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Thursday, April 18, 2024
<p>Heather Bushman, Julia Coin and Ryan Haley served as The Alligator&#x27;s Big 3 for Summer 2022.</p>

Heather Bushman, Julia Coin and Ryan Haley served as The Alligator's Big 3 for Summer 2022.

Two hours into my first day as Engagement Managing Editor, I locked our entire editorial staff out of our primary Twitter account, froze the account for six days and lost our verification check. 

I leaned into the joke all afternoon, but the second I got into my car, I let my head fall forward and hit the steering wheel as I sat in complete silence. There’s a certain shock to getting yourself ready for a prize fight, weeks of mental preparation and positive self-talk, only to hit the mat seconds after the opening bell. 

One partial day and I made the biggest social mistake in years. How in the world could I survive 15 weeks?

When you show up to UF’s College of Journalism and Communications, everyone tells you The Alligator is a great place to cut your teeth and gain experience, and even more tell you the paper brings you your closest friends. You’re warned about how much you’ll learn about the news, Gainesville and your coworkers. No one prepares you for how much you’ll learn about yourself.

Local journalism, especially on a student level, exists in a perpetual state of information, communication, deadlines, and pressure. A source won’t leave a writer alone. A court case set a new date for a hearing next week. UF just sent another press release about mask guidelines. Someone called in a tip. Newsletter needs to be made by the end of the night. You had an assignment due last night. Don’t drown.

I know the cheeky, inspiring narrative is how pressure makes diamonds. If pressure forces carbon atoms together and solidifies them, I think it does the opposite to people; it strips you down until there’s nothing left but who you are, deepest inside, and shoves a mirror in your eyes. And, somewhere in all the split-second decisions and time on the clock, that mirror made its way to me.

I learned I’m fine with being the butt of a joke if it makes a room more comfortable. I learned I handle tight deadlines far better than I expected. I learned I know how to take professional criticism as constructively as possible. I learned I know how to be constructive while being kind, and I learned I know when to put a person before their work. 

I learned when my mental cues mean I need to take a walk. I learned I respond to stress with attempts at humor and do so far more often I can proudly admit. I learned I need to set better boundaries with my time. I learned the people around me usually owe more of my attention than I always give, and I learned exactly how poorly I can react when I neglect myself.

I also learned, while I may beat myself up for them, I know how to move forward quickly from the inevitable mistakes I made. I give myself a second to rest my head against the steering wheel, but the world keeps turning. It always will.

More than anything, I learned how much I love everyone in this newsroom. The passion, dedication and drive every writer, editor, audience team member, copy editor, photographer and graphic designer brought through our doors each and every week made this paper what it is this summer, something I’m forever proud of. The compassion, kindness and wisdom of every previous coworker, confidant and mentor made me who I am today, something I’m forever grateful for. 

There will never be enough words for what this paper and this family has meant to me.

I can’t wait to see what I learn about myself next.

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Ryan Haley was the Engagement Managing Editor of The Independent Florida Alligator.

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Ryan Haley

Ryan Haley, a UF journalism senior with a sports & media specialization from Jacksonville, Florida, is Summer 2022's Engagement Managing Editor. He grew up playing a bunch of different sports before settling on golf, following Rory McIlroy and all Philadelphia sports teams. He also loves all things fiction, reading, watching shows and movies and talking about whatever current story or character is in his head.

DM Ryan on Twitter or shoot him an email.

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