Ever since graduation, I’d been telling myself that this moment would be the perfect opportunity to try my hand at blogging.
So many changes are happening in my life right now, it’s basically calling out for documentation and reflection (even if I fear I’ll lack the eloquence and insight of an engaging blogger.)
Of course, those life changes got in the way, and a draft of this post has been sitting on my laptop for nearly two weeks.
Hopefully I’ll get better with these deadlines.
I applied to the New York Times Student Journalism Institute three times. The first two times I was rejected. This year I was finally accepted.
The first rejection was relatively easy to brush off. I was only a sophomore, I was new and green and far too untested. I’d applied with few illusions that I’d actually amount to anything. It was the New York Times. I was just learning what a lede was.
The lengthy email rejection was difficult to swallow, seemingly listing all my shortfalls and flaws. But I tried to take it in stride and tried to listen to the words of advice on how to shape myself as a young, learning journalist.
The second rejection was harder. I’d worked hard; so very hard. I thought I had a fighting chance. But yet again, a lengthy rejection letter – perhaps even the same one – was sent to my email. I still remember the moment I received it: I was sitting in a geology class, taking notes about sediment or volcanoes or some other Earth-y feature. I got the email in the middle of class and spent the rest of the time fighting tears.
The third application meant so much to me. It was simultaneously a seemingly hopeless last attempt – maybe this time they’ll like me – and a chance for me to prove to myself that I had grown into a capable journalist.
As soon as the Institute started, I hit the ground running.
Immediately I tried to pursue a story, and immediately I failed.
It was a blow to the ego, but like the first application rejection, I brushed it off. I was barely given any notice and just maybe no one in Tucson was having a Mad Men watch party for the finale.
But then cam the second rejection – the second failure. Later on in the week, I’d failed to scrounge up enough sources on a story about a bridal store’s assets being seized. Then I was tasked to write a blog post about a court case and failed to be inspired to do that as well.
I felt absolutely drained of inspiration and motivation. Everyone around me was going above and beyond, producing amazing content. Yet I let three stories slip through my fingers.
But as almost always happens, things worked out. I produced five stories about everything from the weather to chickens. We published a beautiful paper. And the major crisis in the moment became a minor challenge of yesterday that will ultimately make me a better reporter.
The Institute was challenging. It was a learning experience. It was the most exhausting two weeks of my life. But it was also one of the best weeks of my life. It was a place where I met some incredible people who I’m proud to call my journalism colleagues and even prouder to call my family.
It was a place where I experienced some lows in my journalism career, but also one where I experienced some highs.
I learned a lot of things that week and through out my entire time trying to get into the Institute: I learned to persevere. I learned that I will fail. But I learned that you have to pick yourself up and continue on, otherwise you’ll learn nothing from the failures and the rejections if you don’t keep trying.