Some of my fondest memories of my pre-teen and teenage years include flipping though magazines while lying stomach-down on my bed, backpack thrown into the corner of the room and clothes littered across the floor. The first thing I would do when I got my hands on a new magazine was stare at the cover for at least five minutes, analyzing the headlines, the styling of the model, celebrity or up-and-comer; look at every single design choice the team made, wondering why that specific font was chosen and why that color pairing was chosen. Once I got past the front cover, I pushed my face into the glossy pages and took a good whiff of the magazine. Don’t ask me why. It just felt…right. Religious to me, almost.
I remember telling my mother that while I had wanted to be a fashion designer for so long, I think that a more realistic dream for me could be what accompanied the fashion pictures in the magazines: the writing. I could be a writer. I always loved English class. I thought quotes were cool. Again, I was 12 or 13, so this was literally my thought process. Eventually, as I got a little bit older, I still felt that writing was for me, but I had to hone in slightly on what exactly I wanted to pursue. I realized that I probably didn’t want to work for TeenVogue, as much as my 14-year-old self protested. I started learning how to write, and then took a journalism class in high school. Journalism. A reporter. Things started to feel good, fall into place even.
I began writing about things that people told me about in my high school. I wanted people to read my by-line, and not only that, I wanted people to care about my writing. I became editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper and a wrote a piece about what it meant to graduate high school and leave behind some of the greatest memories you may look back on. My fingers moved across the keys in a way that none of my other academic pursuits reflected.
I left for college in August of 2012 on a direct flight to New Orleans, and was back home without a plan in December of that same year. Something wasn’t working. School was okay, I had a 4.0 GPA, my professors were congratulating me on a job well done. My advisor nearly begged me to stay. I didn’t. But that’s another story.
I took some classes at a local college to fulfill my general education requirements while I figured out what the hell I was going to do, where I was going to go. All I knew was that I needed to be somewhere that I could learn to be a better writer, reporter, journalist. Somewhere where the art of writing was appreciated. That brought me to Saint Michael’s College.
My writing journey picked up again second semester of my sophomore year, serving as the arts & lifestyle editor for the St. Michael’s newspaper, the Defender. I reported on topics that I still find interesting today: sleep’s relationship with mental health, the phenomenon of social media and wealth addiction. Junior year I advanced on the paper, serving as managing editor. It was that year that I found my true love in the field of journalism. Reported columns. Column writing for me was and is still something that I could spend forever working on. I researched things I had opinions on and feelings toward, talked to interesting people, and told the world (my campus) how I felt about stuff. It was fantastic. I wrote about guns and international protection in foreign countries, the science behind the existence of a God and the defining points of feminism.
At the end of my junior year, I knew what was coming. And I wanted it. I wanted it more than anything. And it happened. I was approached by my newspaper’s faculty advisors, asking if they thought I’d like to be the executive editor of the Defender my senior year. I couldn’t get the word “YES” out of my mouth fast enough.
When I finally had worked my way up to that executive editor position, it was amazing. I was the one on top. I would be calling the shots. It was something that I had worked my entire college career for, rather, my entire schooling career for. I had also been executive editor of my high school newspaper, but it wasn’t the same.
At the helm of the Defender, I essentially controlled what the school saw, read and picked up as news every two weeks. Granted, I myself wasn’t writing every article, but I was editing the entire paper front to back. And for awhile, it was great. I was stressed, but it was still great. Until it gradually got to a point where it wasn’t anymore.
To give you some context, during this semester I was over-enrolled in classes, bulking up my course load to make up for transferring schools my sophomore year. In addition to a maxed-out schedule, I was also researching, interviewing for and writing my senior research proposal thesis. Oh, and I was still trying to maintain somewhat of a social life. If it weren’t for my roommates during this time I would have absolutely exploded. Thank you forever Allie and Kelsey (and you too Jules).
What I mean when I say that it gradually became less great being in charge of all of the print news, is that since I spent so much of my time editing others’ work, the less and less time I got to spend on my own. For each edition of the paper I was responsible for an editorial, which is a piece on current events that included both my opinion and perhaps some reported and researched insight. At the time I was editor, the fall of 2015, was a hot time politically. I had so much to say about what was going on, yet every time I sat down to write, I was either distracted by other work that I knew I needed to get done for the benefit of the rest of the paper or more likely, I didn’t even know where to begin.
I felt as if I had re-directed all of my efforts and attention into editing. My brain was more in tune with grammar, spelling, punctuation and sentence structure than it was with utilizing my voice in my own writing. What once was an easy and creative way to share my thoughts was now a struggle. Putting my own words on paper had never been an issue for me in my writing career, until I started in this leadership, editor role.
Of course, being executive editor was a huge accomplishment. I truly was so proud of myself for how far I had come. I told myself when I was thirteen that I was going to be a writer, and a few years later I knew I wanted to go to school for journalism. I dreamed of being an editor-in-chief. And suddenly I was there, I was doing it. But I wasn’t happy.
For awhile, I kept quiet about this feeling inside of me. I kept it under control as I knew it was best for the paper as a whole if I just stuck to my duties and put the staff’s needs before my own. Yet, as the semester came to a close, I realized I was dreading both writing and editing. I was avoiding my professors because I didn’t want to break down in front of them and tell them that I felt as if I lost my self in my writing and that I didn’t want to be editor anymore.
Fortunately, one professor in the journalism department saw that I was struggling when just having an ordinary talk with me and told me that my struggles were valid. Writing a senior thesis proposal with an overloaded course schedule while also trying to run an entire publication would cause anybody stress. And if I felt that my interest in writing was dimming because of what I was doing, then it was time to change my situation. I needed to do what was best for me.
After that semester, I made a quiet exit from the newspaper. I left my executive editor position and felt as if I had removed a lifetime’s worth of winter coats from my shoulders. I don’t think my advisors were thrilled, having to phase in a new print editor halfway through the year. But I couldn’t think about that. I had to focus on my own path, my own writing and development as a journalist. For that reason I didn’t feel horribly guilty leaving the newspaper.
I took classes I previously had no time for—travel writing, global studies, introduction to gender studies. I was gaining new perspective. I was learning new things to write about. My voice got louder in my writing and began to shout off the paper. I was thrilled.
Since then, I’ve graduated college, worked some odd jobs, found my way back into a newsroom and am working for a small town newspaper as a cub reporter. Is this my dream? No. Am I on my way? I’d like to think so.
Eventually I’d like to have my own column, for a larger metro-area newspaper. I know it is selfish to say that I want people to read my writing and that I want people to care about what I have to say, but I don’t think there is any room for lack of confidence on this path. Where I am now, I am allowed to be one hundred percent myself, even if I’m back at the bottom.
After being at the top, I now know that I’m probably not cut out for such a high-stress editor position. I’d much prefer having my own corner of the newspaper that I can claim as my own. Nonetheless, I will work with what I am given. As for now, I am here. I will bloom where I am planted, and grow to heights that I may never have imagined.
Don’t let your failures dictate your future. It’s okay to think about yourself. Stay curious and keep going. I haven’t looked back.