A few days ago, I got a call from an unknown number.
“Is this Lauren?” a man said.
“Yes,” I said. “Who is this?”
“How are your chills?” he purred.
Those of you who have found your way here likely know the origin of this story, but if not, here’s a primer.
I’ve spent two decades in journalism or press freedom advocacy. Along the way, I reported some pretty difficult stories — on rape in Syria or in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example. People would always ask me: “How can you do these stories and not fall apart?” I didn’t know. I just held it together. (Until that time I landed in the hospital from thinking I’d gotten one of my sources killed. Or that other time I lay down on my mosquito-netted bed in Congo and started crying and pretty much never stopped.)
I was fired from my only straight news job I’ve ever had last week — because I expressed emotion publicly on something I should not have, according to the publication. (Ahem, The New York Times.) The lashing I got from the right (including creepy sexual death threats) was equally met with outrage on the left, and even from people in the middle who didn’t think journalists should be robots.
None of the incredible journalists I worked with at the Times are robots. Most are smart, feeling people. But when I worked there, I felt like my whole body was in a shoe that was just a little too tight.
I needed to feel what I feel during these crazy, awful times, and I needed to express those feelings, sometimes in writing, because that’s what I do. When I feel, I write. When I am angry, I write. When I see injustice, I write.
So this is my new writing place. I’ll be telling stories that make your heart hurt, that may be hard to read, that will hopefully make you think and (yes) possibly chill you to the bone.