TUESDAY, September 21 – I’m well and truly pissed off – incensed, in a way, that I’ve been forced to make this bastard decision. At the same time, I’m convinced that I’m doing the right thing. It’s best for me and it’s best for the children, now and later. A strange symbiosis: it’s so emotional and yet it leaves me totally indifferent.
We keep it under wraps until Monday, when all the team members will be present, and I can announce that I’m standing down.
‘Does it feel like a kind of liberation?’ H asked, when I told him that my decision was irreversible? ‘Do you feel relieved?’
No. A hundred times no. I’m pissed off. It’s fucking hell. Bloody awful. Just plain shit. From the bottom of my heart I wish every possible disease on the person who brought all this shit into our lives, both private and professional. It is a rational decision taken in the midst of an emotional situation.
Do I feel castrated in my career? No, but I regret the interruption, after having spent two fulfilling years as deputy editor-in-chief working with people, encouraging colleagues, outlining journalistic policy, implementing creative ideas, correcting past mistakes, monitoring our consistent high quality – all of this in order to become and remain the very best. What an adventure it was.
All of this had nothing to do with lording it over others. What I found most satisfying was making use of my journalistic experience within a top management function. ‘What are your ambitions?’ asked Ben Knapen, then deputy editor of national daily NRC Handelsblad, when I was applying for a trainee position in 1987. I believe it’s better to be cheeky than modest when you apply for a job, so I said, ‘Editor-in-chief of this newspaper.’ I started out in the sports section as general dogsbody where I worked my tail off for a couple of years.
Later I joined the staff of the Amsterdam daily Het Parool and then went on to the national paper De Volkskrant, until I resigned in late 1994 and emigrated to the United States. Five years as freelance journalist in New York was followed by six years as NOS radio correspondent in Washington D.C., and three years as their multimedia correspondent in London. Never in my wildest dreams had I thought that I would indeed make it to the position of (deputy) editor-in-chief.
I’d always felt that I had to work harder than hard. Become a better journalist, learn new things and then move up to a new level. From the written to the spoken word, from radio to television, from television to internet, and then the entire gamut of the field. Doing the same thing year after year held no appeal for me. I’ve learned that routine can be deadly for the creative spirit.
This led to a fairly monomaniacal existence. Work, work, work. Jennifer was often scathing about employers who called me in the evening or on weekends, knowing that I never said no. Nor could she easily accept the fact that I was a workaholic and over the years this led to considerable marital stress.
But now it is ‘no’. I’ve made a temporary departure from the rat race and, for now, no more unconditional devotion to journalism. It’s a ‘yes’ for the boys. For Jenn. And maybe even more so for myself.