A letter came in the mail a few weeks ago informing me that since the bank was unable to find a record of my having borrowed money ever, I was not eligible for a credit card. They said I was a ghost.
I count myself incredibly lucky that I’ve never had to take any serious loans from a bank. The few things I have needed, I’ve been able to borrow the money from my parents, who have a much friendlier late payment policy (it’s coming on payday, mom, I promise).
After discovering my status as a ghost, I was left to explore other options as a way to prove to the banks that I exist, but it reminded me of something else. Not only am I a financial ghost, I’m also a political ghost.
It wasn’t always this way. I was above average for civic engagement in grade and high schools. I attended political events, had political opinions, and even sometimes had facts to support my feelings. In high school, as we approached the voting age, I fondly remember discussing politics with classmates on both sides of the desk rows.
Then I made the decision to be a journalist. And journalists don’t have political opinions. Or at least, we aren’t supposed to advertise them.
This all was explained to me as part of our strict and specific conflicts of interest policy at The Maneater, and I bought in. The idea was that if we advertise our personal politics all over the place, it’s hard for us to write about it without our opinion showing through. More so if everybody saw our massive Facebook rant about it last week.
And then, when I decided to begin pursuing poetry more intensely — actually trying to be a poet rather than just occasionally writing poetry — I adopted a similar idea. The theory stated that poetry, as art, is more about the words than about the story or what the words are saying. The idea was to focus on the language and how it played together rather than trying to get an intense message transmitted (though messages do sometimes happen).
I’ve lived my life according to these theories and policies for almost 5 years now, and I’m sick of it. When I was just starting out, just learning my trades, they were an important part of my education. But these are a kind of training wheels that I’m ready to kick off.
Since I’m still a working journalist, I have to kick them off responsibly, which probably means not at all for a long time. And part of me knows that journalism is one of the best ways to help society develop by targeting and sharing the truth, but on days when I start to question that ideal, those doubts will stoke the activist desires I’ve been covering up until I finally figure out what to do about it.