SBS Insight host Kumi Taguchi

Kumi Taguchi: After 20 years as a journalist, here’s what I’ve learnt

"What truly shapes our lives? That car? That trip overseas or house or new baby or relationship that is life-giving or life-sapping? That time on the dance floor? That car crash?" asks SBS Insight host Kumi Taguchi.

Written by Kumi Taguchi

What have I learned over 20-plus years? It is tempting to tell you what might sound like advice, or tips and tricks: be curious. Trust your instinct. Always have snacks on hand. A phone charger, a notepad and copious pens. Avoid gossip, work hard, follow your own timeline, stay true to your values. Be grateful. Always own up when you’ve stuffed up. 

But, the longer I am in this business of what, when, why, who and when, the more I realise everything I have learnt has come from the people I have had the privilege of meeting, and who have been generous enough to tell me their stories – or at least, be an observer of a moment in their life.

What truly shapes our lives? That car? That trip overseas or house or new baby or relationship that is life-giving or life-sapping? That time on the dance floor? That car crash? Yes, all those experiences but underneath them, the endless depth and breadth of emotions that are the foundation to who we are and how we navigate our time on this planet. Fear, loss, longing, joy, regret, hope, courage.

I learned about despair from a young man who I met in a hospital 10 years ago, writing a story on life after war. He was in his mid-thirties and had tried to kill himself five times. He told me how much he had lost and how desperately sad he was. And how he needed people to know that.

I learned about courage from a former policeman who saved a boy from drowning in a stormwater drain and received the bravest of medals for his heroics. But his courage was also in the battle he had with his demons, and sharing those with others so they didn’t feel so alone.

I learned about grief from a couple whose love for each other was eclipsed only by their love for their daughter – stabbed and killed on a bridge in London by a man determined to destroy. But this couple decided he would not destroy them, too. Their mission: to help others ride the rolling waves of grief.

I learned about justice from a mother whose son was struck by a driver on the wrong side of the road. He came off his motorbike and died in hospital, she got there too late to say goodbye. But as he lay still, she kissed him on his forehead and told him she would get justice for him. Years later, she did.

SBS Insight host Kumi Taguchi

Kumi Taguchi. Photo: SBS

I learned perspective from a woman who showed me around what was her home, razed by bushfires. As we walked through black ash, I dropped my phone into what was once the floor of her living room. The screen smashed and, for a brief second, I felt hard done by. Then I looked up and remembered all she had lost and was grateful for my broken glass.

I learned about the geographic lottery, watching seven-year-old children picking up garbage from piles of stinking, discarded remnants of consumption, hoping to sell whatever was salvageable so they could help put food on the family table. And watching men carry their children across dusty borders, hoping for some salvation on the other side. From them, too, a dogged determination to stay alive.

I learned about love from a man whose job is to crash funerals and speak for the dead – but really, his story was one about love. How, as a teenager, he was so desperate to escape life, he contemplated jumping from a roof. But then, below him, a family was playing tennis and he thought, that is what I want. So he told his then-girlfriend, now wife of four decades, about his dream and that’s what they did. 

And I learned about gratitude. For all I have and for all I have lost. I could read all the books in the world or study another degree but the best education has been through others’ experiences of life. For every single person who has shared their moments with me, thank you so very much. I have learned, and will continue to learn, more than I ever thought possible.

Kumi Taguchi is host of SBS’s Insight, Australia's favourite show for nuanced discussions around taboo topics. Insight fearlessly delves into issues and Kumi Taguchi provides a safe space for ordinary people to talk to each other without judgement. You can watch Insight on SBS on Tuesday evenings at 8:30pm or stream it any time on SBS On Demand

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