When asked what I want to be when I grow up, I instinctually reply with an impressive-sounding mouthful: When I grow up, I’d like to be a foreign correspondent, working in television, focusing on conflict zone journalism and war reporting.
The dream is a relatively new one, and how I plan on achieving it – and whether or not I follow through – are hazy details. But they are, nonetheless, details: Details compared with how I feel when I read and see and hear about what’s going on in the world, about human rights abuses and people getting shot to the ground over their right to stand and speak up.
It’s an anger that starts in the pit of my stomach, empties out my mind and mobilizes my feet so that in a matter of minutes, I’m storming around my house in an anxious rage. As time passes, the feeling eventually wears off. But I never forget, and to this day, am able to cite three queasy memories as my reasons for wanting to do what I want to do.
The first was back when I was in high school: I was at home and saw, for the first time, the photos of the 9/11 attacks. Specifically the ones where innocent American civilians were jumping from the second tower.
The second instance was a video of a woman, covered completely head-to-toe, getting stoned to death.
And most recently, I clicked a photo on Twitter before reading the caption. Turns out, to my horror, it had been captioned something like “what a suicide bomber looks like after detonation.”
More detail would be unnecessary. I also think it’s pretty clear how much impact these images can have on someone, psychologically, emotionally, even physically, for those with a weaker stomach than I.
There are dozens of reasons why I’m drawn to conflict zone reporting, and there are hundreds of reasons why I shouldn’t pursue it in any way other than occasionally clicking on the odd photo. But the truth is, I only need three: Three reasons that can’t be unseen, unthought, or unfelt. And once you’ve felt a certain way, it’s practically impossible to try to lead a life feeling any differently.