When I think back to myself in the spring of 2016, a fresh-faced, naive young girl walking into Clay Hall, I have to be honest: I cringe a little. It was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and I’d just completed my first ever assignment for The Standard. I’d awkwardly shuffled alongside marchers in the brisk weather that morning with a bulky camera, still too shy to ask anyone for their names like I was supposed to.
But I was proud, giddy with excitement, knowing my photo was taking front page of the newspaper that Tuesday. I felt like I’d achieved it all, silly as that sounds. But as the semester progressed, my creativity and photography skills wedged themselves in this rut. I became plagued with the idea of perfection, of always having everything neat and packaged, of having grand ideas and “front-page” material.
When I started writing for the paper, that pressure doubled. When I became social media editor, it increased more. No one ever really knew to what extent, however.
It’s all about the image. We’re taught to curate our portfolios, resumes, Twitters, Facebooks and LinkedIns. We attend conferences, shake hands, exchange business cards and smile. We work on tight deadlines with lists of all the right interview questions. We accept awards and recognition without anyone knowing how many lines were crossed out, how many papers were ripped in two or how many tears were shed. Our professors demand extensive detail, our editors demand quality work and our friends and families demand our time — I wasn’t willing to compromise any of those categories.
Sitting down to write became a chore. I hated the process. I knew what was going to take shape hours later just wasn’t going to be good enough.
It’s weird, really. The very thing I loved to do broke me.
But The Standard, the fellow editors and writers I’ve encountered along the way, have pieced me back together in a way I could have never imagined.
Those who say a newsroom is just a workplace have never stepped foot in one. We’ve shared meals together, braided each other’s hair, gotten in heated arguments and seriously questioned our ability to work calmly and collectively when we’re all sleep deprived. It’s a family, and like in any family, you learn more about yourself than you might have expected.
Some say the traits we admire in others are the traits we wish we had.
I admire Amanda’s ability to lead and her perseverance when people who have no business telling her ‘No’ tell her ‘No.’ She’s a fighter, and I see her challenging the status quo.
Cortlynn’s voice of reason is inspiring. I joke that she doesn’t have a biased bone in her body, but that’s a serious testament of her ability to listen and discern. We need more of that.
I admire Emily’s bravery. She’s conquered fears that might’ve held her back from the news editor position two years ago, and I’m glad she did. I can’t imagine working next to anyone else.
I admire Kaitlyn’s creative perspective and humor. She never fails to make me laugh at 8 a.m., and I think most people feel that way around her. She exudes joy and a bubbling, creative outlook on life and photojournalism.
Bill’s sense of adventure and carefree spirit have a sense of timelessness. He’s not afraid to step out of his comfort zone and go shoot a wild concert or take an unsuspecting road trip.
Along the way, I’ve also encountered incredible mentors. I owe so much of my journalism ability to Jennifer Moore, who taught me how to storytell with grace and compassion. She was approachable at any hour with words of encouragement and genuine happiness.
Sure, I’ve tailored my writing style, and I know how to critically report and take a good photo. But I wouldn’t be telling you the full story if I stopped there.
It would be an understatement to say they’ve taught me how to be a better person. It’s in that old office that I learned vulnerability, honesty, patience and kindness. They’ve embraced me with mercy and forgiveness when I messed up and happiness and cheer when I succeeded. I can’t say thank you enough.
Most importantly, I’ve learned that obsessing about “perfection” — however you wish to interpret it — isn’t what brings about the best results.
And if this somehow happened to be the only lesson I took with me from four years and too many credit hours, I would be perfectly happy with it.