Only the good times pass too fast
How I achieved my goals as a JSK Journalism Fellow at Stanford
There is only one bad thing about the JSK Journalism Fellowship: One day it ends.
This is my last Medium post as a JSK Fellow. And probably the easiest. I knew exactly what I would write about in this post almost one year ago, when this whole adventure started.
I have a secret file on my computer with the most stupid name you could ever imagine. It’s called ‘‘goals.’’ Yeah, a type of file most of us usually create (whether physically in our computers or virtually in our minds) on New Year’s Eve. A list of promises to ourselves that we forget about somewhere in the second week after the New Year.
I’ve had these lists in the past as well. They included very typical promises: do more sports, work less, go to bed earlier, drink less, give up smoking, etc. And I never followed them. For objective reasons, of course. For instance, why would I start drinking less now, if my best friend’s birthday is in two weeks? Or, how can I work less, if I’ve found this great story? Or even, why would I give up smoking, if I am going to die anyway?
Before coming to the JSK Fellowship I made another attempt and created a file called ‘’goals.’’ And I promised myself that whatever the outcome would be, I would honestly write about it.
So, here were my goals a year ago.
Don’t judge me. Who does not come to Silicon Valley with the same purpose?
I was afraid that it would be the most difficult part of my list. I am bad at talking with constantly smiling people; in other words, I am bad at talking with Californians. Don’t judge me again. I come from a country where winter is seven months a year: Go and try to smile there at -40 (the point where Fahrenheit and Celsius become equal).
But I crossed out this goal from my list about a month after the fellowship started. I was so lucky to have an amazing group of people — my co-fellows — around me this year that I realized: You are now well connected for the rest of your life.
If these connections don’t make me wealthier, at least they have already made me happier.
I am OK with that. The goal is achieved.
When people ask me why do I need to learn Spanish, honestly there is not so much I can say. I know that I will probably not use it a lot after the end of the fellowship and I’ll probably forget most of it in a year. But I still put learning the Spanish language on the list of my pre-fellowhip goals — for two reasons.
Firstly, sorry Italian, but nothing sounds as beautiful as a song in Spanish. And I’ve always wanted to better feel and understand the melody of this amazing language.
Secondly, every new language is a great exercise for your brain. It’s a great “memory workout.’’
During the past eight months, I woke up every day at 8 a.m. to take my Spanish class at Stanford. This is the only class I’ve had for all three quarters. I was very lucky to have amazing professors — Chiara Giovanni and Kara Sanchez — who helped me not only progress with my Spanish but also develop a real love of Spanish and Latin American culture.
This goal is más o menos achieved as well.
Like it or not, you have to know coding if you want to be a successful investigative reporter in 21st century. Otherwise, you’ll just not be able to do many important stories. So, I treated coding as probably the most important goal on my list.
Computer science classes helped me a lot in another class, which I found probably the most useful in my whole fellowship. I am talking about Programming for Journalism and Building News Applications classes taught by a great professor, Serdar Tumgoren.
I think this is a class every journalist willing to learn practical coding skills should take. Automating tasks, scraping websites, analyzing big data, visualizing, creating news applications — all of the above and much more is taught here.
And I already don’t understand how I could have been doing my job without these skills.
And above all these goals I had a meta-goal. Being an investigative reporter is one of the busiest jobs in the world — especially if you work in a country as corrupt as Russia. You run from meeting to meeting; you investigate simultaneously three or sometimes five stories; and there is always one of them that you need to write right now; and sometimes you get sued and you need to spend hours in court; or sometimes somebody threatens your reporter and you need to deal with it as well.
So, you rush. You constantly rush.
My meta-goal was to slow down my perception of time. And I tried a lot to achieve it.
For instance, I started meditating and that is another amazing skill I’ll bring home from this fellowship. A skill I believe we all should develop to keep our mind in good shape, just as we work out to train our body. Meditation helps me a lot with just feeling myself better, with being able to concentrate when I need to concentrate. But did it help me with my meta-goal?
To be honest, no. This is the only goal from my list that I couldn’t achieve.
But you know what? I am happy about it. Because only good times pass too fast.