I’ve been thinking back a lot on the last semester working at the Missourian as things wind down. There will be a few posts coming later with more constructed reflections and things I’ve learned, but right now the thing on my mind is my greatest regret from this semester.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve grown a ton. It’s been a very good semester for me. But I’m also not going to sit here and pretend I did everything perfectly. I’ve made mistakes, and part of learning and growing is realizing the obstacles I face and the challenges I need to work on.
What’s on my mind now is this: I wish I hadn’t been so afraid.
I let fear control a lot of my life, and not just in the newsroom. Fear keeps me from being direct with my friends when I need to talk to them. It keeps me from asking for help when I need it. It keeps me from believing that I’m good at what I do.
As I look back on this semester, I can’t help but wonder how things would have changed if I hadn’t let fear get the best of me. Today during lecture, an editor mentioned that if you get one out of 10 story pitches approved, you’re doing a good job. I’ve had a couple of story ideas recently that haven’t worked out, but that would have been good if the circumstances had been different.
This makes me wonder. There were times this semester when I looked at something and wondered if there was potential for a story. There were a couple of times this worked out. But there were other times when I didn’t bring anything up because I was afraid my ideas weren’t good. (In my defense, sometimes I was really busy and I just missed the opportunity, but that’s not the point here.) I wonder if things might have changed if I’d learned to just suck it up and risk saying something dumb.
Let me be straight here. This isn’t meant to be self-pitying or a way for me to put myself down. It’s a way for me to be honest in assessing the areas where I need to grow as a journalist and as a person. And when I think about the things I wish I’d done differently, about the areas where I need to grow, there’s a fairly decent percent of the time when I find myself saying, “I wish I hadn’t been so afraid. I wish I’d just done it.” Many of the things I’ve done in my life that have felt most worthwhile happened when I swallowed my fear and made myself act.
I don’t know that I’ll ever totally eradicate fear from my life. I’m very much human, and I’m starting to accept that everyone has their own things to deal with and that mine aren’t a reason to beat myself up. But I think it’s good to be aware of the things that keep me from reaching my potential. It allows me both to come to terms with those things and to learn how to manage them. It gives me space to give myself some grace when things are harder, and it gives me space to hold myself accountable to others so I can get better.
One of my favorite quotes of all time is from a song called “Go” by the Canadian rock band Thousand Foot Krutch. It’s not perfectly aligned with how I think about life, but it’s always been a good encouragement when I have to remind myself to step out.
Stand up, the time is now
Look at the faces in the crowd,
Do you want to just be one?
Or will you choose to overcome?
Stretch, take off your hurt
Leave your anger in the dirt
No more feelings, let it work
Let the growing take over.
Fear is a tough one for me. It controls me way more than it should, and it’s probably at the root of a lot of other things I struggle with. And to an extent, I realize there is positive value to fear. There are things about my tendencies to be cautious that help me as a journalist. They mean I put in the extra effort to make things right. They mean I think carefully before I do anything. I’m learning to make my peace with fear and anxiety and the like, but I’m realizing that making my peace and striving to improve don’t have to be the same thing. There’s room to accept and room to grow.