Tuesday, February 23, 2016

You're doing it right

"Everyone thinks we're perfect, please don't let them look through the curtain." 
Lately I've been having people tell me that I'm a good 'example' for what college students should be working for. Professors tell me how proud they are of me for how far I've come in achieving my career goals. Both professors and students have told me they're impressed how I somehow manage to juggle two jobs, an 18 credit school schedule, while still manage to stick to a fairly regular workout plan, and maintain some level of a social life.

How do I do it?

It's simple: I don't.

I'm just as scared as everybody else.

I feel a hint of guilt every time someone tells me that they're impressed how I manage to handle my schedule.

'Take a break!' they joke, 'You'll burn yourself out!' 

I laugh, because they don't know how true it is, and at this point, I don't think I know what a break is. I don't think many college students do. That's the problem.

There's a timeline of varying levels of pressure put on college students every year.

Freshman year: Your freshman year class schedule will be the easiest you will have during your college career. This in turn, leaves you with a lot of free time, which can be either a good or a bad thing, depending how you look at it. You are told to join clubs on campus- find 'your group.' try out different organizations, maybe a sorority or fraternity, maybe a club sport. However, while you're trying to develop new friendships, get used to classes, find your organization, and maybe work part-time, you must also be wary of the infamous 'freshman 15.' [The curse that follows the 'freshman 15' is enough to create a lot of stress in a student's life. If you gain a little weight your first semester (which is normal), it is looked at a failure, like in some sense you were caught in the trap of being a first-year student on campus.] So while trying to do all of these things, and get used to a new living environment, often a new city or state, you stress over the amount of time you're spending (or not spending) in the gym each week.

Sophomore year: If you haven't decided on a major yet, this is typically the ideal time to start narrowing the focus of your studies. Then, if you want to get a jump start, start looking for internships. A lot of what you'll hear during this time is 'it will look SO good on your resume,' 'you'll want all the experience you can get,' to which all students can respond with a collective eye roll.

Junior year: Things are getting real, things are getting scary. At this point, it is not unusual for a handful of your friends to have transferred. This adds new stress of making new friends, while maintaining a busier workload. If you haven't yet gotten an internship, the pressure is on now. All of the 'it will look SO good on your resume' exclamations will intensify from here. This is when many students start to juggle part-time work, internships, and a full school schedule. Oh, and don't forget squeezing in time for homework, readings, and papers.

Senior year: 'You're graduating? In May or December? Are you excited or nervous? What are your plans? Do you have any potential job offers?' This is the time when all students like to plug their ears, and tune out all the noise. When many of us don't have plans for our own lives, why do so often assume other people have plans for theirs? Life is not a straight line with a series of events that fall neatly into place- there are twists and turns, waves and hurricanes. You figure it out as you go, re-adjust whenever and however many times necessary, and keep chugging along. The pressure about finding a job after graduation comes from every direction imaginable: friends, family, co-workers, professors, like it comes as a surprise to us that we might need a job after graduation. Rather than enjoying our final semesters in college, we find ourselves stressed out: wishing for the end, but fearing its arrival. What if we're not prepared for what's next? There is fear in ambiguity, and at this time, the only thing that is certain is uncertainty. Juggling too many things at one time inevitably leads to burn out at one point or another, and you don't want that to happen before you take your first steps into 'the real world.' 

These so-called 'overachievers' do not have it figured out any more than the next person. We're all in the same boat- swimming blindly, hoping there is in fact a shore somewhere out in the distance.

When someone tells me how impressed they are at my schedule, or suggests I take a break, all I know how to do is laugh. I probably should. But, I won't. One, I genuinely love what I do in every sense of the word, and even though at times I may feel like I need a break, I usually don't want one. I love to write, so whenever I can, I will pickup more opportunities to write, not less. For me, it's part of who I am, and I need to write, otherwise I feel bored or without purpose. Two, this pressure has made me fearful that if I do take a day off, I will lose what I've worked so hard for. If I take a 'mental health day,' I will lose that sought-after job opportunity, and be post-graduation swimming in the ocean that is the real world, without a life vest.

I can say from experience, that burn out is a very real thing. Working and managing an 18 credit schedule on top of extracurricular's, I've experienced it every year. It's best to avoid the burnout, because it can be hard to bounce back.

I hate disappointing people, so I have a tendency to say 'yes' to everything that is asked of me, regardless of whether or not I actually have time to do it. I will find a way, if it means losing sleep, I will get it done. Work ethic, I told myself. Balance, is what I remind myself.

I realize a stark contrast from the beginning of the semester to the end. In the beginning, I will have work, school, clubs, boxing, and anything else I have committed to. Meanwhile at the end of the semester, I will have to reluctantly drop a few commitments to clean up my schedule.

"It happens to the best of students," one professor reminded me. "The students that are so excited about the program, that they take on too much, and can't carry it all."

Who is this benefiting? I asked myself.

The answer is: no one.

What may start out as an innocent quest to do the best you can, please everyone, and push forward in your career path, leads to disappointment. The truth, whether we like it or not is that we cannot please everyone, and doing so will only make us unhappy.

My biggest learning lesson has been that it's ok to say no. If you don't have the time, but you agree anyway, no one is going to be empathetic to the fact that you have a busy schedule and are also juggling three other commitments. They will see that you agreed to do it, and were therefore capable, but you didn't meet the expectations. Give yourself a break, and be realistic. 

For now, my biggest issue is finding balance, something I think many people work their entire lives to find and achieve. That's the one thing I want a jump start on. Slowing down, living in the moment, and enjoying the journey, so I can truly enjoy my accomplishments when I achieve them.

In the great words of Rodney Atkins, "If you're keeping it simple or you make a big scene// if you're doing your best and you make a mess of things, // if you're trying, if you're crying, all that really means// is you're doing it right."

It is important to remember that all the pressure that you perceive is merely vapor. You're the one who will be living the life you choose to lead, so don't let other people choose that direction for you. There is no one-way path you should expect to take after college. There will be multiple detours along the way, and that's all a part of the journey. Pursue that journey whatever way you see fit for your life and lifestyle, and most importantly, find the balance, and enjoy the journey while you're on it.

Take a deep breath, because you're doing it right.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Gratitude turns what you have into enough

After 11 years of battle, and not much progress, gratitude has proven to be the most effective method for loosening the reigns depression has had on my life.

Like Timber Hawkeye teaches, "gratitude is about turning what you have into enough."

When you think this way, you leave very little room for sadness to slither it's way into your life. Sometimes, in the chaos of our daily routines, we forget to be grateful for the things not everyone has. When we take the time to acknowledge and appreciate the things we have, we feel at ease, because our lives feel abundant. When you train your brain to think this way, you realize there is very little missing from your life. You just haven't been opening your eyes wide enough to truly see what is in front of you. Whatever it is that you choose to focus your energy on will multiply. If you choose to focus on the negative things, or what is missing in your life, that energy will take over. You will feel sadness, you may feel the need to fill that hole with something that isn't healthy. However, if you choose to focus on all the wonderful things that are already in your life, you will feel content in the moment you're in, in the place you're in. You won't wish for more.

At first thought, it may seem complicated, or even overwhelming to integrate the idea of gratitude into your life. You may say: "I am grateful for my friends, family, etc." I encourage you to dig deeper. Why are you grateful for them?

For example, I am grateful for the fact that even though my sister lives 3,000 miles away, my dad lives 1,000 miles away, and my mom 100's of miles away, I never feel that distance. We are still closer than we've ever been, and stay connected through the phone, letters, and visits as much as we can. I am grateful for the friendships that are easy. Even when we are on vacations, and don't live in the same states, nobody has to put too much effort into the friendship, it's natural. We can go weeks without talking, and with one phone call, we pick up where we left off. The people in your life will always be there, and are just one phone call away. That's how you know you have surrounded yourself with the right people.

You can slowly add the notion of gratitude into your life by thinking of three things you are grateful at the end of each day. This helps to reinforce the idea that you have enough, and keeps you happy. Of course, it helps to think about the big picture, too. It helps to avoid taking things for granted.

For me, I've learned to be grateful for life in general. I have learned how much I have taken it for granted by not treating my body in the right way, and not living up to my fullest potential. I see people lose fights with battles much more severe than mine. These are people who were clinging desperately to a life they weren't ready to let go of. But they weren't given a choice. And here I was: selfishly wishing away a perfectly good life.

Everyone is on their own path, at their own pace. It's not only important, but essential to acknowledge and honor the progress of others.

What are you grateful for?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Writing is...

I used to think it was very strange to see how often writers were writing about writing, and what writing 'is.'

"Isn't it obvious?" I thought in ignorance. "If you chose to write, you must know."

I know now that it's not that easy. I truly believe everyone is capable of writing, but not every one is capable of calling themselves a writer. Although I have been writing since I learned how to hold a pen, I don't know if I would call myself a writer just yet. While most writers often have a set schedule for writing, I am often guilty of being a sporadic writer, which makes me a waiter.

It's not so much that I wait to stumble upon inspiration. Everything inspires me. If I wrote like that, I would never leave my computer. It's more that I wait until it isn't so painful for me to put what I really want to write about in ink. Which is the worst thing you can possibly do, because you lose a little bit. Sure, I can easily write about something else, but let's be real, how many writers sit down and write when they're happy about something.

I hear a lot of people say what I write is too personal, too deep, things along those lines. Since I started writing, I have always been honest. That raw emotion is something that will always be in my writing. I don't care who likes it, or what anybody has to say about it, because what I say will always be the truth.

My number one rule for writing is to never look back. Once I have written what I wanted needed to, I never go back and edit. Often, I don't even re-read it. I have had instances where I wrote about something that really hurt me, and rereading it sent me into a depression. I didn't write for a year after that. I don't reread anymore. I want to move forward. To go back and edit would be a disservice to the moment. If you edit, you alter your state of being in the moment you sat down to write that piece. The words you wrote was everything you were thinking and feeling in that moment. No one was in your head. It was you alone with your thoughts and your emotions. That's where the raw honesty comes from. It's not something that can be toyed with. If you try to fake it, people will catch on right away. You can't feign honesty. That makes you a bullshitter.

Anybody can write. You can sit down and recap your day, write about how much you love your boyfriend, or how much your mom's rules suck, anything. It takes a special kind of person to be a writer. Writing provides a confidence that no other medium can provide. Your voice is uniquely yours, and no one can take that away from you. You have a voice, why wouldn't you want to be heard?

Being a writer is extremely painful sometimes. Putting your most painful experiences in ink is draining. To do that everyday of your life is to bleed. I have never had an open wound that felt so good.

Although it may hurt sometimes, not writing hurts a lot worse than it does to let it out. Think of it this way: if I don't write, the emotions, the thoughts, and the hurt is trapped inside of me. I feel heavy, weighed down. Once it's out, I have confronted any lingering demons that I needed to address, and I can move forward in a healthy way. Liberation. 

Writers are often quiet. It's not because we're weird (well, sometimes), but I think it's more because we're all sponges. We are constantly observing and listening to what is happening around us. Writers are quiet, because we spend a lot of time trying to make sense of a world that does not and might not ever make sense. I like to say writers have a heightened sense of emotion and feeling. We feel everything on a deeper level than ordinary people do. It's not a bad thing, but not everyone can do it. It's hard. Your brain never sleeps. If your emotions have not already gotten the best for you, you feel for other people, too.

Writing sucks (sometimes). It's impatient, painful, challenging. But, it's also liberating, fearless, and beautiful. To me, it's hand-in-hand with breathing: a way to sort through all the noise in the world, and focus on what makes sense, or what no longer does. Writing sucks sometimes, but it is the greatest and most challenging thing you can ever do. Writing sucks sometimes, but I will never put down my pen.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Free Spirit Fantasy

"If you try to tame her, she will fly away, because pretty little spirits like her never like to be caged." -Nikki Rowe


1. the nonphysical part of a person that is the seat of emotions and character; the soul.

Free Spirit

1. an independent or uninhibited person

I've been referred to as a 'free spirit' quite a few times. I hear the term get tossed around a lot, but I think it's one of those terms that have a different meaning for everyone. While some people believe it to have a negative connotation, I believe otherwise. Everyone is a free spirit in their own sense, as it should be. Life is meant to be lived free. Your soul should feel light and free, not bruised and stifled.

For me, being a free spirit means not being married to any one thing. I am completely open to whatever possibilities life may present me. I am young, single, I am not opposed to leaving my city to explore other areas. I don't have anyone or anything here that would stop me from packing up my suitcase, and leaving. Luckily, I am in a career where I really can be anywhere and everywhere, so long as I have a laptop. And I love that. Nothing in this life is permanent, and once you learn to accept that fact, life will be a lot easier for you.

I think part of the reason free spirits are misunderstood, is because many people can not understand how someone can be so independent. Free spirits don't want to have to rely on anyone, because they fear disappointment or rejection. So before this can happen, they run. While the independence can often be mistaken for arrogance or selfishness, it is quite the opposite. Many people who refer to themselves as free spirits have major or minor pasts that involved quit e a bit of self-destruction. Now, they spend the present focused on self-repair.

When I am not in school, or working, I spend my time off traveling or exploring. At any given time, I can be found living out of a suitcase for months after vacation ends. I love the feeling of leaving, and picking up in a place you've never known. Trying new restaurants, meeting new friends, adventuring up and down roads you've never been on. I love going places where I don't have cell phone service. The sights are for my eyes only. I am seeing them with my own eyes, not the lens of my iPhone or camera. I don't have to check in with anyone, and no one knows what I'm doing at any and every given moment. It's liberating.

I live in a beautiful city. Sometimes, it makes me sad how often that I take it for granted by wishing I was somewhere else. I'm at a point in my life where I'm not ready to plant roots. I'm still moving back and forth between New York and Florida, and when I'm not doing that, I like to go elsewhere. Any time I can, I go as far as I can.

Being free is not trying to be hippie, or any other kind of label. It's exactly the opposite. It's being blind to the 'trends' of what is 'cool' and 'not cool,' and creating your own 'cool.' If you like something, wear it. If you enjoy doing an activity that your friends don't want to do, go alone. If you do what you enjoy without worrying about anyone else, you may meet people who share the same interests along the way. If not, you still spent your day doing something that makes you happy.

I don't like being told what to do. I'm not talking in terms of law or at work. I follow the law, and I love what I do so much, it's almost unfair to the system to call it work. I do what I love, and get a paycheck at the end of the week. I have no complaints about that. My style is very eclectic. I don't think it can really be defined. One day I may dress like a 70 year old grandma, another day I might dress in all black, and another day I will wear a dress and cowboy boots. I have shirts that are ugly, but I love them. If I don't feel like wearing makeup one day, I won't. If you disagree or disapprove of my appearance, I don't mind, because it doesn't your opinion won't affect my decisions. Being free is surrounding yourself with people who make you happy and encourage you to be the best version of yourself that you can be. They accept your flaws, and love who you are regardless.

I'm finally getting to that point in my life where I'm learning to be a little bit selfish, and put myself first. I'm surrounding myself with the people who enjoy my company, and I enjoy theirs. There is no better feeling than having people in your life who accept every quirk, flaw, and unique aspect of your personality. I'm not wasting my time searching for validation, because I have already given it to myself. I've had a lot of loss in the past, that made me extremely protective of the things I love. I guard my family, friends, work life, and happiness with a lot more care than I used to. That's something I'm very proud of. I hope my independence is never mistaken for arrogance. There is nothing shameful about being able to stand on your own two feet, and be comfortable that those feet are your own. Stop measuring your life progress by the checkpoints society tells you you should have hit (college, moving out of your house, work, marriage, babies). Be happy where you are at. Be proud of your accomplishments, because they are entirely your own.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Understanding Depression

I remember being a kid going on vacation with my dad, and crossing the bridges in New York City. Going over the bridges, I was never scared, just curious. Not curious about the length, structure, or the potential of it collapsing into the water. I was curious about why so many people jumped off bridges.

“How could somebody be so unhappy that they want to end their own life?” I asked my dad.

He told me something along the lines of circumstance. So many things have had to have gone wrong in their life that it snowballed into something that was much larger than them. They felt trapped, and desired a quick solution.

I still didn’t understand, but I sympathized. I wasn’t sure why I sympathized with a situation in which I knew nothing about, but I believed that everybody should enjoy their life.

The last time I remember being truly happy, I was eight years old. At eight years old, I didn’t have a phone, I didn’t text, and my parents were still together. At eight years old, my biggest concerns in the world was who was going to take me to basketball practice, and how could I get my mom to let me stay up past 9:30?

I think it’s important for people to remember that depression does not always mean that the sufferer has a bad life, or that they are always sad. For me, I don’t know what external factors causes my depression to rebound like a boomerang, thrashing through my life, whenever I begin to feel the slightest bit settled. It is not something you choose. No human being, regardless of life circumstance would choose mental illness.

It is less about placing blame, and more about finding a solution. We all get to points in our lives that we go through some rough patches. A mental illness is much like any other illness in the sense that it needs to be treated. Why is it that it is so easy to get antibiotics when you have a sore throat, but when someone says they’re feeling blue, so many people try to avoid talking about it? By addressing what may appear ‘uncomfortable,’ we will get comfortable. Life is tough, and it is a lot more bearable when we help each other through it through understanding and compassion. Untreated, depression can be life-threatening.  The world will be a lot brighter for many people when we stop avoiding things we know nothing about. Take the time to learn something new and try to understand somebody else’s circumstance, you’ll become all the better for it.

I am extremely fortunate to have a strong support system in my family and close friends. I am fortunate that when they see me start to slip, they work as a team to pull me out of the darkness.

For me, I have happy moments. I feel as if living with depression means, your equilibrium is set at numb. You are still capable of feeling joy, but it comes in small doses. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the sadness comes in much heavier packages. This packages is dropped on top of the sufferer, leaving them lying on the floor, flat as a pancake. At this, it takes mustering all of your inner strength, plus some borrowed from outside support to slowly rebuild the trust in your limbs. When you manage to do so, you stand up tall, stretch your arms out to the sky and soak up the sun, and the weight breaks you down again. The longer you suffer, the shorter it seems the span is between each cycle.

The important thing I think a person can do for a friend or loved one who has depression is be sympathetic. Never ever blame a bad day on depression. I know it can be aggravating when plans get canceled, or moods are low, but have patience. Don’t wait until you are in the same position to develop sympathy. Depression is not something that can be controlled. No one chooses depression, depression chooses you. Whether it is life circumstances gone awry, or unbalance in brain chemistry, depression is anything but a choice.

Be a friend when you see someone needs them. Listen more. Ask what you can do. Sometimes, all someone suffering with depression needs is patience, love, and understanding.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

For The Mothers

To all of the mothers-
          To the single moms who serve as two parents without ever blinking an eye, to the dads who have taken on the role of a mother, all the while serving as our superhero daddies, to the strong women in our lives who may have never had children, but loved us like their own; This day is for you to show appreciation for all that you have done, and continue to do, without ever asking for anything in return.
I heard someone say that "thank you" is what you say when someone holds the door open for you, or lets you cut in front of them on the highway. "Thank you" to the woman who gave you life, or supported you throughout your life seems almost insulting: a flat, cliche gesture. So what do you say?

The answer is: there are no words. 

Only actions. 

It doesn't matter what your current relationship may be with your mom, call her. If you have a distant relationship, take the initiative to open the lines of communication no matter how difficult it may be. Take that opportunity while you have the option to do so. If you don't talk to your mom as much as you would like, make a promise to yourself to call her more often. She needs you there. She wants you there. Be there.

There are not enough words to express the gratitude you feel for all of the times you were kept up at night with a hurt stomach, and your mom sat by your bed until you fell asleep. The feeling of relief for all of the times you were going through a breakup, and your mom hung on the phone, listening to you cry your heart out for hours at a time. Whether it was falling off a bike, coming home from school early with a sore throat, or a heartbreak, where you swear your world is coming to an end: mom was always there.

No matter what your dream might have been, your mom always seemed to have more faith in your ability than you believed yourself. Although, she encouraged you to be realistic with your dreams to avoid future disappointment, she wholeheartedly supported any endeavor you wished to pursue. Remember: mom has always been, and always will be on your team. She's wearing the team jersey, after all.

Whether you want to admit it or not, growing up you refused her advice. You wanted to be an adult so bad. You insisted her rules were suffocating, you might have even muttered the words "I hate you" on occasion, out of frustration. You swore you couldn't wait until the day you could move out of the house. None of that was true. If you didn't know it then, you know it now.

The truth is sometimes, us kids tend to let our pride get in the way of accepting the truth from someone we know knows best, all the time. It can be frustrating to admit that someone is right all of the time, and that somebody is not you. Mom, we may acknowledge that you have never been wrong in the past, but we will always hang on to that small glimmer of pride that suggests maybe this time we will prove you wrong. Maybe this time we will teach you that we know a little something about life, too. This is not usually the case. There's a reason they say mom know best.

As we get older, we learn to appreciate moms better judgment and her wise advice that she so desperately tried to pass down to us.

The encouragement she provided never halted after high school. If anything, it only got stronger.
Mom is always the first one to step up when you need guidance, encouraging words, a pep talk or three, or that kick in the ass that you need.

Once in college we have the freedom that we so desperately begged for, only now, we don't want it. In the first few weeks of college and living away from home, you encounter all the things your mom warned you about. You take a deep breath, realizing she prepared you for these moments. Only now it's up to you whether you want to listen to her, or you want to give in to your pride egging you on to find out for yourself.


I for one, feel entirely grateful for my mom preparing me for those moments. Because my mom put the trust in me to make my own decisions, I didn't want to let her down. With freedom comes responsibility. I don't want to test the waters. I'm not interested in finding out what happens if I betray someones better judgment. I wanted to prove that: contrary to popular familial beliefs, lectures weren't going "in one ear, and out the other." I was listening, and taking notes the whole time, and college was my chance to prove it.

Mom, I will never take for granted the fact that I have you in my life. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have your support. I couldn't imagine having anyone else on my side. Although we don't live in the same city anymore, I never feel the distance. Thank you for answering the phone at all hours of the day when I need you. I value your advice in life and my career. To date you have never steered me wrong once. Although you are always right, I can't say that I won't try to make my own decision, just to be sure.

Thank you for all of the times you have been patient with me when no one else was. Thank you for sticking by my side even when it was difficult.

I'm sorry for all the macaroni necklaces. I'm sorry I fell in love with journalism, so macaroni necklaces won't be a thing of the past anytime soon.

Moms, this day is for you, to appreciate all that you do.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tampa Tribune Internship: Recap and Wrap Up

This Tuesday was my last day interning with the Tampa Tribune. I've had a great experience interning and writing for Metro.

Walking into the newsroom on Tuesday was definitely surreal, because every week I was there, I felt so comfortable. During the course of my internship, I have become more and more sure each week that this is what I was made to do. I love every aspect of the job. I love the uncertainty. Going in each week, you have no idea what kind of story you are going to write, because it is different each time. I have covered a wide range of topics, and I love that. Each story is different, and it never gets boring. My favorite thing is interviewing people. Depending on the type of story, I like hearing people tell me about what their passionate about, I like hearing each side to every story to allow my story to have that balance. I have heard some powerful and moving stories during this time.

The worst part for me each week was leaving. Because I was only taking internship for two credits, I could only be in the newsroom for seven hours each week. The real walk of shame, I've learned is finally getting on a roll in your story, then having to stop the flow to shut down your laptop and go home for the day. Walking out each day, I debated if I should just bring a sleeping bag in the next week, and camp out under my desk.

Walking in the first day with the other interns, we were so sure that we would be referred to as "intern 1," "intern 2," "intern 3," etc. However, everyone at the Tribune was so welcoming and excited to meet us. Most of the staff knew our names. It was shocking to me to have the managing editor know our full names, who we were writing for, and what section we were with. After introductions, we all were handed reporters journals and press passes. Being the journalism nerds that we all our, obviously we stared at it every hour on the hour, just to make sure it was real. We had our own desks, our own extension number, and our own emails. Prior to coming in, I expected I would maybe sit in the corner of someone's cubicle, or maybe if I was lucky get a chair, and fact check their article before it got published. Honestly, I would have been excited to do this, just because it was in a newsroom, and not a classroom.

This was not the case at all. We all got assignments on our first day. My favorite part about this experience, was that my editor started all of my assignments with, "I don't know how you're going to pull this off," or "I don't know how much you will get accomplished in such a short amount of time, but see how you do," and I pulled it off every time.

I thrive on being challenged, and I love the pressure that being in the newsroom sometimes brings.

I am so grateful for our Professor, Tiffini Theisen for everything she has done for me and all of the other interns this semester. It has truly been an honor getting to learn from you. I have gained so much from Multimedia this year. Who would have thought that I would ever go from not understanding a single aspect of digital to being obsessed with audio, pictures, video and editing?! Thank you for your patience and sharing your experience with us. Thank you for being the guidance that we needed all semester to push us in the right direction, provide advice, and the occasional pep talk that we all need sometimes. You have truly made me a better journalist, and we will miss you so much next year.

I was lucky to work with such hardworking journalists who inspired me and challenged me each day to be a better journalist. Thank you for all of your guidance and pep talks along the way.

What I've Learned:

-Talk to everyone. You never know who someone knows, or what information they have. At my boxing gym, I have met a journalist who works with Nancy Grace, and my trainer has contacts at the sheriffs department. I would have never known this if I wasn't always trying to make small talk with everyone around me. 

-Not every story tip is a story and that's OK. After receiving a tip, do a quick search. Who gave the tip? Are they credible? Is this story interesting? Is it relevant? Is the tip truthful? A quick search will usually be all it takes to determine whether or not you want to pursue the story. 

-Write how you talk. You're not trying to impress anyone, you're trying to convey a story. What is the quickest, most effective way to do this? Write like you're talking to a friend, not like you're practicing for the SAT's. 

-Pay attention in class. Things that come in handy on the job are the things that may not seem important to you at the time. For example, when your professor is teaching you InDesign, or how to look up property assessment or public record. You may not need it then, but you will definitely need it in the future. Also, your professors all have previous experience in the industry. Listen to their advice. Ask them about their career path and what jobs they've had and how they got to where they are. 

-Not everyone will call you back or answer your emails, they often "forget." Persistence. Call back three, four, five times. Leave emails and follow up. Do whatever it takes. 

-Follow up. Sometimes, your story will change before publication. Follow up with details to make sure they are still relevant before your story is published.

-Stay open minded. You do not direct the story, the details that unfold will direct you. What you think is the main idea of the story, may not be the main idea at all. This point may change several times as more details come to light. 

-Every story has at least three sides: side A, side B, and the truth. 

-Don't say "asshole" in the newsroom. More than one person will turn around at any given moment.

-Get quotes from both sides. As a journalist, you do not want to have bias in your story. Get both sides of the story and get enough information that will allow your reader to formulate their own conclusion. 

-Keep a source book. As you gather contacts, it helps to store them in one place to stay organized. You will often use the same sources so you want to have this information on hand. 

-Keep your eyes and ears open. You never know where you'll find a story. 

-Don't bring chili to the newsroom, it smells. (see: Tuna). There should be a chapter on this in the next edition of the AP Stylebook.