I was on Goodman Campus working my fourth game of the week with Lehigh Athletics’ broadcast production team. It was Friday, and while many students were hanging out with their friends or relaxing in their rooms, it was another late night for me, hard at work.
I loved my work with Lehigh Athletics, thanks to the fact that I was compensated with college credits and worked with people who knew my limits and strengths. But at this point, late in the fall semester, I felt myself growing increasingly tired.
I was taking every opportunity to get more experience in sports broadcasting, doing a wide range of work from being a cameraman to controlling the on-screen scoreboard.
Unlike this particular job, I have not enjoyed all the sports media roles I’ve embodied throughout my career.
As part of the slow grind expected of young sports journalists and broadcasters, I worked jobs with little pay or reward that involved being asked to do way more than what should be expected from a teenager.
I did not imagine saying “no” or setting boundaries in my work life. I knew so many people aspire to be in sports media, so I felt I had to say “yes” to every opportunity and work as hard as I could to generate more possibilities for myself.
I got on the last bus leaving Goodman Campus that night at the Cundey Varsity House bus stop — my most visited stop since I arrived at Lehigh — and returned to my dorm.
Once I got to my room in Maida House, I began browsing YouTube. It was past midnight, but I decided against showing up to class well-rested so I could finally do something for leisure after spending all day doing work either for my classes or with Lehigh Athletics.
I watched a video of my favorite musician, Jack Antonoff, the singer of the indie pop band Bleachers, who, funnily enough, was interviewed by The Brown and White in 2010 before he was famous.
He broke down music production scenes from famous movies, going on a tangent about the music industry that has stayed with me and often comes to mind when I think about my future in sports media.
“We’ve created a system where because you’re so ‘lucky to be there,’ we make the artist buy that,” he said.
Antonoff continued by rejecting that notion, saying people who create art deserve to make a living off of it and should not be ridiculed for wanting more.
I do not see my work as a sports journalist and broadcaster as an art form in the same way that music is, but over time I began to take Antonoff’s approach.
A few months after watching that video, I accepted an unpaid position with a large publication covering motorsports.
I’ve always loved writing about auto racing and even had my own blog. They were also kind enough to bring me in for a month-long trial, which I saw as a relatively risk-free way to see if I was ready to begin balancing school with additional journalism work.
Though I enjoyed it initially, the work piled up. I received texts about new stories and social media posts as early as 6 a.m. and as late as 11 p.m.
I never felt like I was doing enough, and I was overworking myself. After a month of burning myself out for very little in return, I decided to leave.
It was a relatively harmless decision for all parties involved, but on the way out, an editor told me I should’ve worked harder because many people want to work in sports, and I was ‘“lucky to be there.”
I went back to the Antonoff quote, took all my anxiety about not “making it” or letting myself down and shrugged off the comment.
My experience at the publication showed me that pushing past my limits and sacrificing my mental and physical health for the sake of a future career is not how I want to spend my time at Lehigh.
From then on, I took on commitments based not on what I thought would put me in the best position for a job offer down the road but instead on what I loved to do.
I accepted that working full-time in sports was my dream, but I also valued other things, like many of the friendships I made with the extra time I had now that I was focusing on myself.
I continued to make strides in my career goals despite working on a more reasonable schedule. In fact, I made them at a much greater rate. This summer, I am going to work as a post-production intern in Charlotte, North Carolina, with FOX Sports.
It is my first full-time position, and it is the first time I will be geting paid a living wage to do what I love.
I reached this point because I established a clear vision of my future and set fair boundaries for myself — not just because I was “lucky.”