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.