One of The Southern’s very own, Parker has made a name for herself as one of the nation’s up-and-coming investigative reporters. Her work on public housing in Cairo was among her reporting which led to her selection as a part of the ProPublica Distinguished Fellows program, a three-year partnership for local investigative reporters.
Even though you are young, what do you wish you would have learned about the “real world” earlier?
Far more important than reaching as many goals as possible from a young age is figuring out who you are and what’s important and building a life in line with those principles. Everything else will eventually fall into place.
How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?
Every morning, I write down goals for my work day. That helps me stay focused on accomplishing at least a few key tasks, no matter what curveballs the day throws. I also set a goal for how late I will work and try to stick to it. If I know a big deadline is approaching, I budget longer work days followed by a few lighter days to recover. When the work day is over, I try to set it aside for the next day. There will always be unfinished work. There will not always be time to spend with loved ones. If you can work for a boss who also values work-life balance (as I’m lucky to have), it helps immensely.
What’s your favorite thing about Southern Illinois?
This is where I was raised, so my favorite thing about Southern Illinois is that it feels like home. I love the natural beauty of the place, and that there are so many parts of it I’ve yet to explore. When my husband and I embark on a new (for us) kayak route or hiking trail, we always marvel at how much ground we’ve yet to cover, despite having been around for quite a bit of time. I enjoy the diversity of Southern Illinois, which I think is an asset of the region often overlooked by people from upstate, and perhaps those of us who live here, too. And I think the history of this region is fascinating. Much like in exploring the natural wonders, with every new thing I learn about the region’s history, I’m amazed at how much I do not know and have yet to discover. Southern Illinois is always surprising me.