Author Archives: lilisajecki

About lilisajecki

I'm a media-obsessed, language-loving, rock concert-going traveler and writer. Laugh what you can't ignore and when you're through thinking, say yes.

Two years

Last week marked two years since I first entered the professional television news world. I actually almost completely missed it. If it weren’t for my colleague (who started at my last company on the same day as I did) pointing it out, I wouldn’t have remembered. So, what does that say? Am I that much of an exhausted zombie lately that I can’t remember things like that, which I never had any trouble recalling? Or is it just that it feels like so much longer?

That first day is one I will never forget. I couldn’t believe I was a real-life Television News Producer. I’ll never forget my interview for that job, and I’ll never forget the moment I accepted that job. Three years out of college with a B.A. in broadcast journalism and numerous internships in the industry, and I was finally offered what, up until then, I’d never known was actually my dream job. When I sat down in the producer seat for the first time, it felt right. It was like everything I had ever wanted and worked for all came down to this moment, when everything fell into place.

I remember being the unsure producer, whose writing skills weren’t quite as sharp as I’d have liked, and maybe I was a bit of a slower video editor. It’s remarkable to look back and realize the journey you’ve taken in a short amount of time. Two years later, I know I’m a much better producer than I was when I first started. But that’s the hope in any job, right? It’s worth acknowledging, though, that it feels a little bit different when you’re doing something you love, and it’s something you never thought possible. When I worked in advertising – my first “real world, grown-up” job out of college – I came a long way after a while there too. But that was  quite different from going to work every day to do something I always dreamed of doing. That is, making television.

I’ve heard it said that you should always be a little bit nervous when you get to work. When you work in television news, there are an infinite number of things that can go wrong. The teleprompter goes out. The live shot goes down. The video doesn’t come in on time. The reporter with the lead story misses deadline. The lead story changes at three minutes to the top of the show. Breaking news. It happens. These are the types of situations that prove to be examples – at least for me. I often look back at the end of my day at how I was somehow able to wrangle a coherent newscast out of everything going wrong behind the scenes. And when everything on television is smooth and makes sense – well, that’s the most rewarding of all. It’s perhaps a bit obnoxious of me to say much of this, but I am certainly proud of how far I’ve come. Two years ago, I had no idea I’d be working the job I am and getting the experience I am. But as they say – you never know.


Living in a dream is so easy

My schedule at work changed as of last week. I’m now working middays, which means a lot of different things. Including how my drive to and from work both just near-doubled in length because I’m traveling during rush hour. The added time alone in the car, surrounded by fellow professionals commuting to and from work, has gotten me thinking. Running through my brain are thoughts of: Wow, I actually did it. I actually made it.

When I was in my final year of college – final semester, even – I knew by experience that I didn’t want a job where I’d sit in an office at a computer all day. I knew I wanted to be involved with television production and writing, but I just wasn’t sure how. It wasn’t until I moved to Albany last year to work as a television news producer that I realized, my God, I absolutely love this. It wasn’t until I was actually doing it that I realized this is what I was meant to do.

The local news business is anything but glamorous. But first going into the professional working world a few years ago, I knew I’d wanted to do something that mattered. I wanted to be a part of something “bigger than myself.” And here I am. I’ve produced entirely live shows. I’ve produced breaking news segments, big stories, and am consistently trusted by my supervisors to be the one to get the job done. While I’m by no means perfect, sometimes it still moves me just a bit to remember being the insecure, unsure college student in the School of Communication newsroom (Newshub, as we called it) and to realize how far I’ve come in very little time. I suppose the moral of my story is that you never know until you try something, and that a little bit of confidence goes a long way.

Growing up has just begun

One of my best friends from college married the love of her life earlier this month. A partner who would accompany me on nights out at the bar when nobody else could (or would) join, an ear to listen to my latest saga about the boy who wasn’t interested in me the way I was interested in him, a friend whom I could laugh and cry with about pretty much anything. A few years after college, she met him through a mutual family friend. Soon, she moved to Baltimore to be with him. And now, she’s married.

Last week, I saw my favorite band live for the last time in this area. After 11 years of going to their concerts and 12 years of being a fan, it’s all come to an end as the band officially calls it quits. I already had my cryfest at the shows, and after the shows, but it’s still a raw wound. Words can never adequately express just how much they mean to me.

On a brighter note, I’m being assigned to fill-in produce a live one-hour evening news show at work. Back in January, I couldn’t have imagined adding “Produce a one-hour live show” to my list of accomplishments this year. But here I am. Approaching the biggest assignment of my career thus far.

So many things have changed, and strangely enough, all of the above have happened in this month alone. It’s the second to last month of 2016, and it’s managing to shock me. As I’ve gotten older, the years have stunned me more and more. It really is astounding how much can change in one year’s time. Changing jobs, changing living spaces, changing lifestyles, meeting new friends, seeing old friends move on, overcoming illness, new relationships blossoming, old relationships falling, and most of all, being mature enough to cope with all of the above.

This summer, I left a job I liked in a place I hated to move closer to home and my family – and moved in with my boyfriend. Two years ago, I couldn’t have imagined reaching that stage in a relationship with someone. I just didn’t expect it to happen; I couldn’t picture it. But then it happened, and I couldn’t be happier that it did. One of my best friends is married, and while I am nowhere near marriage or engagement, it’s a pretty big deal for me to have taken the step of cohabitation. Big, in the sense of it being something I – again – had not expected.

My next birthday will mark the point in time when I’ll officially be in my “late 20s.”As the leaves on the trees change from deep green to red, yellow, orange and brown, time is passing more quickly than ever. This year has been full of challenges and unexpected turns, and I can hardly fathom where the twists will take me next year.

An Underdog Reminisces

Yellowcard made my dreams come true.

I remember being about 13 years old, hearing my older sister play the song “Back Home” repeatedly on her bedroom stereo and wondering why on Earth the singer pronounced “California” that way. “So that it rhymes,” she’d explain, but I just thought it was weird. She later sat me down and had me listen to “Believe.” She’d told me it was this great rock band who – get this – has a violin player, and they wrote a song about 9/11. I was just beginning to get into music apart from what I heard on the radio and the boy bands I grew up listening to, so I didn’t really have a strong opinion on the band or the song.

It all changed in the early summer of 2004 when I heard “Ocean Avenue” on the blogging site Xanga. Remember that one? The upbeat tune and catchy chorus got me hooked instantly. I looked around for more songs by them, found “Back Home” and “Believe,” and realized it was the same band. “Believe” quickly became my favorite. I listened to several songs on the Ocean Avenue album and was confident I’d found a new favorite group. Bye bye, Backstreet Boys.

As a 14 year old girl going into high school, I became obsessed with the band – as most reading this already know. I researched everything I could about the band and their music. I learned more than is normal about the band members. I listened to their music on repeat constantly. I joined an online message board, whose worldwide members were diehard fans, called “Underdogs,” just like me. I saw their photos from concerts and photos with the band at the Vans Warped Tour, and dreamt of someday maybe having photos like that of my own. Everyone at school knew me as the girl who loved Yellowcard, including my teachers.

When the band announced U.S. tour dates for the following fall, I knew I had to go. I counted down the days until finally, it was a chilly, rainy Wednesday night on November 9, 2005 when my father, sister, best friend and I went to Asbury Park, NJ to see Yellowcard play. I was so excited I could hardly stand it. To say that I freaked out when the band came on is an understatement. Up to that point, I had never been so excited for something. I couldn’t believe I was actually seeing them live, right in front of my face. After the show, I was astounded and completely starstruck to meet and take photos with my favorite musicians – so much so that I cried hysterically from happiness the entire ride home.

The next January, the band was releasing an album called Lights and Sounds. To help promote it, they had a scheduled appearance on MTV’s TRL, and the fan club had a contest where some lucky winners would get to go for free. Of course, I entered. And by some miracle, I was chosen. So, I took the day off from school and went to MTV’s studios in Times Square to see Yellowcard perform a few songs live on the show. I was completely beside myself with excitement. I was in the front row, dancing and singing along to some of my favorite songs right in front of Sean Mackin and Ryan Mendez. It was unreal.

Over the next few months, I remained a constant presence in the band’s online fan community – getting the attention of fellow fans and members of the band. That spring when I saw the band play for a fourth time, it was like we were old friends, hanging out and having the time of our lives. I went to more than a handful of shows later that year in 2006, and as a 16 year old girl, those shows are memories I will always cherish and never forget. Among those – perhaps my favorite concert moment after more than a decade of shows – when the lights went down after “Waiting Game” and a spotlight shone on Sean as he stepped forward. I knew what song was coming, but I had no idea what he was going to say into that microphone before beginning his violin solo. Having my favorite song dedicated to me in front of a sold-out show was an astounding, other-worldly moment I will always hold dear.

So the years went on, of me never missing a show in the tri-state area, and of my life continuing to blow my mind. My dreams of someday meeting members of the band, taking photos with them, and maybe even catching a set list or guitar pick were far beyond surpassed. I have more guitar picks and set lists than I can count. Still, every show was like the first all over again – the fun and excitement never faded, and still hasn’t. I learned that one of the items on the infinitely-long list of why New York City is the best place to live, is that a tour never skips over the area. School day, weekend, holiday, regents exams, midterms or finals, I was there. New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, I was there.

When the band came back from hiatus, it was like they’d never left. Between college, Lauren’s grad school and my full-time job, as adults, we were able to go to even more shows than before. Maryland and Massachusetts were added to the list of states we’d traveled to to see them. Each show was a reunion – a family reunion, that is. At almost all of them, Lauren and I stood in the front row stage left, hugging the barricade while rocking out to our favorite songs. Having the band members watch our crazy selves as much as we were watching them, loving the show even more knowing the band was having as much fun watching us as we were watching them. We’d spend time – whether it was ten minutes or five hours – after shows, talking, sometimes partying. I’d think about 14 year old me and how she’d react, in awe that my favorite band was this great.

The line between fandom and friendship is a delicate one. Over the years, men who’d started out as strangers who played music I loved became friends and brothers to me. Theirs are relationships I hold so close to my heart. Sometimes, I look back at all of the memories over 11 years of going to shows and I still can’t believe some of it was, or is, real. I’m now older than they were when we first met, and that thought is truly crazy. They watched me grow up, from an awkward, brace-faced high school teenager to a (more) mature, working adult. Their dreams came true when they got to tour the world playing shows; mine came true when I got to go to so many of them.

Of course it breaks my heart that the band is saying goodbye and I will no longer be able to look forward to their shows or new music releases. As their “biggest fan in North America,” I can hardly express how sad I am that they’re ending things. But as a friend and sister, I respect their decision and I understand it. As usual, the band is doing things on their terms, the way they want to do it. I have looked up to and admired Yellowcard for about half of my lifetime, and they’ll always be a huge part of who I am. The band was my entire world as a teenager, and they continue to be a major part of my life. They will always be my favorite and I don’t think anything can or will change that. No one else can ever compare to what this band has done for me.

“I may be leaving but you’re always in my heart.”

This will always be home

Before I moved, I couldn’t wait to get away from the city. I was so excited for a change of pace in my life, to a slower lifestyle in a slower city. I was ready for something new – a new adventure.

I think I was always homesick for NYC to some degree. When I moved, I knew I had to do it, and I never doubted it was the right decision. It was a growth opportunity, personally and professionally and I know I am so much better for having done it. Living and working upstate was an amazing experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Last autumn was a difficult time for my family. It was busy and extremely scary, but we got through it and thankfully, everything is alright now. What made those months even more difficult for me personally, was being so far away from home. In reality, three hours’ drive isn’t terribly far. But when a loved one is ill, it’s difficult to be there when you live and work nearly 200 miles away.

As time went on through the spring, during which there were changes in management and a major shift in editorial direction at work, plus my boyfriend moving home to Long Island for a new job, and simply just missing my family and friends and the city lifestyle, I began looking. I took a chance and went by the phrase, “You never know.” And sure enough, here I am – back home near New York City.

Visiting Manhattan, commuting on the train, driving places I know and love, and readjusting to the city pace of life has truly been a homecoming. It’s stressful, but seeing the city lights, passing the places where I’ve made so many memories over the years, is something I can’t really describe. It’s what my friends upstate all had – they’d grown up there, lived there all their lives. That’s what I wanted back. And now, I have it. Again.

I’ve always been a big fan of traveling, trying new things, visiting new places, and living like a local wherever I go. But there is something so uniquely refreshing about coming home after living and working away. I’m still ‘home away from home,’ but when I step outside my door and walk down the block to the familiar Hudson River, I see the skyline of my favorite city in the distance and I know I’m where I belong.

Life moves at the speed of light

Well, it has been quite some time. It’s been a busy several months, professionally, personally, and romantically, so I haven’t quite had many opportunities to sit and blog, unfortunately. Come the new year, I’m hoping to be able to get back into the swing of it because as any writer knows – it’s necessary. And I miss it.

Work has been keeping me busy and it is still everything I never knew I wanted to do, until now. I’ve met a wonderful group of mentors and peers whom I learn from every day. I’ve made good friends and developed an active social life. Perhaps best of all, I met one person in particular with whom I connected immediately, and five months later, we’re still going strong.

As the year winds down, I’ve been thinking a bit about just how transformative this year has been. I say it every year, but this year it’s truer than ever – I’m ending the year in a radically different place from where I started it. When 2015 started, I’d made some goals for myself, from continuing the path to my dream job to opening my mind to new things and new people. I had known that it was high time to make some changes, and although being away from family and close friends is difficult, I’ve learned that I am capable of making it work.

It’s incredible how taking a chance might lead you to do something you’d never thought you would – and it actually working out in the end. Still, it’s been a year full of ups and downs. But the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter. 2016, I’m ready for you.

Life of Leaving Home

When we were younger, my siblings and I would occasionally sleep over at our grandmother’s house in Brooklyn. She was our designated babysitter when my parents went out of town or had events to go to when they wouldn’t be home until late. My sister and I slept in our mother’s old bedroom and my brother slept in our uncle’s bedroom. My mom’s bedroom had two big windows overlooking busy Quentin Road, which had traffic on it at all hours of the night. Late at night when we’d be drifting off to sleep, we’d hear the cars and trucks go by. To this day, the whooshing sound of cars driving past brings comfort and reminds me of spending time at my grandmother’s house.

Although my new building is not directly on a main road, it is directly off of one. At night, I hear the rush of cars going by. There aren’t nearly as many cars as there were in Brooklyn, but leave it to the girl from New York City to be oddly comforted by the sound of a moving vehicle.

After finally finishing unpacking, going grocery shopping and decorating, I’m pretty much settled in to my new place. Two months ago, I couldn’t believe what I was doing, merely because I knew my decision would alter the course of my life. And after spending about 24 hours at home, I couldn’t be happier that I no longer live there.

I have been reading an old textbook – actually more of a handbook – from college, studying and refreshing my memory for my new job. After spending a long time contemplating different career paths in the big city and debating whether I wanted a place of my own in the city or not, it’s so refreshing and surreal that I’m beginning my career doing what I love in a place away from where I grew up, and leading to the future I’ve always dreamed of.

“I am awake and alive. There is something calling me. More than a moment in time, it’s a life of leaving home.”