A very wise person once said that ignorance is bliss.
It’s a phrase uttered cynically. It’s better to turn a blind eye to your partner’s indiscretions, or pretend that your friend’s cancer isn’t happening.
It’s not denial, it’s a coping mechanism.
But as we head into 2018, it’s something I’ll be taking with me. And here’s why.
This is something they don’t often tell you about journalists: we are human beings. It’s our job to report on the news as it happens, to know what’s going on in the world, and most importantly to never be switched off.
I started my career at a news agency working for tabloids. A starry-eyed young reporter, I was so keen to get straight into writing the biggest stories that I never realised the impact it would have on my mental health. You have to develop a very thick skin, and fast. It quickly became so hard to switch off from the news that I was engulfed in it. I would sit there at 2am reading live updates on the latest horrific terror attack in another country. My head was awash with images of strangers at candlelit vigils and children crying in the wreckages of their bombed homes in Syria.
I work in a completely different industry today to that which journalists a generation ago worked in; social media now dictates that people want to know about stuff as it happens, rather than afterwards.
So combine an ever unpredictable and volatile world with one where people are elbowing one another to be the first to find out what’s going on. Because if 2016 taught us anything, it was to expect the unexpected. But none of us expected any of the horrific events of 2017.
From four terror attacks, to the appalling disaster at Grenfell Tower. If 2016 was the year the news made me angry, 2017 was the year the news made me cry.
But reporting on tragic events this year has impressed on me a harsh truth to take into the new year; as terrible a thing it is to say, and as much as I wish I could change it, there will always be pain and tragedy. Do I think the world can change for the better? Sure. Does it make me angry that these tragedies could be avoided? Definitely.
But I’m one person.
It’s okay to close the curtains and take the odd breather so you don’t have to face the storm outside. It doesn’t make you ignorant to switch off the news, put the paper away, switch your phone off for a day.
Being angry and writing incoherent, rambling tweets doesn’t change the fact there are more people using food banks than ever, that there are over 300,000 people without homes in the UK right now, or that the most powerful man in the world is a racist, Wotsit-faced, taxidermy-haired billionaire who believes climate change is a fairy tale.
What we can do is make smaller changes to improve the lives of individuals.
This month I raised money for an elderly lady who had been burgled of cash at her home in Dewsbury. I donated to my local food bank, and bought a box of mince pies for a homeless man outside Tesco.
Small acts by one person won’t change the world, but could mean the world to one person. And that’s a lesson I’ll be taking into 2018.
Happy New Year, folks.