One piece of advice as I head out the door

There’s a lot I could say about my time at U-News, enough to fill an entire eight pages.

I could talk about how the paper has grown these past few years. I could go through all the awards we’ve garnered, our coverage of important issues, or the strides we’ve made to bring the paper into the 21st century.

There’s a lot to be said about how I’ve worked to shape and change the paper. But as the semester comes to a close, I’ve been thinking more about how U-News has shaped and changed me.

When I first joined U-News as a staff writer, I never dreamed I’d be editing the news section within a few months, and I certainly never thought I’d take over as Editor-in-Chief. In fact, there was a moment when I thought I might not even join the staff at all.

A few days before starting at UMKC, I moved from an apartment up north to a little bungalow a few blocks from campus. One of the first people I met was my next door neighbor, a graduate student named Chris. When we met, he told me that he worked for the student newspaper. After learning that I liked writing, he offered to give me a ride to the following Sunday’s staff meeting.  

Sunday rolled around, and I was sitting at my desk plowing through a pile of homework. I glanced at the clock and my stomach tightened. Chris would be knocking on door within the hour. My mind started racing to come up with reasons not to go.

Did I really need to take on another responsibility my first semester back at school? I wasn’t a journalism major. Wouldn’t people wonder what I was doing at the newspaper in the first place? It had been a few years since I’d written anything more substantial than a journal entry or facebook status. Who knew if I still had it in me?

Right around the time I decided it wasn’t worth it, that there were a million good reasons not to go and only one or two reasons why I should, Chris knocked on the door. I hadn’t noticed him walk up to the porch, but there he was smiling and waving at me through the front window. I sighed, grabbed my bag and headed out the door.

Fast forward 90 issues later, and here we are.

We all have a voice in our heads, that inner saboteur which stops us from trying something new. For most of us, it’s always there, determined to curb our natural exuberance and enthusiasm by listing off everything that might go wrong.  We think it keeps us safe. What it actually does is keep us playing small.

It seems a lot of people my age walk around with a kind of pervasive sense of uneasiness. That self-sabotaging voice telling us to resist opportunities, to play it safe and avoid potential failure, can be loud and convincing.

We’ve been called the “most stressed generation in history,” and for good reason. Studies have found that around 30% of our generation are classified with an anxiety disorder, and over two-thirds of college students experience frequent, sustained anxiety.

I don’t need surveys and studies to know that I’m not alone on this one. Over the years, I’ve seen coworkers and peers talk themselves out of taking opportunities and resist stepping outside of their comfort zone. I’ve seen writers struggle with face-to-face interviews or pass up big stories out of apprehension or self-doubt.

When I look back on that Sunday afternoon three and a half years ago, I can’t help but think about how wrong that voice was. My time at U-News is a testament to its fallibility, exposing the saboteur for what it is—a baseless critic, a scaremongerer, a thief and a liar.

Experts and educators have offered a laundry list of reasons why we’ve become the “anxious generation.” I’m less interested in figuring out why than I am finding a way to shut that voice up.

I haven’t got there yet, but working for U-News has taught me how to leverage that energy and put it to good use. I’ve learned how to channel that all-too-common uneasiness, the compulsion to either do things perfectly or not do them at all, into something worth pursuing.

Sometimes the most difficult part isn’t the work itself, but showing up and deciding to give it a go. The same anxious energy that almost stopped me from going to that first meeting has fueled my success. The voice hasn’t gone away, but it has been put to good work.

When this issue of the newspaper prints, my time as Editor-in-Chief will be over. I leave offering this advice: Don’t let that voice in your head hold you back. Use it to propel yourself forward.

You’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish.

sd6w8@mail.umkc.edu

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