Over the past eight months, since leaving my 20-year career in television broadcast news, I’ve experienced a transition. And let me tell you, it has rocked my world. TV news is the only career — the only professional identity — I’ve ever known.
At 9 years old and anchoring the morning news for my elementary school in my hometown of Tucson, Ariz., I had myopic focus and an unshakable resolve to sacrifice. That didn’t change as I grew older. During every internship or university course, well-intentioned broadcast news veterans, eager to save us from our dreams, attempted to dissuade us, the starry-eyed hopefuls. Their message: TV news is not viable for the faint of heart.
I would not be swayed.
By the time I was hired for my first affiliate job at KNBN NewsCenter1 in Rapid City, S.D., TV news had been my sole focus for internships in junior high, high school and college. If not this, what else would I do? What else could I do?
A career in this industry requires such dogged determination and unwavering passion for the business, that earning well below a livable wage in a small market, sleeping in a basement on an air mattress while working shifts at all hours of the day and being prepared to regularly relocate made the nomadic and tough nature of the job seem normal. It’s all just part of the deal, because, baby, you are a dime a dozen — the industry makes no apologies and no qualms about that.
In my 38 years, I’ve lived in eight cities in six states. At 12 years this August, Sacramento is the most-tenured city on my list. The transitions from job to job and state to state always felt doable because, what are a few months, or a year or two, in the grand scheme? I’d already sacrificed so much. It couldn’t all be for naught.
By the time my path led to the City of Trees, I had no intention of settling down. Yet each time a contract came up, I found myself re-signing and establishing those long-elusive roots. In 2016, wooed by an offer to sleep later, earn higher pay and establish more stability, I left one local TV station for another. While this move didn’t require relocating hundreds of miles, the jump proved challenging for reasons I couldn’t immediately understand.
Four months into our marriage, my career shift coincided with that of my husband’s, as he transitioned from professional sports to technology (and later into food-service management). We were both navigating new waters and operating from a place of survival, barely supporting ourselves, let alone each other. Even so, there was far more to my gnawing discontent.
Choosing to build a life in one place — vs. perpetually relocating — provided me an untapped vantage point: I had trained myself to tread unhappy work waters by resting on their transitory nature, but now I had to face my professional discomfort head on. Here I was, positioned in my dream job, in a city I loved, newly married, as physically fit as I’d ever been, and yet I was deeply depressed. It was a perplexing conundrum that I didn’t know how to fix.
Space and distance from TV news has welcomed perspective and clarity. I now see my unhappiness with work and life as a reflection of my internal misalignment. As I yearned for stability, I could not see the faultiness of my own personal foundation; something no job, no partner, no achievement could fix. This was soul work.
For years, I busied myself, chasing blindly after jobs, running from one relationship to the next, distracting myself with adventure and thrills. Leaving the TV industry created space for me to finally face myself, to be present with what was actually missing from my life: the essential pillars of self-respect, self-trust and self-love.
Part of me wanted to blame the job, to lean in to bitter resentment, when two years into my three-year contract, my station informed me I would be released. However, the immense relief I felt left no room for anger. Stepping back from the industry I’d shaped my life around allowed me to see my unhappiness was never about any job — the job was a mask I wore for protection from the outside world. Morning TV news turned out to be the most perfect hiding place for a terrified little girl who grew into a woman afraid to be seen. I hadn’t had the courage to leave the job, so it was leaving me; the edges of resentment were eased by gratitude.
I left TV news in October 2018, six months after I learned my job would dissolve. That window of time proved invaluable. It allowed me to relax and enjoy the elements of the work that drew me to the field initially: curiosity for people and their stories. No longer did I need to force the job to work out. I could just be with what was without needing to change it.
My transition over the past eight months has given me opportunities to remain in the present moment, to make friends with the unknown, to face discomfort and sadness without running away, without distracting, without hiding. I’ve struggled. I’ve felt lost. I’ve cried. A lot. I’ve questioned. How do I describe my professional identity now? I’m still figuring that out. Am I unemployed, in between jobs or entering early retirement? I don’t know, and at this point, it doesn’t matter. I’ve been unsure of myself, and all the while, I’ve stayed present with what is. I’ve also stretched myself in personal and professional ways that could never have been possible without first stepping away from TV.
I teamed up with the local nonprofit Valley Vision to serve as moderator for its Farm2Fork Live! panel discussions. In January, I helped launch SoulCamp, a women’s wellness retreat through Mama BootCamp. In February, I used my voice publicly in an entirely new way, at a collaborative art show: “Bethany Crouch and the Surface of Reality,” where I presented my original spoken-word poetry, set to live music, at Groundswell Art Gallery, alongside the mixed-media art of Cherie deFer. In March, I began embracing a fill-in role at NewsRadio KFBK, appreciating my experience with this other world of broadcasting. During this time, I also dove into the space of stand-up comedy through The Comedy Spot. In April and May, I got to support another’s dream by overseeing media and employee scheduling for Burger Patch, a new quick-serve plant-based burger joint in Midtown, founded by dear friends and managed by my husband. All the while, alongside my husband, I’ve maintained a 250-plant urban farm in our backyard. Soon I’ll also begin doing some media relations work with Sagent Marketing.
And now this newest endeavor, collaborating with Comstock’s on a column that links us all: the power of transition and how it serves in our personal and professional development. Each month, this column will highlight tools to navigate transition and the people who have weathered their own private storms of change.
For me, transitioning away from being in front of the camera to turn the lens inward is proving to be my most meaningful move yet.