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Friday, January 27, 2023

“Maybe this isn’t for me.”

I’d hear the phrase in every one of my sports journalism classes.

I listened to industry professionals talk over the crappy video chats in lecture, and I’d think, “Can I do that? Am I good enough to get to where she is?”

Flipping through the pages of my AP Stylebook (2017 edition), my mind would wander. “Is this worth it? What if I don’t make it in the sports industry?”

Burdened with doubtful thoughts, I searched for something -- anything -- to confirm my waning belief that journalism was where I was supposed to be.

Enter the alligatorSports section.

I don’t remember who told me to check out the Alligator open house at the beginning of the Spring 2018 semester. But I found myself peeking inside the small Weimer Hall basement space to ask about the contributing list.

I didn’t even know there were applications for the sports section, but it couldn’t hurt to ask.

“Oh, sports is its own thing,” I remember then-Freelance Editor Paige Fry telling me as the two sports editors at the time peered inside.

One stood rigidly upright with black hair curling slightly above his face. "I’m Dylan Dixon," he said, the sports editor.

The other editor stood behind him, slouching slightly, and a Simba-like mane framed his face. Jake Dreilinger. The assistant sports editor.

The application process was easy enough. I wrote a trial essay that still makes me shudder with embarrassment when I read it. For some reason, though, it was good enough to earn a job as the track and field beat writer.

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“Wait, what if I’m not a good beat writer? What if I can’t handle the workload?” There were those doubts again.

I battled those thoughts when I walked into the Gainesville Sun’s office for our first staff meeting. I battled them when I did my first interview, and when I wrote my first story.

But something changed midway through that first semester.

I gained more confidence with each story I wrote and each interview I conducted. I was no longer weighed down by my own doubts.

Now a year and a half later, I know this is for me. I know I have what it takes to be a good sports journalist.

And that’s my message to anyone reading this.

Know that you’re good at what you do. Whatever that is. You have what it takes. Stop letting your thoughts control you.

Doubt can sometimes be disguised as that voice in your head guiding you through life, but it’s OK to not listen to that voice. Take those chances when it tells you not to.

And as I’ve learned in my time at the Alligator, stop thinking so much. It’s overrated.

A few sappy goodbyes:

Dylan Dixon. Thank you for giving me my first chance. I think you believed in me before I did. I still remember some of the advice you gave me when you were sports editor. I wish I could have spent another semester learning under you.

Morgan McMullen. Ah, you don’t know how much I’m going to miss you, your charm, your puns, those Coca-Cola pajamas that you wore everywhere, your obsession with cherry coke. I don’t know what it is. But there’s something about you that draws people to you. I noticed it the first day I met you. Thank you for believing in me so much. For giving me a chance on the football beat and for constantly reassuring me about my writing abilities, even when I doubted myself.

Ethan Bauer. You’re truly one of my biggest inspirations. You’re a quiet genius. I still have the letter you gave me when your time at the Alligator ended, and I read it every now and then. I hope to be as hard working, dedicated and detail-oriented as you. Thank you for the opportunities you’ve given me and the advice you’ve shared. I don’t know If I’d be where I am not if not for you.

Dylan Rudolph. You know I had to put you in here because of all of our hilarious car rides. Please name a better passenger than me? I remember literally crying from laughter in your car on the way to and from the office, usually at your expense. We started at the Alligator together (with Chris O’Brien), and you’ve always been one of my closest friends on staff. Thank you for always making me laugh even when I’m having a terrible day. And thanks for having a very stressful life for me to laugh about.

Jake Dreilinger. This one is hard. You also gave me a chance and have never doubted me from the first day we met. Thank you for your guidance. I’ll miss going back and forth with you over your awful taste in food. I really hope I find someone that makes me as happy as China Star makes you.

Mark Stine. The meat smoking king. You’re such a pure person. Never change, please. Thank you for the rides. I’ll miss reading your articles. You’re such a great writer and editor. And no matter what anyone else says, I enjoy your very detailed stories about slow cooking food.

Gators football crew. You know who you are. But I’ll name you anyway. Morgan, Jake, Mark, Chris King. Thanks for making dreadful nine-hour car rides to Gators’ football games some of the best road trips of my life. If I had to do it all over again, there’s no other group I’d want to cover Gators football with. Morgan, I’m sorry a roach crawled across your bed at that crappy hotel I booked when we went to Knoxville. I know the barbecue made up for it. Jake, get your sinuses checked out for that snoring problem. Chris and Mark, remember that time we pissed off the people at Burger King when we ordered all those chicken nuggets?

The original Thursday night crew. Chris O’Brien, Justin Ahlum, Sam Campisano and Dylan. The Thursday night crew will go down in history as the best copy editing shift the Alligator has ever had. Chris, you had awful, unsupported, ill-advised sports takes, but I love you in spite of that. I’ll miss watching SpongeBob during our shifts.

More people -- River Wells, you’re one of the funniest people on staff. Thank you for understanding my woes as a Giants fan. Tyler Nettuno, you’re an amazing writer, and you’ll be an even better sports editor with Mari and Sam. Mari Faiello, keep the boys in check for me.

Alanis Thames was a sports writer and online sports editor at The Alligator. Follow her on Twitter @alanisthames.

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