June 3, 2013. I’m standing in front of the door-sized mirror in my new room in Dubuque, Iowa, inspecting the outfit I’d picked out today and analyzing its appropriateness in to the ground. I’d picked out black pants and a blue blouse/dress shirt/top thing (reader, be aware that I’m relatively new to this “dressing like an adult” thing). Do I tuck the shirt in? Is this too formal? Not formal enough? Am I going to trip in the heels I’m wearing and break my face? Later in the day, I’d find that the black pants were a little too big, and without a belt I’d constantly find myself readjusting them around my waist, like a kid playing dress-up in mom or dad’s work clothes.
I’d arrived in Dubuque just a couple of days earlier, having taken only what I could fit into my car, plus a bike rack to go with the new bike I had every intention to master by the end of the summer. On Sunday morning, I bought a copy of the paper in an attempt to walk into work my first day at least feeling a little prepared. And Sunday night, I’d agonized over exactly what I was going to wear for my first day of work, because hey, they tell me first impressions are important.
Fortunately, time moves normally in spite of my tendency to freeze up, and my first day of work came as it was scheduled to do, preventing me from further fidgeting uncomfortably in clothes that I usually reserve only for situations that absolutely require something nicer than jeans. (I was new to the whole “business casual” thing.)
It was time to start my next adventure.
I wrote that first portion at the beginning of my last week of work. Now, I’m sitting in my bed back in Columbia, Missouri, after a long last day and a long drive home and a good night’s sleep in my own bed.
I have about a week between making it back home and the beginning of classes, and that week will be chock full of job shadowing and shopping and social obligations and giving lots of hugs. But in between all those things, I’m trying to rest from the exhaustion of a very busy summer.
When I say I’m exhausted, I mean it in the best possible way. I spent my summer busier than I ever thought I’d be, turning stories every day, chatting with countless sources, accruing an interesting collection of business cards and producing somewhere in the realm of 50-plus pieces (although a couple have yet to publish).
As I look back on my summer, my tendency toward slightly excessive self-criticism is already forcing me to examine the areas I wish I’d performed better. I wish I’d focused more on my writing, which I’d worked hard last semester to improve. I wish I’d had more confidence after talking with people, which might have meant richer, better stories. I wish I’d been a little more efficient with my time while I was out covering different pieces.
But I’m also recognizing that honestly, my performance this summer is probably much better than my self-criticism would lead me to believe. And I have a lot to be proud of. I learned how to turn stories on a daily basis and to adjust myself mentally to handle that volume of work. I learned to write with only basic checks like names and dates and spellings, which forced me both to be more careful about my own accuracy and also to trust myself more — that I knew what I was doing and that I understood my story. I became very, very good at knocking on doors and asking for interviews. I stepped outside my comfort zone. I widened my reporting experience fairly substantially, producing local government stories, transportation stories, event stories, features stories, religion stories. To round it off, I grew even more in my confidence as a reporter, learning to bear up under the stress of working at a daily paper better than I’ve ever managed in the past.
I’ll be shifting gears a bit this fall, doing more editing than reporting and focusing on long-term stories when I do report. I know that as I step back into the Missourian, I’ll have a lot to brush up on and a lot of ways to grow. But I’m excited for the challenge. After 10 weeks of being pushed to grow as a reporter, I’ve found myself enjoying journalism more and more every day. And now I can take that passion into new areas of journalism and grow in my skill and confidence even further.
Week 10 summary: Completed a story for the features department previewing the winter season at a local ski resort, produced a piece about a county government board forming a task force to examine funding of a county care facility, covered the local National Night Out event, wrote about area Muslims breaking their fast at the end of Ramadan, produced a story about a state program compiling plans for future road construction projects, produced a longer feature about a single father raising a daughter with several health challenges, turned in three “Ask the TH questions”