of social media or blog? It’s a land mine on which you will eventually step.

So be crazy. Be as crazy as you want. Just don’t publish it. If it’s unpublished, it’s a rumor. Plausible deniability applies. But if it’s published? You’re busted.

WHAT’S THE SCOOP?

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It seems to me the importance of whatever is going on in the world has an inverse relationship to the amount of attention it gets in the press. By “press,” I’m referring to newspapers, radio, television and other traditional news outlets, newer stuff like social networks, websites and blogs. Plus even newer sources of information such as newsletters and email. “Press” is the collective dissemination of information from a wide variety of perspectives and mediums. These days, it’s a free-for-all. If you care about truth and facts, you will need to do some independent reality checking.

News is loosely defined as whatever news people say it is. Whether or not this actually is news is subjective. The control of news content is not, as many people think, in the hands of reporters or even editors and publishers. Whatever controls exist are defined in corporate boardrooms run by guys like Rupert Murdoch who have no vested interest in keeping us well-informed. The news biz is about power, politics and money. Mostly money. It’s business, not public service.

That would, in theory, make “independent” sources — bloggers, for example — more “honest” … but don’t bet on it. Everybody’s got an agenda. Independence doesn’t equate to accuracy or honesty. They may not be beholden to a corporation or sponsors, but that doesn’t make them neutral or fair. They may be … but then again, maybe not. I’ve read blogs so blatantly lacking in any kind of journalistic ethics it shocked me. I am not easily shocked.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Pri...

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin acknowledge applause during a Joint Session of Congress in which President Jimmy Carter announced the results of the Camp David Accords. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not sure exactly when news stopped being stories about important stuff going on in the world and became whatever will generate a big audience likely buy the sponsors’ products. Money has always driven the news to some degree, but not like today. Now, everything seems to be driven by the bottom-line. It hasn’t improved the quality of the news. Once upon a time, important issues and stories got a free pass, an exemption from needing to have “sex appeal.” Significant news got on the air even if it wasn’t sexy or likely to sell products. Not true any more.

For a brief shining period from World War II through the early 196os and perhaps a bit beyond, the “Ed Murrow” effect was a powerful influence in American news. Reporters were invigorated by getting respect for their work and tried to be “journalists” rather than muckrakers.

When I was growing up, Walter Cronkite was The Man. He carried such an aura of integrity and authority I thought he should be president not merely of the U.S., but of the world. Who would argue with Walter Cronkite? He sat next to God in the newsroom and some of us had a sneaking suspicion God personally told him what was important. If Walter said it was true, we believed. Thus when Cronkite became the guy to get Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat to sit down and talk — the beginning of the Camp David Accords — it seemed natural and right. Who was more trustworthy than Uncle Walter? Who carried more authority? He walked in the glow of righteousness.

UncleWalterOld

He always made my mother giggle. It was not Walter, the reporter or man who made her laugh. It was his name. “Cronkite” in Yiddish means ailment, so every time his name was announced, my mother, who had a wild and zany sense of humor, was reduced to incoherent choking laughter. It was a nightly event. Eventually she got herself under control sufficiently to watch the news, but the sound of her barely contained merriment did nothing to improve the gravity I felt should surround the news.

To this day, the first thing I think of when I hear Walter Cronkite’s name — something that less and less frequently as the younger generations forget everything that happened before Facebook — is the sound of my mother’s laughter. That’s not entirely bad, come to think of it.

Walter was one of Ed Murrow’s boys, his hand-picked crew at CBS News.

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I can only wonder what the chances are of any of us living to see a return to news presented as news and not as entertainment. Where reporters and anchors check and doublecheck sources before broadcasting a story. Today, Jon Stewart’s comedy news The Daily Show gives us more accurate news than does the supposed “real” news, I like Stewart, but I don’t think this is the way it’s supposed to be.

For a look at the how we got from there to here, two movies spring instantly to mind : Network — a 1976 American satirical film written by the great Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet starring Faye DunawayWilliam HoldenPeter Finch, and Robert Duvall. Its dark vision of the future of news has turned out to be very close to reality. Too close for comfort.

The other, for veterans of the TV wars, is Broadcast News, a 1987 comedy-drama film written, produced and directed by James L. Brooks. The film concerns a virtuoso television news producer (Holly Hunter), who has daily emotional breakdowns, a brilliant yet prickly reporter (Albert Brooks) and his charismatic but far less seasoned rival (William Hurt). When it first came out, it was almost too painful to watch.

And finally, Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom …the HBO series that gives the most realistic look at how it works and sometimes, how it fails … and why it matters.

The world goes on. We think we can’t survive without this or that. We think the world will go completely to Hell without real news and serious reporters but we survive. Maybe the worse for wear, but trucking along. Nonetheless, I’d like real news back on the air. I’d like to see a return to fact-based reporting. I know how old-fashioned that is, but I wish I could believe what I read, what I see, what I hear. I miss being able to trust the information I get. I would like to be less cynical or at the least, discover my cynicism was misplaced.

Just saying.

Amateurs have all the fun

It has come up a few times lately … how to define a professional. So, are you a professional? I’ve seen questionnaires for writers that apparently feel the sign of a professional is how much you sacrifice for your art. I’m quite sure sacrifice has nothing to do with whether or not you are a professional.

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There is only one question you need to answer. Do you get paid for doing it, whatever ‘it’ is? If you don’t get paid, you are not a professional. If you do get paid, you are. This doesn’t address the issue of whether or not you are talented or especially skilled. You may be a brilliant amateur and someone else may be a lackluster professional, but that’s not the question.

Professional is a job classification and addresses your status with the IRS. When I was working as a writer, it never crossed my mind to wonder if I was a professional. I had a job. Writing. I had deadlines. I got paid. The odds are if you are wondering whether or not you are a professional? You aren’t.

Ghost Photog in the Sky

Professional doesn’t mean talented and amateur is not a comment on quality of your work. I flirted with professional photography, only to discover it wasn’t fun. To make my living as a photographer, I had to do what clients wanted and that was … well … work.

Then, this past May, along came Marissa Mayer from Yahoo to explain why they were eliminating Flickr Pro.
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Wow. When did access to tools become equivalent to professionalism? Completely ignoring the actual definition of professional, she manages to ignore any other sensible guideline and define professional as “owning the tools.” Using this reasoning, everyone who owns woodworking tools is a professional carpenter. Owning a few rolls of electrical tape and a couple of gauges could make you an electrician. Is a plumber anyone who owns wrenches?

Is everyone who owns a computer and a printer, who has a blog or posts on Facebook a professional writer? If I buy some paints and an easel, I’m a painter, right? Everyone who has a digital camera can also make movies, so are we all professional filmmakers?

If ignorance is bliss, Marissa Mayer is very happy.

The single thing that divides a professional from an amateur — excluding any legal requirements such as training, licensing and so on — is a paycheck. If you get paid to write, you’re a professional writer. If you sell your photographs or services as a photographer, you are a professional photographer. How much of your income needs to come from writing or photography? At least some. None is too little.

If you have never sold anything you’ve written, you are an aspiring writer, an amateur, a hopeful. You don’t get professional status until you get the check. This is true for photographers, painters, and all other artists. It’s true for every profession, artistic or otherwise.

CamerasIf you don’t believe me, look it up. That’s the line in the sand. If you don’t earn money doing it — whatever “it” is — you are not a professional. It isn’t about your talent, enthusiasm or dedication to your art. It is a statement about your status. Maybe you will become a professional in the future. Perhaps you were a professional in the past.

I’m retired. I used to earn my living writing. This makes me a former professional writer. My husband was a reporter. He is now a former reporter. We collect social security and pensions, so we are no longer professionals. I was never a professional photographer even though I sold a few pictures and did a few gigs for which I got paid. I am and was a dedicated, serious amateur photographer. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

I think we should stop worrying about it. In most things, amateurs have more fun anyhow.