Delaying greatness

Still working on that whole I HAVE TO BE GREAT thing.

Liz pulled up my staff page during editing today. Truth be told, I’ve kind of been avoiding it because it’s still pretty short and it embarrasses me. I’ve been working on an update about the Nuclear Science and Engineering Institute for weeks, and I know it will pay off eventually but I really wish eventually was, I don’t know, today. I know I’m working, but I also know I could be working harder. I’m an “untapped resource,” and all that.

I think it’s mostly a focus thing. I need to figure out how to get in the zone faster. Yesterday, I procrastinated for hours before hauling myself to Lakota to get some work done. But once I got started, I got a lot done. It’s just the starting that stumps me. I know that’s not a unique problem, but I wish it wasn’t my problem.

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Hardships and my unrelenting, fearless optimism

I got on a little poetry kick last night. It started when I scrolled by this quote on my Tumblr dash.

I swear that when our lips touch, I can taste the next 60 years of my life.

And it kind of kicked me in the stomach. That’s a line that gets to the point, that’s something that’s pure and real and honest. So I did something that I regrettably don’t do often enough on Tumblr, I clicked on the source. And I watched Rudy Francisco sing this poem called “To the Girl who works at Starbucks down the street from my house on Del Mar Heights Road; I swear to God, I’m not a stalker.” And it was beautiful. Then I watched seven more of his spoken word poems. He speaks in a way that lets his voice repeat in your head like a song on the radio.

Then Sarah Kay’s TED talk from March 2011 showed up in my dash. And with a title like “If I should have a daughter…” I thought it would be about female objectification or something, but it was the opposite. Her first poem was about the lust for life she wants her future daughter to have. To hold on to her curiosity. To make her mistakes, but to always fall back on her mother. To take hardship as a gift.

After the poem, she starts talking about how she got into spoken word. The moment when she knew she could do what she does: she performed her first poem about being seen as unfeminine “packed with all the wisdom of a 14-year-old.” Another girl, tall and tough and in a hoodie, told her that she felt the poem. And that was when she knew.

She talks about connecting with others, and I think that’s the most important part of any writing. That’s certainly what I’m trying to do with reporting. But what I took away from this video was more than some journalism lesson. It was about opening up to heartache and pain and trouble and taking it all in and benefitting. At around 11:30, she says this,

I know that the number one rule to being cool is to seem unfazed. To never admit that anything scares you, or impresses you, or excites you. Somebody once told me it’s like walking through life like this (fists out). You protect yourself from all the unexpected miseries or hurt that might show up. But I try to walk through life like this (arms outstretched, palms up). And yes, that means catching all of those miseries and hurt, but it also means that when beautiful, amazing things fall out of the sky, I am ready to catch them.

I think that’s a really wonderful way of looking at life. I also think it takes a lot of courage to open yourself up to awful possibilities, but I agree that in doing that, you also reach those beautiful, amazing things that you otherwise wouldn’t have found. Her TED talk was a really great lesson on not just communicating and connecting, but on how to approach living.

I’m hesitant to say too much on a blog, but we all have hardships in our lives, and I’m definitely not exempt. And while I hope it isn’t too visible from the outside, I do have my stumbles and mishaps. Recently, despite all laws of karma and fairness, my favorite person on the planet was diagnosed with a serious illness. And that’s tough. But we all have things like that. And despite having something miserable fall out of the sky (as Sarah would put it), I think it’s important to keep my palms open for whatever’s next. Waiting for the wonderful seems like a good way to spend my time.

(And no, you can’t have my Tumblr URL.)

Gratitude

(I saved my last blog as a draft last night and posted it today, so I think another blog this morning is acceptable.)

Here's me "blossoming." Get it?
Here’s me “blossoming.” Get it?

Liz pulled me aside after our beat meeting this morning and we got on the topic of me and how I come across to her. She said (and I’m paraphrasing) that I seem like I have a strong sense of self and don’t seem to be afraid of the news. I seem like I have a strong group of friends supporting me. A family backing me up. That I won’t do my best work this semester, but that she sees me blossoming and doing wonderfully in more advanced classes. That I come across as strong.

It was a wonderful compliment, and a reminder of all of the beautiful people I have in my life. Because all of that is true — I do have the best support network all around me. I love who I’ve become and grown into since coming to Mizzou. I probably don’t say thank you enough to the people who continually lift me up. I really couldn’t have better people.

How lucky am I that I have the luxury of complaining about how many times my name (albeit misspelled) has been in the paper? Very lucky.

Some perspective

It’s been an interesting couple of days.

Yesterday, I had my first “real” General Assignment shift. My weekend shift was over Labor Day weekend, but the newsroom was slow and abandoned and not representative of what I had heard GA was like — running to grab phones before someone screams at you, interviewing family members of someone who’s died, forgetting to eat until almost 4 p.m. and then inhaling some Chipotle. On my Saturday shift, the phone didn’t ring once. (I did, however, squeeze a clip out of it, if you’re interested.)

My shift on Tuesday was much different. I overslept (always a good start), and didn’t make it to the newsroom until around 10:45 a.m. when my class got out. I was immediately greeted by a developing story about a bomb threat in Ashland, Mo. All of the schools were closed to allow law enforcement to investigate the threat. We also knew there had been a shooting at about 2 a.m., but it was very foggy as to how it was connected.

Then we received a news release that said the 17-year-old student who made the threat had shot himself. And, to me, the story completely changed. My mind had been jumping to a loose shooter, to an imminent threat to Ashland students, to a manhunt. It was really the tragic story of a boy who put a gun to his chest when confronted by police over a text message.

I didn’t get a chance to really comprehend that until I was on my way to the Boone County Sheriff’s Department.

I wasn’t doing anything right, and that was all I could focus on. I got the address wrong and walked to the wrong place. When I realized my mistake, I had to run in 97 degree weather to my car — which is parked in a lot that is being repaved. I negotiated with the construction workers to let me out. I get in my car, and my tank is terrifyingly close to Empty. I drive in the wrong direction. And I get off of 63 an exit too soon. And I miss the turn and drive three miles out of the way. And as I’m making a sloppy U-turn in a residential area, I break down and start yelling at my radio about how I’m not the ~special snowflake~ I’m supposed to be. “I just want to be the girl who writes an impossible number of stories that everyone loves,” I whine. “But instead I’m the girl who already has a correction on her FIRST STORY yet still gets trusted with important things but can’t even get to a press conference on time and I JUST WANT TO BE GREAT AND I’M NOT,” or some self-centered variation of that.

I let all of my insecurities about stagnating and failing and wasting my time at the Missourian surface. I second-guess myself, especially when I don’t have much concrete evidence that says I am, actually, doing well. I had two bylines, and it wasn’t enough. I was ashamed of my progress over three weeks. I was ashamed of myself in general.

Then I turned into the Sheriff’s Department parking lot and remembered what I was reporting on. I remembered that there are much, much bigger things than the number of clips I do or don’t have. I gained a lot of perspective.

The Missourian is not the end-all be-all of my life. The world does not revolve around the newsroom — if I do not reach my fullest potential this semester, that’s okay. I think that idea has even been holding me back and making me more afraid to screw up anyway, like if I mess up now I’ll mess up forever. But that’s not true, at all. So I’m going to stop looking at this semester like it’s the key to the rest of my life or something. It’s a class. Granted, a class that I care a lot about and genuinely want to succeed in. But it isn’t something that holds so much power I need to almost fear it. It’s a manageable feat.

So I sucked it up. I went to the conference, and I stopped to get gas on the way back to Columbia. Another reporter and I wrote the story. And it took all day, but it wasn’t the whole world. It’s just a story that I had the privilege of writing. My story was just another thing that happened on Tuesday — relatively small in the grand scheme of things. Maybe this is getting too philosophical. Everything’s all right.

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