Whatever pathology my parents instilled in me about not quitting might be a little too close to my heart.
In sixth grade, I decided to play soccer. I had never played before, and I was definitely the only one. I mean, who waits until they’re 12 to start playing a sport unless there’s not a team they can join? But I had always been a softball kid.
I hated it from day one. I hated all the running. I was on a team of girls from another elementary school. They had grown up together, but I only knew one of them. I didn’t really get the rules, and I was [painfully] clearly the worst one on the team.
I wanted to quit. I wanted the sweet relief of hanging up that collared jersey (why are they collared?) for good. But my mom said no.
You don’t give up on a team that needs you, she said. You don’t give up, and you don’t half-ass it.
They definitely didn’t need me, but the principle still stands.
I hate quitting, and I hate losing. But sometimes I can take that feeling a little too far and dive a little too deep into my work. That obsessive quirk was what made the beginning of my news editorship seem impossible.
There was a moment in August when I realized I was halfway to halfway to halfway done with my editorship. That was the encouragement I need to get through the day — that it would eventually be over. I was wishing away half my senior year.
I felt crushed under the weight of managing people for the first time. At the end of the day, it was me who was responsible for whether the news section had content.
Like most first-time editors, I wasn’t ready for that.
Every time a story fell through, a correction had to be issued or a story came in subpar, my heart stopped. I internalized every problem like it was a personal failure. Even the little victories felt like only enough to keep my head above water.
I was constantly chasing perfection, but could never run quite fast enough to catch up.
I knew it was crazy, and my friends (edit: the saints around me) told me I was. But I couldn’t help chasing that unreachable goal: a perfect news section.
Now I realize it’s an oxymoron.
How I learned to be okay
It was one part exhaustion, one part deep breathing, six parts coffee and 1,000 parts my friends. Little by little, they told me — and reluctantly I told myself — that tomorrow was my shot to do better. This wasn’t the end of the world, and I could try it over again.
At the end of the day, that’s the point of a student newspaper — to learn. So if a story isn’t Hearst-worthy, you take a step back, look at it critically and take that lesson on to the next one. I wish I had learned that lesson sooner.
I know now (and have been told) this is normal, but I almost felt like I got my sea legs just in time to be done.
Overcoming the stress
I let that hunger for perfection consume me. I was a ball of stress, and I wasn’t always good at hiding it. I’m a bleeding heart. Or — in this case — a constantly pounding heart.
But it was the people I worked with that helped me be okay. My friend Kelly — and associate news editor extraordinaire — and I would take laps around the building or make a food run when we needed to pause for a beat. My friend Miranda — my rock — was the person I told everything to (probably to her dismay). Emma, Katie, Miranda and I spent virtually every waking minute together, working together or distracting ourselves from work.
I had my go-to writers that made it possible. Sometimes they basically filled the paper. As the daily grind became gradually less overwhelming, I realized (later than I wish I had) that coaching is the most important task.
The people I worked with should’ve been my number one priority, not the product. When I began to realize that, I felt better. I was happy for their little victories and thrilled to watch them grow. Seeing the impact Kelly and I had on some of our writers made every sleepless night, missed deadline or correction worth it.
I have some pretty intense nostalgia for my news editorship. I miss the newsroom camaraderie — the Famsan. I miss the feeling of budgeting a solid news section and seeing people engage with our content.
I’m interning at the Kansas Health Institute News Service, and I love every second of it. I miss coaching, but it feels fantastic to be producing my own content again. I feel like I’m back on the proverbial reporting horse. I missed the feeling of seeing my story publish and work its way through social media.
I won’t soon forget the important lessons I learned last semester — patience, self-assuredness and a whole lot of deep breathing exercises. And I’ll never forget the memories and friends I made.