Monday, November 25, 2013

The Day My Dreams were Crushed

I've never told this story before so dear readers you are getting an exclusive. 

I never knew what I wanted to do when I got older until senior year of high school. My best friend talked me into joining her in the Newspaper class. I always loved to write and having a class with my BFF was a bonus. Easy A. I completely fell in love with the craft. I loved learning how to write grafs, complete layouts, writing editorials, and copy editing. I can't even describe the feeling you get when people are reading what you write. 

In community college I declared journalism as my major and signed up for the Newspaper class. The paper had been dormant for years. I was proud to get it up and running on campus. We were pretty successful; winning awards at our first conference. I even became editor during my last year.  

When I transferred to Howard University. I felt slightly intimidated by the sheer talent of the journalism students. They had passion. They were amazing writers. They had unbelievable resumes. I didn't feel like I measured up. I persevered although those feeling were just below surface level.  

The summer before senior year I completed my (required) internship. I slaved interned at a small family-owned newspaper. I was so proud of that job. I was proud of the work I did. Of course seeing my bylines in the paper was validating. I met a couple of great reporters that mentored me. Despite everything I felt like wasn't "getting it." I also felt like I didn't fit in. It was the same uneasiness and insecurity I felt when I was in the school's newspaper meetings. 

When my internship was over I turned in all my paperwork and didn't think anything of it until I went to pick up my completed packet with my evaluation from the editor.  

Here is what she wrote: 

"She didn't show a lot of initiative to take advantage of while she was here, trying to do more stories, etc. She was cooperative enough but needed a lot of direction and editing on stories. She needs more energy, more spunk, as well as better skills in writing and reporting. She was very willing to do what was asked, but never tried to do much more" 
I was crushed. I sat there stunned. The department chair offered a couple of conciliatory words [Sometimes perception may or may not be accurate]. I went back to my dorm room and cried. I could take the editor talking about my writing; it's part of the job, but she shredded me personally. I didn't show initiative?? You shot down my ideas so I gave up. More energy? Did she forget I was taking summer school classes AND working AND doing the internship??  

I took it as the final sign that I was not meant for journalism. It was too late to change my major and I intended to graduate on time. I finished my last year at HU knowing that I will probably never be a journalist. It hurt. I felt more lost and confused than ever before. 

I was probably not as thick-skinned as I needed to be. I'm mad that 23-year-old me let insecurity and one nasty evaluation shake me to my core. I changed my entire life direction because of this. 

There is no way I'd let that happen today. 

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