Semester reflections — the personal

I needed this.

That’s really the only thing that comes to mind as I think about my time at the Missourian.

A bit of context for you: I came back to Mizzou this January on the heels of a rough fall semester. It wasn’t that the previous fall had been terrible or anything. A lot of good things happened. But I was dealing with a lot of junk. I had spent the past few months trying to wade through a difficult season.

Come January, I was at a really interesting place in my life. It was a time of some very personal transitions. A time where I had just reached the point of letting a lot of things go, a time where I was ready for some new beginnings.

In the midst of this, I started working at the Missourian.

There were a lot of hard parts of this semester. Reporting made me anxious. It made me cry (but only a couple of times). It made me take forever to fall asleep because I would get out of bed five times to check my story on the website. It made me wonder if this journalism thing was for me. It made me spend way more money on fast food than I would have liked. It made me stay away from my dorm so much that my roommate said she tells my friends, “I don’t know where she is; she pretty much just sleeps here” whenever they asked where I was.

But I needed this.

It’s been a semester of incredible personal growth for me, and I credit at least part of that to my time at the Missourian. The demands of reporting, the incredible camaraderie I found in my beat members, and the encouragement I received from my editor pushed me in ways that few other things could have. About a week ago, I got some time to reflect on how I’ve changed this semester, and I’ve been overwhelmed with gratefulness for how far I’ve come.

Here’s what working for the Missourian gave me:

It broke me down. I’d been believing a lot of things about myself that weren’t true. And even worse, I’d been doing everything to pretend there wasn’t an issue. (If you’re wondering, that never works.) But with the stress levels of working at the Missourian for the semester, I didn’t have much space to pretend. I figured out pretty quickly that I had to be real about how I felt, or else face incredible personal pressure on top of the pressure of reporting.

About halfway through March, I had my “semester breakdown.” I reached a point where my personal struggles and workload collided in a glittering explosion of all the things I’d been dealing with for a while but didn’t know how to work through. And when I broke, I finally found it in myself to really be honest. And people started to prove that all the messed up things I’d been believing were wrong. In the last eight weeks or so, I’ve probably made more progress in changing what I believe about myself than in the first half of this semester and last semester combined.

It helped me move forward. This kind of builds off the last one. Once I’d broken down and managed to really get honest with myself, I could actually start working on the things that were difficult for me, instead of pretending they didn’t exist. I wrote a post on a personal blog about how I struggle with receiving love from other people. I can’t say I’ve reached the point where I’m all that good at it. But it’s getting better. It’s getting much better. And I credit at least some of that to the way the Missourian helped me re-learn how to be honest with and about myself.

On a different level, being here helped me make a lot of progress in other areas I’d been working on. After spending the last semester dealing with a bunch of different issues, I needed something to help me move forward instead of focusing on what had happened. And what better way to get your mind on the here and now than spending three hours at a school board meeting trying to figure out what everything means?

I also found myself growing a lot in terms of accepting myself and rebuilding parts of my life. Prior to coming to the Missourian, I’d taken a few steps backwards in terms of having self-confidence and believing I was capable of doing things well. And through working hard and seeing the results of my work, as well as a lot of encouragement from my beat-mates and my editor, Liz, I’m moving forward again.

It introduced me to some of the best people I know. I’m always amazed at how well our beat worked together and how we were able to be friends and help each other when we needed it. I think I’ve told this to a couple of people on my beat, but they were good for me. They balanced out all my amusing quirks, and they were there when I needed a person to vent to or a person to hug. They encouraged me and helped me keep my cool. They helped me grow a lot. I’ll probably write more about them later.

It reminded me of what it means to be passionate. I’d spent a decent amount of time before this semester wondering if journalism was for me (although I still wonder this sometimes). But when I came into the newsroom, I remembered that I do really enjoy reporting, even though it frustrates me sometimes. It reminded me of why I came to Mizzou in the first place, how much journalism has helped me grow as a person, why I would consider doing this for the rest of my life. As an education beat reporter, reporting helped me remember that I care about young people. A mental health-related story that fell through reminded me of how much I care about issues surrounding this topic. A conversation with Liz about how journalism intersects with my other passions reminded me that I’m living for a lot of things bigger than myself.

It made me grow. One of the more selfish reasons I like journalism is this: I’ve found few other things that have gotten me as far outside of my comfort zone, that have pushed me to grow as a person, as much as reporting has. It goes all the way back to being a painfully shy sophomore on my high school newspaper staff and having my advisor force me out the door to go talk to someone (a legitimately defining moment in my life). Fast forward four years to a shy, though not longer painfully so, sophomore in college trying to figure out what she’s doing with her life. Being shy, kind of insecure, and anxious makes some parts of journalism tough for me. But aside from my family, my friends and my faith, there’s no better cure for “I’m afraid of this and I don’t think I can do it” than having an editor tell me “You’ve got an hour; make it good.” It’s good for me. And I’ve grown a lot. More than I would have thought possible in a few month’s time.

This has been a whirlwind of a semester. It’s been hard, in more ways and for more reasons than one.

But if you’d told me a few months ago where I would be now, I wouldn’t have believed you. Yet here I am. And let me tell you, it is very, very good to be here.

I might not know what next semester will look like. And I’m still not completely certain what I’m going to do with my life.

But I know that I needed this.

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