Tenth week tears: the internship ends

It all wound to a close today. You know, I thought I was ready. And in one sense, I was — I am.

In the sense that I'm ready to move on to the next phase of my life, to get settled in New York (two weeks baby!) and to start grad school, I was ready for this internship to end.

Yet somehow I was not prepared for the end. I thought, because lately I've been antsy, counting down the days until I reach New York City, I could easily leave this place.

But The Messenger has proven hard to get free of. Today was a most excellent day.

The ever-strong Laura Buchanan with her burger before the challenge began.

It started well and only got better when Jessica, Luke, Laura and I went to the Kickin' Kafe down the street from work and watched Laura eat a five-pound, fully dressed hamburger along with a half-pound of fries.

She only had 45 minutes in which to best the beef, batter the burger ... you get the picture.

I'm proud of my Messenger coworkers :)

After returning to the office, we worked for a while and then gathered for cake. And people said nice things, and it was lovely.

It didn't start to really sink in that it was over until we returned to the newsroom and everyone started wrapping up for the week. Suddenly it felt like someone had turned on a waterfall behind my eyes, and I was fighting to keep from crying.

And because I am a strong, stoic woman, I didn't shed a tear.

Until I got in the car and began the last march up Main Street toward my home-away-from-home for the summer.

You guys, this internship has been incredible. It's not that I wrote award-winning articles or investigated incredible levels of corruption within the local government. I reported on kids' summer camps and new parking lots opening up downtown. It was small-town stuff.

The beauty of the internship was in the daily ins and outs of the newspaper business. The joy was in waking up every morning knowing I got to spend eight hours in a work environment that was filled with camaraderie and fun. The thing that kept me going was the excitement of walking into the office not knowing what the day was going to bring — I might be sent out to photograph a new swing-set at the park or an accident on the side of the road and end up locked in the back of a cop car for 15 minutes.

While those things might not sound like the most exciting events in the world, they were to me, because they symbolized what it means to be a journalist.

I was working under a deadline, and every day I had to come in and write a story for the next day; if I didn't, the paper wouldn't quite turn out the way it was supposed to.

I was an integral part of the team. I was a member of the newsroom. I was the intern, yes, but I was also an important piece of the workings of the newspaper.

Suffice it to say, I loved my time at The Messenger. It's something I will always remember and treasure. It was a learning experience as well as a job.

I've changed a lot during my time in Madisonville, and not just in the superficial ways — the switch to Apple products, the loss of my bangs — but also in the deeper ones. I'm more confident, much more able to receive and accept criticism and, I think, a lot better as a writer and journalist than I was before.

Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope this is just the first step to a future filled with journalism. Hopefully it'll be in a big city this time, though — yes, New York, I am looking at you.

Laura laughs as she gets close to finishing her challenge.

Oh, and if you're wondering how the burger challenge ended, Laura ran out of time and was unable to finish the giant piece of food. She put up a valiant effort, though.

Fourth week crazy: the day we were two

There are normally four of us in the newsroom: Jessica, Luke, Laura and I. On Thursday our numbers were cut drastically, halved in fact, and Jessica and I were the Two Musketeers, the Lone Rangers, the Two Blind Mice... We were alone, in essence. Laura had the day off and Luke came down sick, so over text before work, we hatched a plan: kick some serious journalistic butt.

And let me tell you, we did just that.

We started the morning collecting police reports and writing them up. There were a few incidents over night, but nothing spectacular--which, in this case, was a pity, because we figured we could have used the stories. In the end we didn't need them. The stories came to us Thursday, flying out of nowhere and smacking into our faces.

Soon after Jessica left to cover a meeting, Tina, one of our awesome advertising ladies, came to let me know there was going to be a ribbon cutting at a new Verizon Wireless Zone, and could we write an article and take a picture?

No to the article, yes to the picture. Before I could go there, though, Don, our managing editor, came by with big, breaking, Madisonville news: someone was tearing down a building. Either that really is big news, or I've been in this small town too much, because it felt huge. I ran off to collect the picture.

And that, my friends, was the beginning to a whole slew of dramatic events, including an asbestos scare, a possible firing, and a lecture by a very large man. But if you want to know more about that, ask me privately. On Thursday, I was completely unaware of the storm to come.

Verizon belongs...to the Madisonville-Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce.

So I went to that Verizon Wireless ribbon cutting. The cute boy who sold me my phone was there; he didn't recognize me. It was quite sad. Heart-breaking, really. But I got the picture and the video and trundled back to the office.

Next, I went back to the Summer Arts Academy (previously mentioned in my second week roundup), to photograph the younger kids practicing "101 Dalmatians." Kids are adorable, you know? And as stressful as that was, trying to crank out that article without getting interviews with the women in charge because they were so busy teaching, it turned out fine--the director called to tell me she loved the article. She's the sweetest, really.

I came back to the office. I chose the pictures. I wrote the article. I wrote another article, about a meeting at the library. I went to a library board meeting. I, finally, went home.

And when I woke up yesterday, it was to the sight of a newspaper filled with my name: two articles, four pictures and one very long caption. And let me tell you, it felt good. So good.

When we got to work on Thursday, we planned to slay the day, take that crazy day in the palm of our hands and destroy it. And we totally did.

And you know what? As crazy, stressful and busy as Thursday was, I totally loved it. It was awesome. I'm so excited for this to be my career.

And on another note! I got my first piece of communication from NYU about class registration, and I got to meet (or, see the names of) my future classmates! I'm over the moon! What are you most looking forward to?

Third week humbling: I'm far from perfect

Yeah, I know I say it all the time:

I'm not perfect. I'm super messed up! If you're messed up, I'm totally screwed over.

But something I've learned this week is that I don't really believe that. On some level, the level where I hate myself, I do believe it. But that level is sinking farther from my conscience the more confident I become.

And as great as it is that I'm becoming more confident--it's super great--there are, of course, problems that come with that just as they do with insecurity.

For one, all these signs I've received lately that seem to reaffirm journalism as my calling and writing as a skill I possess. I got into grad school, got an internship, got an award...got a big head...

Yeah, all those things had me walking around with my nose up in the air and the attitude that I just could do no wrong. I was SuperJournalist, saving the world one brilliant article at a time! And unlike Superman, I had no kryptonite. No, I wasn't some lame alien whose own home planet can destroy him. I mean, how lame is that?

Sorry. Back on track. This week.

This week was detrimental to that image of myself, but beneficial to my soul.

It was Thursday. I remember it like it was yesterday (because it practically was). I had written an article I thought was rather lovely. And it wasn't. It was choppy. It was incomplete. Worst of all, it didn't make you feel anything.

Hearing that almost broke me. I've been here three weeks, I thought, I should be perfect by now. I should be the best. There should be nothing wrong with me.

It took some really honest talks with friends to pull me out of my despair. That, and the following realization.

I am not perfect. I make mistakes. I am not the best journalist in the world. I am not the best writer, storyteller, or people person. 

But I can learn. I am surrounded by people who want to help me. I can, and I will, improve. 

Because nobody is perfect. Not me, not you, but anyone. Perfection is something to strive for, always, but rarely if ever achieved.

That's the humbling life lesson I learned this week. What did you learn?

     

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.

*drumroll please* And the future holds...

...a summer internship at the Messenger in Madisonville, Kentucky, and a year and a half studying at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. Yep, come Dec. 2016, I will be Karis Rogerson, M.A.

For the first time in months, I know what I will be doing after graduation! And I'm beyond excited about it. Because just a few months ago, on Jan. 1, this is what I journaled:

It's the New Year! The year I graduate...the first New Year's Day in my life when I don't know where I'll be or what I'll be doing come the next New Year's Eve. It's thrilling and terrifying at the same time. I mean...seriously, where will I be? WHO will I be? Literally the only person who knows is God.

I swear I wasn't lying when I said it was thrilling, but obviously the truth leans a little more heavily toward the "terrified" side. Anytime you don't know what the future holds, there's bound to be a whole lot of fear and trauma involved. And I finally can say that I have some idea of what's going to happen. Of course, anything could change and I might wake up one morning and realize that God wants me to do something completely different. But for now, this is the plan, and here's how we got there...

First about the internship. Last November, I began applying to hordes of paid journalism internships. I don't even remember all the different places I applied to, but they ranged from The New York Times to The Baltimore Sun and the Google Journalism Fellowship. One of the organizations through which I applied is the Kentucky Press Association, which facilitates about 20 internships a year. Paid internships. And on Good Friday, I got a call from the Messenger saying they wanted me! After driving three and a half hours to get there for an interview, they offered me the internship and I accepted it a few days later.

I will be living in Madisonville with an older couple (who, apparently, are also hosting two baseball players) and I begin May 26. I am excited.

And now onto the bigger news: grad school!

I applied to four schools: Columbia University, the City University of New York (CUNY), New York University (NYU) and Northwestern University. And somehow, through some miracle or act of God, I got into all four!

As convinced as I originally was that I was going to end up at Columbia, my thoughts started changing in February when I got my acceptance to CUNY. Did I really want to get my degree in just ten months, or would I rather take some time to enjoy my grad school experience? Would I rather be one of 230, or one of 10 or 15?

So, soon after spring break ended, I bought my ticket for a weekend in New York to visit Columbia, CUNY and NYU.

And that trip is what sold it for me. I walked into the NYU journalism building at 20 Cooper Square, met Yvonne Latty, the director of the Reporting the Nation/Reporting New York department, of which I will be a part. She gave me a tour of the building and we had a long chat, which completely won me over.

But my visit with CUNY was also amazing. I went to a brunch with six or seven other potential students, met faculty members and current students, ate bagels and had all sorts of questions answered. And I walked away wondering--CUNY or NYU?

Y'all, I'm gonna be a bobcat. A graduate bobcat :) Photo cred: Becca Patton

NYU. The answer is, and always will be, NYU. Because I want to be a part of Yvonne Latty's program. Because I want to be a member of that excellent network of alumni. Because they tripled my scholarship. Because I know that I am wanted. Because I don't want to hide behind the walls of an Ivy League school or be immersed in touristy New York. Because I want to feel the heartbeat of New York City, and I think NYU can do that for me.

Go Bobcats, y'all :)