I will always fight for journalism

After 23 years of making pronouncements and then changing my mind, I know a little better than to say, "I'll never be a journalist." Because I also said, "I'll never not be a journalist," and, well, my pizza-slinging uniform begs to differ on that count. 10405327_10152565449759884_2885326472995272677_n

However, as things stand right now, it looks like journalism isn't my calling. For personal reasons — like my intense need to be loved, my desire to just write building-up pieces and my severe depression — and professional ones — like the fact that I'm actually not the greatest at in-depth reporting and would rather write positive stories anyway — I'm not sure I could be a good journalist.

Or at least, not the journalist I'd want to be; see, I'd want to be an investigative or political reporter, someone who is a watchdog for government and holds powerful people accountable.

But I'm not great at that. So I'm moving on to exploring other communication fields, like running social media or doing PR or just writing novels and slinging pizza on the side.

That doesn't mean that I don't think journalism is one of the most important things for the world right now. And it doesn't mean I won't fight, tooth, nail and foot-to-the-groin for freedom of the press and for journalistic respect.

In today's New York Times, Helene Cooper wrote this sentence in her front-page article:

What appeared to rattle people the most about Mr. Trump’s news conference on Thursday were his attacks on members of the news media assembled before him. Several diplomats said they worried that Mr. Trump was trying to discredit a tenet of American democracy — a free press — and in so doing, might embolden despots around the world into further challenges to freedom of the press.

"Trump Aides Try to Reassure Europe, but Many Are Wary"

That's telling. It means it's not just reporters (or j-school sort-of students) who believe in the importance of the press; literal world leaders are terrified because they've seen what happens to democracies when the press is muzzled.

There's a reason the First Amendment was the first to be amended, you know? Because it's so vitally important.

I may sound like I'm writing a j-school application essay (which I wrote so many of, you guys...so many) when I say that a free press is fundamental — fundamental, people — to a free country.

It is vital that we have a body of people dedicated to overseeing government's actions. Just this week we had a beautiful example of what happens when the press does its job. Michael Flynn literally resigned because The Washington Post made it clear that he was lying and it was being covered up, and President T. was no longer able to keep lying.

The work the Post did was absolutely essential. Importantly, it was done in service of the American public — a.k.a., not the work of the "enemy" of the American people, as President T. tried to say the press was.

You know who thinks the press is the enemy? People who have something to hide. You know who can't be trusted? People who have something to hide.

So yes, I might not be a journalist myself in the future. But my years as a student journalist and my most-of-a master's degree in the field have done nothing but reinforce in my mind the idea that this is a very important field; a necessary career; a calling for many.

And I'm standing here to say: I support the press. I'll do everything in my power to make sure it stays free and accessible. Yesterday, that meant financially supporting the New York Times.

That link takes you to a donation page that's a nice, double-edged sword: gives money to the newspaper and provides a young'un with a subscription, so they can stay informed and we can raise up a new generation to value and respect the press.

Most days I can't give money; so I tweet links and spread the news. I follow journalists and know their names because they deserve that small ounce of respect. And I won't stand by silently if President T. tries to do anything — anything — to diminish the freedom of the press.

Because it's so doggone important, guys.

A promise to keep on

11231036_10206439186115425_7479951697701760541_n-2 For so long, I wanted nothing more than to go to grad school for journalism in New York City.

I worked my butt off to perfect my applications so I would get accepted to Columbia, CUNY or NYU. I took my personal essays and rewrote them tons of times, each time filled with even more dread and anxiety.

And then I waited for several months, heart in my throat, for the response. I vacillated between certainty that I would get in and the absolute knowledge that I would be rejected from every single one of my dream schools.

Until the emails started coming in: CUNY, yes; NYU, yes; Columbia, yes.

I cried. My dreams were coming true. Within a few months, I accepted NYU's offer of admission, packed my belongings into a bunch of boxes and drove from South Carolina to New York City.

My dream was coming true.

And now I don't know how to go forward.

Because I don't know if I can do this, after all. I don't know how to be unafraid, how to go after a story like a hound dog and not care who gets in the way.

I'm terrified, every night, of failing. I'm filled with anxiety, wondering if this is really what I'm supposed to do with my life. Perhaps I'm better suited to a simpler life, a life with fewer hardships and less angst.

I got into journalism because I wanted to tell stories. OK, that's not exactly true. I got into journalism because I liked writing and wanted another avenue; and the more I learned about it, the more I got into it, the more I discovered the possibilities. Journalism offers a chance to tell people's stories when they can't do it themselves, to give hope sometimes and yes, to uncover injustice and lies and generally bad things.

The longer I spent studying journalism, the more passionate I became. My first "real-world" work experience was at the Sochi Winter Olympics, when I spent nine days putting together video packages with other students. As hard as that experience was, as many blisters as I got and as many late nights as I lived through, I would have stayed for weeks and weeks longer.

Then I did a summer internship, and that just set my passion into stone. I got to cover events and tell stories of incredible people and that's when I knew, that's when I knew for sure, that I was going to pursue this for the rest of my life.

And now I don't know. Now I'm living my dream and facing the prospect of that all coming to naught. Because what if my fear is going to keep me from doing this job? What if my instinct to believe people when they say what they're doing is good will actually keep me from being great at the job I've dreamed of for so many years?

What if I'm standing in my own way?

Maybe I should have just kept to creative writing. I shouldn't have gotten into such a demanding, high-pressure field.

Maybe this is why The New York Times keeps rejecting my internship applications: they sense, in the way that I can't, that I'm not suited for this career. They've seen through the facade and understand that I'm not going to add anything to their newsroom, because I have nothing to add.

I'm in the midst of an identity crisis. For the past four years, I've been a journalist. Sometimes a student journalist, sometimes an intern and sometimes a freelance journalist, but always a journalist. I don't know who I am if I'm not that anymore.

More importantly, I don't want to give it up. This is what I'm passionate about. I mean, I've dreamed of this for such a long time! I want nothing more than to be a successful journalist living in New York City.

I know the field is hard, and the city is hard, and the person I am today is too weak and untested to survive either.

But I'm not willing to give up my dream just yet. I'm not willing to let a few blows knock me out completely.

I will keep pursuing this career as long as I can, until I'm bloody on the ground and unable to get back up. I will fight to be Karis Rogerson, journalist extraordinaire. Nothing can keep me down.

This is my dream. I'm scared of continuing to pursue it, but for once in my life, I'm not going to let my fears keep me down.

Resolute in 2016

Despite myself, I've fallen into the belief that today marks the beginning of a grand new life, of a great adventure, a brilliant re-imagining of myself. By Dec. 31, 2016, I'll be a new woman, an accomplished woman, an everything-is-right-in-the-world woman. 22940364744_f22f58c216_o

There's this part of me that believes that and this part of me that doesn't. But today, on the first day of the new year, I'm letting the part of me that believes take over. I'm writing resolutions and swearing to follow them through and hoping that in 365 days, I will be everything I am not today.

Most of my resolutions are writing-based, because as great as 2015 was for my journalistic career (getting into grad school, having my first full-time internship, becoming a freelancer at The Mix and blogging for I Am Second), I still have so many unfulfilled writing dreams.

I mean, I want to be a [published] novelist! I want to be a [published] poet! I want to be a [prolific] essayist! And I want an internship in New York City for this summer.

With that in mind, here is a snippet of my 2016 writing resolutions — I'm posting publicly to be held accountable publicly. Let's keep our fingers crossed for a prolific, writing-filled, exciting 2016!

  1. Write one poem every day. So far, I'm batting 100 on this one. That's right, it might only be partway through Jan. 1, but I've already logged one poem for 2016. It can only get better from here!
  2. Write one short essay every week In my Personal Essay class last semester, we did these 20-minute writing exercises that resulted in three fairly well-developed pieces I'm trying to publish. My goal is to do that every week this year: sit down with an idea and a timer set for 20 minutes, and just write. By the end, I should have 52 short essays I can try to publish!
  3. Write one long essay per month Again in said class, we worked on longer, reported essays. They were written in the first person and I got to add my personal flair to them, but they involved research and a whole lot of thought. I want to write one of these essays per month. ***This will most likely be the toughest resolution to stick to, so I'm counting on you to help me! I want to get started within the first three days of every month, so badger me about it!
  4. Finish two novels and do NaNoWriMo This sounds like a handful, but remember, I'm already 100 pages into one of the novels I'm planning on writing — The Langone Five — so I just have to finish it during the semester, write another one during the summer, and then do NaNo in November. Piece of cake, am I right? *laughs wildly, then cries*
  5. GET AN AGENT This is the big one. This is the one that's partially out of my control. THIS IS THE ONE I DESPERATELY, DESPERATELY WANT TO SEE COME TO FRUITION. I've been dreaming of getting a literary agent since July 2014, and I've been querying and writing and revising and querying and waiting and praying and hoping and — you get the picture. I really need an agent to pursue my dream of being a published novelist. 

So there you have it. Five writing goals for 2016. Oh, and meanwhile, I'll finish grad school, work part-time, intern and be involved at church. It's gonna be a crazy year, guys, but it's gonna be great. I'm so excited to see what comes of it!

Here's hoping 2016 is full of nothing but good things and dreams come true. I'm letting myself go wild and fully believe that today can be the beginning of a new phase — the start of something new, if you will.

 

Lessons from publication in Seventeen

Last Friday was a big day for me: I had an article published by a mainstream media outlet. It felt bigger than USA Today, bigger than anything I've done before. Last Friday, I had an article published by Seventeen.

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This was a huge occasion for me, career-wise and as far as personal development goes. The "career-wise" benefit seems like something I hardly need to explain (so I won't), but let's talk a little about personal development.

The article was about a friendship I had that was lost due to my depression. And through writing the article, I was able to finally come to terms with this. I feel like I've been freed from a burden of hatred that I carried around for three years.

And it was arguably the most personal thing I've had published by a mainstream media outlet. Of course I write very personally here on the blog, but that's neither sanctioned nor publicized by editors at big-name magazines. This was. It felt like a stamp of approval from someone in the know, not only of my experiences but also of my writing.

Which feels so good to have. To know that media professionals read what I had to say and liked what I said and how I said it. That feels great.

But I've learned a few lessons that were harder to swallow, as well. As you might notice if you Google me or look on Wikipedia, I'm not famous.The fact that I don't have my own Wikipedia page is a constant source of horror for me. I wrote an essay for class recently about my long-held desire of being famous, and in it I explored all the reasons why I crave fame.

This article did not bring me instant fame. It did not initiate a flood of new Twitter and Facebook followers or indicate the start of the cult of Karis. It had more than 10,000 views (holla), which is nothing to sneeze at (thank you Kiley of Girl-ish for getting that phrase stuck in my head), but none of those 10,000+ people decided that their lives would be better off by following me.

I wrote last week about how I've learned that opportunity is hard to come by. It seems that success as a well-known and regarded writer is the same way. One article in Seventeen will not an award-winning writer make. I still have to work really hard, every day, to improve and receive recognition.

Which isn't necessarily something I'm mad about. I mean, sure, I hate working hard and wish I could just snap my fingers and have a book, bound and covered, at my fingertips. But this isn't a fantasy world we're living in. There is no magic and there are no free passes. There is only hard work and, occasionally, having that hard work pay off.

I'm really excited about where my writing journey will take me. Already it's gone in unexpected places. I did not think that coming to grad school in New York would open the door to publication by Seventeen magazine, but so it was. And already that has opened the door for a possible new writing opportunity that will allow me to share my experiences as well as what God is doing with my life — for a publication that, while not necessarily "mainstream media," does have a Wikipedia page. Which is more than I can say for myself at the moment.

I'm excited about the novel I'm working on for NaNoWriMo. I'm woefully behind, but I'm excited about finishing The Langone Five. And after that, I get to edit My Mom's a Killer and maybe start sending out query letters.

I'm excited about poetry, the art of writing personally yet beautifully.

I'm excited about personal essays, about combining reporting with things I'm passionate about and writing from the heart.

And I'm excited about good, old-fashioned third-person reporting, telling people's stories without letting myself get in the way.

In short, after being published by Seventeen I've learned that yes, writing is where my heart is. Writing is something that makes my soul sing, and I can't wait to continue on the journey, climbing the torturously high ladder to reach success. And maybe, just maybe, I'll get to enjoy the ride.

 

 

"Spotlight," or, the movie that explains my passion for journalism

I was only 8 when the events of the movie "Spotlight," set for general release this Friday, took place, which explains why I have no memory of a world in which the Catholic church's sexual abuse scandal was not common knowledge. Lots of people do, and they can appreciate their actions even more.  For those of you who don't know, "Spotlight" is based on the true story of the team of Boston Globe reporters who broke the news that some Catholic priests were sexually abusing children, while others were hiding that truth. I, and the rest of NYU's journalism students, was invited to a special free screening of the movie this evening. And this isn't a review of the movie; I don't know enough to accurately do that. This is a story about how that movie exemplifies everything that I want out of journalism.

I laughed, cried, clenched my fists and occasionally went into spasms of excitement during the movie because there, on the big screen, my people were being depicted as heroes. For once, entertainment showed reporters as good guys, and that was exhilarating. (I will never understand the man in the row in front of me who snored his way through that thrilling depiction of journalistic prowess. I don't know who you are, sleeping dude, but know that you do not have my respect.)

I got into journalism because I realized that there are people in the world, people in power, who want to do bad things and hide them. 

There are people hurting other people and getting away with it, and that is. Not. Ok. With me. 

The reporting done by the Boston Globe team, Spotlight, (a special group of investigative reporters the size of the entire staff at my summer internship paper) is the kind I dream of doing. The kind I do in the far reaches of my mind, where I am far braver and more assertive than I am in real life. 

Specifically, Mark Ruffalo (dearest Bruce Banner, of course), whose character, Mike of the last name I can't spell, who isn't afraid to make a nuisance of himself in order to get someone to talk to him.

You see, I long to someday storm into someone's office, tell them what's going on, and not be afraid that they won't like me. But I'm such a people pleaser. I haven't managed to overcome the mental block that having people like me is the highest goal.

It isn't. Telling the truth and being true to the calling God has placed on my life are far higher goals. It doesn't matter if I'm telling the story of a minor gas leak or a titanic scandal like this one - I must endeavor to research, report, dig deep and uncover the truth. I owe it to people to do that. 

I've always loved that journalists can be "voices for the voiceless," because we have the skills and the ability to tell someone's story when they can't tell it themselves. I think it's one of the most important things we can do.

But it takes courage to do that, a fearlessness that I haven't yet developed. Before moving to New York, I didn't realize how much of a scaredy cat I am. I thought that because I'd fought my school administration, talked to Madisonville's mayor and mastered the art of "man on the street" at Asbury, I'd become brave.

I was wrong. I'm filled with terror every time I have to do a story. But I'm doing the stories. I'm gathering my courage, and I'm not giving up, because someday I want to do for the world what Spotlight did: I want to change it.

I said when I came to this city that I did it because I had no other choice; that's true as well of why I'm pursuing journalism. Watching this movie, I felt compelled to go out there and chase the stories, uncover the secrets, tell the truth. It terrified me to think of doing what those characters were doing. But it terrified me even more to think of not doing it.

Of course it would be nice someday to win a Pulitzer, like the Boston Globe journalists did, to have Rachel McAdams play me in a movie and the world acknowledge what I did. It would be even nicer, though, to know I did right, that I helped others and was right.

I'm still obsessed with New York

You live here now, Karis. You don't need to keep reading articles about why New York is the best city in the world and wish you were there. You're here. I don't know how many times I've told myself that over the past six weeks. It happens as I'm scrolling through my Instagram feed and catch a glimpse of the Manhattan skyline, when I'm watching Castle and the scene is his insane apartment or when I click on an article giving advice for how to be a true New Yorker.

Every time this happens, I feel a pang in my heart and think, Wow, I wish I were there. I've been doing it for years.

The only difference is that now, I am here.

I ride the subway across the Williamsburg Bridge every day, go to school mere blocks from Washington Square Park and am often just a short walk from sights like the Flatiron Building and Bryant Park.

I've taken the Staten Island Ferry, wandered Little Italy — in both Manhattan and the Bronx — traipsed through Brooklyn's picturesque residential streets and familiarized myself with the cheap delis in Queens.

There is no way to count the number of germs I've collected on the subway, I've consumed countless cheap slices of pizza and diner hamburgers and I've had a nighttime walk through the Battery Park City (where, dude, I would so live one day).

And those aren't the only things that make up my New York experience. Other factors include approaching strangers on a packed sidewalk and asking them about the pope; emailing a woman I spoke to briefly at a festival to see if I can do an in-depth story on her; having stories published and rejected; and live-tweeting the CNN GOP Debate before putting together a Storify of it.

I've made friends with the 13 other students in my program. We go out to lunch together and treat each other like siblings. We have a group Facebook message that's filled with plans to meet up, questions about assignments and, yes, full-on panic about what we're going to do and why we're here. I've had the equivalent of counseling sessions with several classmates — where I was both the counselor and the patient, at different times.

In the short time I've been in NYC, I've grown into a whole new person. I walk about five miles a day. I approach strangers in the biggest, most diverse city I know of, and ask to video them. I navigate the subway with ease. I am both more scared to be a journalist and much more confident in my calling.

Most importantly, I wake up every morning knowing that no matter what happens, no matter where I get thrown or what uncomfortable situations I'm in, every experience is making me stronger. I'm becoming a better friend, a better writer and a better city-dweller.

I'm overwhelmed. This is the city I live in, guys:

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I mean, seriously, what? How did this happen?

I don't know by what measure I was allowed to be blessed in such a way. But man, am I going to enjoy it. Every minute. Even the ones where I'm terrified, where I'm lonely, where I'm uncomfortable ... even those.

Exploring 9/11 as a journalist

I honestly didn't think I would make it. No joke.

I got to school on Thursday morning, as a 22-year-old graduate student, and hid in the bathroom crying because I was so petrified that I would fail my first assignment.

You see, the 13 other Reporting the Nation/New York students and I had to make our way down to ground zero on Friday and find a story relating to the 14th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that affected not only America but also the rest of the world in an irreparable way.

And as of Thursday morning, I had no idea what I was going to do.

So I didn't think I would make it. Every possible negative thought and emotion filled me and convinced me that I was going to fail out of grad school in less than a week. Grad school! That thing I've been dreaming of for the past year, that was supposed to send me on my way into a great journalistic career.

Yet by some miracle, I managed to drag myself out of bed yesterday  morning, throw on some clothes, and make my way downtown. I met up with some of my classmates at a Burger King near ground zero and we anxiously stared at the crowds of tourists and NYPD officers filling the sidewalk in front of us. Of all the days to work on our first assignment, I thought...

Sept. 11, 2001 literally changed the face of the earth. It was one of the biggest events in modern history. And 9/11 is not an anniversary I've ever felt compelled to take lightly. I was worried that the people I approached would think I was some sort of callous, opportunistic journalist trying to capitalize on a tragedy in order to publish a story. I had this fear that I would get yelled at in public and accused of being heartless.

What I really wanted to accomplish yesterday was paint a truthful picture of 9/11 today. I wanted to explore how the events from 14 years ago are still affecting modern-day Americans. I wondered, do we still treat the anniversary with the same sense of respect and horror that we did in 2002, or have 14 years been enough to help us forget?

IMG_0017Despite all my misgivings, I eventually left that Burger King and started approaching people. Century 21 had set up a mural on Church Street, just a few blocks from the memorial, where passersby were encouraged to leave messages in honor of lost ones (seen to the right). It provided an excellent way to meet people and talk to them about what 9/11 means to them.

Although I didn't have a story in mind when I started asking people to talk to me, I quickly found some similarities within the interviews. People expressed a sense of pride and patriotism toward their country as well as frustration with how the atmosphere on 9/11 has changed — a feeling that many have forgotten just what those numbers mean and have moved on with their lives to the point that the anniversary of the Twin Towers falling is just another day.

After a quick lunch with classmates, I went back to school and wrote my story. It shares the opinions of three annual visitors of the memorial on what 9/11 means and how the tragedy has made America stronger.

I don't think I'll ever say that yesterday was "fun." As far as stories I've told, it's not one that I enjoyed researching and writing. But, just as my sources believe 9/11 has made America stronger, I believe this experience made me a better writer and a more fearless reporter.

The bottom line is that it doesn't matter what other people think of me or what motives they ascribe to my work. All that matters is that I approach every article as an opportunity to tell someone's story and not an opportunity to advance my own career. I think if I ever reach the day that I care more about selling a story and attracting readers than I do helping someone find their voice, I'll know that I've failed.

I'm a journalist because...

... The thrill of discovering is addictive. ... I thrive in a fast-paced environment that simultaneously energizes and scares the crap out of me.

... I've been telling stories since I was a child, and it's become as natural to me as breathing.

... I have a wealth of passion to see justice done and have worked on sharpening my journalistic skills to make sure that happens.

... There are too many liars and pundits in the world, and sometimes all people need is to be told the truth — and then be allowed to figure out what to do with it on their own.

... Sometimes people are too scared or too rusty with words to speak up for themselves, and this is one way I can help.

... Stories like this need to be told so the world can be enraged, and opinions like this need to be shared to remind us that some people just aren't worth our time and energy.

... The world is full of people trying to hide their corruption and I can do my part to bring that to light.

... The world is full of people doing incredible things that no one knows about, and I want to remind fellow humans that not everything is war and destruction. 10405327_10152565449759884_2885326472995272677_n

... I get to go to cool events and wear snazzy press badges.

... Every day is a new adventure and nobody knows who I'll run into or what's going to happen.

... I think it's just as important a calling as that to ministry, healthcare or whatever else is considered necessary.

... The pen is indeed mightier than the sword.

... It's where my heart is.

^ In no particular order, all of the reasons I'm pursuing the field I'm in. You might have happened to watch a TV show lately, and in that case you were most likely given the idea that the press is evil and out only to shock people and boost sales. And I'm sure those journalists exist.

But journalism at its core is about truth-telling and secret-uncovering. It's about using the power of communication and the might of words to do good, to build people up instead of tearing them down. It's about taking down corruption, bringing justice where it's needed and making the world a better place. That doesn't always happen, of course. But the world needs people who are willing to try their best to do just that.

On the difficulty of writing

I don't know if you know this, but writing is freaking hard. I mean, yeah, there are those days when the words flow easily and the plot aligns itself perfectly in your mind. But even after those days, there are these days.

The days when you can barely write a coherent sentence about making toast, much less eloquently express a teenager's angst; the days when the plot you so meticulously put together falls apart and you contemplate just killing off all your beloved characters; the days when nothing works and you're ready to throw the whole thing away and start anew.

Because writing is hard. It takes guts, it takes dedication and it takes a certain amount of stubbornness.

And for some reason I've decided to completely wrap my life around writing. I mean, if it's not the novels, it's the poetry, and if not that, well, it's the journalism. I don't — I can't — go a day without writing...even on the days when all I do is journal. I write, I write, and I write.

It gets frustrating on days when I feel like I'm just writing into a void. I'm writing articles that no one reads, books that aren't published and blogs that barely get views.

I pour my heart and soul into perfecting a piece of literature, only for it to get rejected or, worse, barely looked at. I don't understand why I keep doing what I'm doing.

Wouldn't it be better to find a sensible career? Shouldn't I rearrange my life to fit around a job at the bank or perhaps in mathematics? I mean, that is where the money is. And surely, surely, it can't be as frustrating as trying to pull words out of a dried-out, tired brain.

I know what you're thinking. It can be as frustrating. For some reason, in everything we do, the actions with the highest potential for greatness and joy have the highest level of frustration.

Let me say that again: with potential for great success comes great hardship.

It's kind of the "no pain, no gain" philosophy. If you don't pour yourself into your work, expending blood, sweat and tears, you're not going to get much out of it.

That's why I keep doing what I'm doing.

On the days when I couldn't even tell you what toast is, much less describe making it, I want nothing more than to curl into a little ball and forget I ever dreamed of being a great writer, winning awards and changing lives.

But on the days when I have a novel breakthrough, a flash of inspiration for a poem or a great story to tell the community...man. Oh man.

It's like doing drugs, only better, because it's not illegal and you don't kill your brain cells. Or your bank account.

It's like when you're riding a bike and you hit your stride, reach a nice downhill stretch and you just sort of float along in midair, the wind tangling your hair and waking up each individual cell in your cheeks.

It's sitting up straighter, pulling your legs under you, cracking your knuckles and typing as fast as you can to get the words onto paper before they leave you forever. It's pure adrenaline. It's the most beautiful thing I've ever experienced.

Writing is hard. But it's also so, so rewarding.

First week fly-by: I still love journalism

It's over! The first week of my first full-time internship is over. How? It's possible it doesn't feel like a full work-week because, well, it wasn't. I started Tuesday. Which when I think about it was a great thing, because I'm not used to working full-time and I've been exhausted every single night. On Thursday, I accidentally took a three-hour nap in the evening. Whoops.

A screenshot of an article I wrote, featuring the picture I took!

Those four days were a total whirlwind. By Friday, I had written six articles (five of which have been published and one of which comes out tomorrow, in the Sunday paper!), been sent to take pictures at an elementary school, cover a civic club meeting and interview a local resident at the Genealogical Society in town. I have been to the police station twice to write up reports, figured out at least 1/4 of the confusing one-way streets in this tiny town and received my very own key, computer and cubicle-like-area in the newsroom.

More importantly, I've had every single article I've written ripped apart and put back together way better than it originally was.

Obviously that wasn't my favorite part, but it's also an incredibly important part of the learning process. It's been four days and I feel like I should have perfected the art of writing for The Messenger, but it hasn't happened yet. I'm still putting dates before times and writing weak ledes.

To my chagrin and eternal gratitude, the other reporters have taken the time to read over my articles and reform them into something better, all while allowing me to keep my name on the article. (Disclaimer: they're not completely re-writing the articles, don't get me wrong. About 85-90 percent of it is still 100 percent mine). They've corrected petty grammar errors, fixed style issues that are unique to The Messenger--and informed me what these rules are--and generally made sure that the article sounds as good as it can. Without completely rewriting it, that is.

These four days have been packed with interviews, technological issues and a whole lot of learning. I already feel better than I did when I started.

And one of the things I was worried about, that I would hate it and completely regret my dedication to journalism and decision to attend J-School, has proved to be a moot point: I still love it.

Yes, despite the moments when my knees are shaking as I cross in front of a stadium full of children to snap a photo; despite the feelings of insufficiency that fill me when my articles get edited; despite the fact that I am incredibly aware of my young age and inexperience; despite all of that, I love it.

Because journalism, guys. Because anything can happen once I roll up to the newsroom; because I get to tell stories (and get paid for them!); because I love the camaraderie between the reporters and want to one day be a part of that; because of all the other things I can't find the words for, I love it.

I can't wait to see what the next nine weeks bring to the table, and I'm speechlessly excited for what will come after that.

The first step to internship excitement

I made it! I'm halfway to starting my internship! I'm right back where I was two weeks ago: in Lexington, Kentucky, waiting for my internship to start.

Instagram photo right before I headed out. This accurately portrays my feelings.

But I'm so much closer than I was two weeks ago. I head to Madisonville tomorrow to start my internship on Tuesday! I left Columbia around 1 p.m., after church and a hasty lunch.

I was pretty stoked, as maybe you can tell by the fact that I actually took and posted a selfie. It was a long drive, though. Over 400 miles all by myself. Fortunately, I had the audiobook of The Book Thief to entertain me. Solid book, that one.

And if that didn't work, I knew I could entertain myself for hours by contemplating all the great things that caan happen this summer. I've been thinking about it a lot lately--what this internship will hold.

It's the first summer I've spent away from Columbia and family, and as much as I'll miss them (which I will), I'm excited about what that means for me. It's also the first time in my life that I'm going someplace completely on my own--no friends or family to soften the blow of strangeness. And that is thrilling. It's preparation for when I head to New York in August, but on a much gentler note.

I'm looking forward to working full-time as a reporter, too. My internship at the Herald-Journal last summer was amazing. I learned twice as much as I had in class just by experiencing life as a journalist. That experience is going to be multiplied exponentially this summer, because I will have 2-3 as much time to focus on my internship, and no other jobs to take my focus off the paper (well, no job except for the five novels I'm editing and the one I'm writing). For the first time in my life, I will be a full-time, paid journalist! If that's not exciting, I don't know what is.

Other things I'm excited about involve: meeting my host family, getting involved in a church and being an integral part of a community. It's what I hope to have in New York and I'm excited about having it for the summer first.

I finally feel like I'm on the road to something. I've been waiting for the internship since the beginning of April, and it's finally here. Words cannot express how excited I am.