When I was 20 years old, I failed. I struggled, and I grew (though I’m still 5 or so feet tall).
My major pushed me to my limits and challenged me more on a personal level than I ever thought. I faced resistance I didn’t think I would be able to, and I faced taller inclines than I could have ever imagined ascending. But, I’m thankful for it all, and it’s directed me to the path I want to be on, and I’ve stuck to it.
The first time I took off to my first interview to do a news story, I had my notebook and a pen and paper in hand. I was a newborn ready to greet the world with a big smile.
Little did I know, that sometimes, the world does not smile back at you.
I cried after being yelled at by a source in the first interview. Shit. Am I really cut out for this?
A month or so later in a reporting class, it happened again. A source called me out for questions I had asked her. It’s like I was the pedestrian and the source, the mad squirrel. As a pedestrian, I had no mechanism of defense but to stay calm, collected and of course, proceed with my walk, shaken and stirred.
I didn’t think this road was for me.
Do I really want to feel this way after I talk with people?
I thought I came into journalism because I loved making conversation with people and getting to know them, but that was not the case.
I can’t pursue this path, I thought. I hated the feeling inside knowing that someone was mad at me—that someone didn’t like me because my question offended him or her.
Well, I soon learned to break out of this thin coating that had sheltered the most sensitive side of my heart and like a snake sheds its skin to make a new one, I did too.
One year ago today, I would not have the confidence to confront a source about a controversy, but now, I do it with better ease.
But that’s not to say it didn’t take me a while to get there. Trust me, if you ask my mother how many times I’ve called her after (literally) everything, she’ll let you know.
We spend a great deal of time in college “figuring out who we are,” but this last year has been something else.
Prior to college, I didn’t have much of an idea of what I was going to make of myself. I didn’t think anything of news writing and reporting. In fact, the extent of my writing was every night, when I crawled into bed and wrote pages in my journal.
In high school, my time was occupied by my one hobby: running.
At 2:55 p.m., the bell would ring and a stampede of students would make their way to the buses lined up outside of school.
But for me, this time meant lacing up my shoes and beating it down to the track before coach started the warm-up.
And it was my favorite part of the day.
There was something about the high I got from running. It became a rhythmic pattern I came to crave. My foot striking the pavement, again and again. I loved it. It was the perfect harmony between my mind and body. With each stride forward, I felt more free. So I pursued cross country and track.
I ask myself now, “why did I choose track as my after-school activity?” Of all the things I could have been involved in, I chose running.
At times, I like to think what would have happened if I had chosen the school newspaper route. I would have been more prepared for college.
I wouldn’t have come into journalism with knee pads, a helmet and training wheels. I could have been gliding along on with just a helmet.
But—there was a reason I came in with so much extra padding.
Toward the end of the year, I asked a source something I wasn’t extremely comfortable with, but knew I had to ask. I had to ease it into the conversation and approach it candidly. Instead of asking more explicitly, I brought it up casually in our conversation. Turns out, the source was completely open to talking about the controversy. What? Really?
I sighed in relief, and off came a training wheel.
It was as if I had been ascending a grade, anticipating reaching the top in the next mile and then, BAM. The view from the mountain top came pleasantly sooner than expected. And it’s here that the fear I had of asking controversial questions had dissipated.
See? Asking questions isn’t hard.
This fear probably took me nine or so months to overcome. And it took a lot of falling off my bike and getting back up again.
For so long, I had worked myself up over asking a question, when really, all it takes is collectedness. But, this collectedness comes with time.
And so it’s that this ride of life does not allow you to eliminate some of the padding without taking a couple of scrapes and bruises before and even after. This ride is guaranteed to mislead you, send you off course and make you work those hills.
But it’s how you get back up after you slip and how hard you work through the periods of resistance that give you the confidence, the strength and the skills you need to tackle it time and time again.