There and Back Again: A Young Journalist's Quest For The "Truth"
My accidental one-year long "investigation" into "truth" and what I found along the way.
I will start this story out the same way most good stories begin— with “once upon a time.” I began my “career” in journalism exactly one year ago. Like many journalists probably do, I started doing journalism because I was idealistic and patriotic. I loved my country and I wanted to serve it however I was best able to do so, and for me, that was through journalism.
Nothing inspired me to fight harder for this country than watching the 2020 election occur, and all of the fallout that happened afterwards.
In all honesty, I was angry. Angry at the media, at the politicians, at older generations. It looked to me like every one of them was content to live in lies. So I embarked on my journalism "journey,” in that seemingly age-old quest for “truth.”
This story starts out with a 21-year-old fresh out of college with a Political Science degree and zero experience in journalism. More than a little bit cynical about the news media following the 2020 election, I decided to take a chance and write out a resumé and submit it to The Daily Caller anyway. I’d followed their work for a few years, and they had seemed fair and straightforward in their reporting. Honestly, I didn’t really expect to hear anything back. But I did hear something back, and I ended up becoming a contributor for the organization. I spent a few months writing for them, and learned the basics of journalism. It was an important learning experience that I definitely needed.
Unfortunately, life decided I needed a serious metaphysical wake-up call, in the form of a life or death health emergency.
October 2nd last year, I died. Not a physical death exactly, but I have come to believe it was a kind of spiritual death.
This spiritual death began with very real physical symptoms. I lost control of my muscles, I had extreme vertigo, and I wasn’t able to see clearly. I collapsed on the floor and I almost lost oxygen and stopped breathing. As all of this was happening, I knew I was dying. Everything about my life, my past— the good parts and the bad, and all the hopes and dreams I wouldn’t get to fulfill literally flashed before my eyes. Luckily, my family was there and they held me up and yelled at me to breathe. I had a death grip on my brother and sister’s hands, and all I could think about was how much I loved my family and how badly I didn’t want to leave them just yet.
Suddenly, it all stopped. My breathing returned, and I was perfectly “fine.” The paramedics arrived, but as far as they could determine, there was nothing wrong with me. To this day, I don’t know what happened.
For the next two months after “the incident,” I was barely able to function as a person. I was afraid that whatever happened to me that night, would happen again. I was afraid there was something seriously wrong with me, and it was just biding its time to rear its ugly head again. My family and the doctor said it was probably just stress… or an allergic reaction to fire ant bites. Go figure.
Though I was physically and mentally shot for the next two months, I managed to find a way to put the time to some kind of good use. I decided to study my family tree, and learn about my ancestors. In a way, I wanted to find out the truth of who I was. During all of this research, I found that one of my ancestors was a victim of the Salem Witch Trials. Naturally, I fell down the rabbit hole reading about what happened at Salem.
The witch trials began when three women were accused of being possessed by the devil. Following this, more and more people were accused of being witches, and the hysteria spread throughout Salem. All of this resulted in the deaths of 20 innocent people. Nineteen of them were hung and buried in shallow graves, and the other was pressed to death under a pile of heavy stones. There are a few different explanations people have determined over the years for what they think actually caused the witch hysteria, but to this day no one knows for sure exactly what caused it.
Ironically, this particular historical event would be part of the beginning and the end of my quest for truth.
As January 2022 rolled around, I realized I needed to get my life together and get over the fear that was holding me down. I started really considering how COVID-19, the election madness, my own health scare, and everything in between had made me actually feel. For the first time in a very long time, I let myself seriously ponder how I actually felt about anything. After much consideration I determined—
I was angry.
We’re talking serious rage here. I was angry that people were being forced to wear masks and get vaccines they didn’t really want to take. I was angry at lockdowns and what all of this had done to people and the people who died from all of it. I was just so angry. I prayed to God for guidance and for what I needed to do next— because I had no clue what to do or how to handle the kind of rage I was feeling. So I decided to pour all of it into writing, and as I did, I finally found the direction I had been looking for.
I decided I was going to continue to be a journalist and seek out the “truth” of what happened to this country— but this time it was going to be on my own terms. I was going to be an independent journalist and I was going to find that ever-so-illusive “truth.”
Over the next eight months, I combed through reports and academic journals and interviews, and books and any and all the material I could get my hands on, to try to figure out two main issues: 1. How the heck do I even do journalism? and 2.Who/what can be trusted anymore?
Sadly, as the Ukraine/Russia conflict developed, it quickly became clear that virtually no news organization and few journalists were interested in facts anymore. “The Ghost of Kiev” became a headline story all over the media despite the fact that the story was debunked as false. Apparently, no one at all was interested in the “truth” anymore.
Out of my frustration, my quest to “make it all make sense” continued. So I dug into history and all the various issues our country faces— from education to the environment to politics to border security to drugs to chemical weapons. I mentally looped around and around in a constant need to prove or disprove whatever news narrative was next.
It got to the point where I wasn’t even sure if anything at all was real anymore. That’s when I finally had a realization…
As I was in the middle of all of this, I accidentally confronted my true self. My past pain and trauma, and all the “stuff” I thought I’d gotten over already. I realized I was quite the hypocrite myself. Why? Because I criticized the media and politicians for lying, but I was also guilty of lying… lying to myself. I wasn’t “fine” at all. This lie I’d carefully constructed for myself over many years was just as crafty and sinister as any lie the media and politicians ever told me. This realization led me to finally understand a much broader “truth” than what I initially expected to find— the “truth” of what it means to be human.
I discovered that we have all faced trauma and pain in our lives. This shared suffering is something that unites us as humans. Perhaps our disconnection from each other really stems from a lack of understanding of each other. We’ve told ourselves a “Big Lie” that keeping our hurt to ourselves makes us “strong.” But that isn’t the “truth.” If we keep hurt to ourselves, it eats us alive and eventually destroys us. The way forward is to confront our own personal pain head-on, because it is the only way to finally heal. Perhaps this was always the most important “battle” of all.
Since I began this journalism “journey,” which turned into a kind of year-long spiritual “quest,” I’ve watched the rise and fall of media narrative after narrative after narrative— masks versus no masks, vaxers versus anti-vaxers, Ukraine versus Russia, and on and on the divisiveness goes. Where it stops, does anyone really know? After watching and desperately attempting to navigate all of this, I’ve come to one conclusion.
We could keep hunting down all the proverbial “witches” responsible for the damages, until we have reduced our country and the entire world to ashes, or we could do something different. Just like no one was ever entirely sure what or who was to blame for the hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials that resulted in 20 people’s executions, we may never know the full story of COVID-19. I may never fully understand what happened to me last October. We may never know the full story of the corruption in our government, and the full measure of the hurt that this corruption directly and indirectly caused. We may never see all the criminals in our country and the world face trial and punishment for their crimes. But just like those criminals had choices, so do each and every one of us.
When I was in high school I had an English teacher who recited word-for-word Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” in his heavy southern drawl and cliché wire-rimmed glasses. I can still hear his semi-performatively pensive voice say, “two roads diverged into a wood, and I— I took the road less traveled by.”
We could choose to keep going down this path of anger and fear, or we could choose to “take the road less traveled,” as Robert Frost wrote. In this world, that “road less traveled” is the road of forgiveness, mercy, hope, and love for our neighbors. That road is the one described as “the narrow way” in the Bible, the one few truly find.That road is the one Jesus Christ, God in human form, walked along as He healed people, taught them, and told them stories.
Before Jesus was sent to the cross to die, He stood before Pontias Pilate. Pilate was under political pressure and pressure from the religious establishment to condemn Jesus to death, even though he knew Jesus was innocent. Pilate stood before God incarnate and asked a question.
“What is truth?” he asked.Little did Pilate know, the “truth” was standing right in front of him.
My little brother celebrated his 17th birthday a few days ago and he wanted us all to watch “The Hobbit” together. In many ways, I identify with Bilbo Baggins just a little. I too, went on a journey away from the shire’s safety. I faced down my own monsters and my own fears. I confronted the best and the worst in humanity, but most importantly in myself. I’ve made new friends, and lost some too. I found so many incredible journalists along the way, and learned so much about my country and the world. Now, I’ve returned back to the peaceful safety of the shire to write down the story of my adventures for you.
I am writing this because my investigation into finding the “truth” has, at long last, come to an end, and I want to share with you what I’ve found.
God is the ultimate truth.
Reports and data can be falsified, testimonies or interviews can be deceit and lies, and books can fail us. In the end, the only one who will never lie to us, who will never fail us, who will never leave us, is God alone. We must "build our houses" on the "rock" that is God, not on the “sand” that is the world.We must put all of our faith in God as we navigate this world full of lies. All other people will inevitably let us down at some point, because making mistakes is all part of what it means to be human. Humanity has the capacity for great evil, but also for the greatest depths of love and self-sacrifice.
I have finally “figured it all out,” just like I set out to do in the beginning. There can be no truth in journalism, if there is no God in journalism. He is “the way, the truth, and the life.”
Don’t worry— I may have finally found the truth, but there are still so many stories left to tell; and I will be right here to tell them all. Stay tuned…