Confession time: After four semesters of reporting and editing, writing in first person is going to be a challenge. So, buckle in.
I started a draft of this goodbye column in October. It wasn’t because I was ready to leave the Alligator, but that I was terrified of it ending without me leaving some grand legacy. I was also having one of those nights when finding motivation was a challenge — more on that later.
When I first walked into the Alligator office (R.I.P. 1105 W. University Ave.), I was a terrified freshman with bright blue hair and aggressively red lipstick. I was there for open house because my friend Alena dragged me along, and I had zero confidence in my ability to be a real journalist. (Thank you Alena. We should get lunch soon.)
I was an anxious sophomore starting as a contributor, terrified of the metro editor and ending as a staff writer terrified to attend UF board of trustees meetings. But I faked my way through it, and looking back I wrote some pretty good articles.
Even as a junior covering Student Government and running the university desk, I had a hard time thinking I was doing a good job. I have this thing where I think I don’t deserve whatever position I’m in — aka imposter syndrome. It sucks.
So I pretended I knew what I was doing and that I could manage my school work and the perfectionism inherent in journalism. It worked pretty well until it really didn’t.
At the end of Fall 2016 I sucked it up and started going to therapy, which lasted the entire year. Once summer rolled around I had a pretty good idea I suffered from severe anxiety and mild to pretty awful depression. It didn’t stop as editor-in-chief this year. I came to work in every state between disheveled “haven’t combed my hair in two days and might have just been crying” to full on glam makeup and an “everything is perfect” attitude. (Spoiler alert: It rarely was.)
If you’re wondering why I’m being a buzzkill and talking about my mental health in a goodbye column, it’s because I still want to leave a legacy at the Alligator. It might not be as glorious as past editors, but that’s OK. I just want the people I leave behind to realize they don’t have to be perfect.
As journalism students, we’re under insane pressure. We can’t just write a story; we have to live tweet, Facebook Live, take photos, shoot video and update Snapchat. We aren’t going to be paid well ever, but are told we shouldn’t care about the money. So we go hungry and eat Ramen noodles for dinner instead of getting a part-time job. We’re told we should work on data skills, coding, investigative pieces and hard news. Get things online as fast as possible. Don’t care about grades, even if you’re on a scholarship. Dedicate yourself to the art. Don’t ever stop.
That doesn’t have to be the case. You can take a day to yourself. You can say no to your editor when you need to write that essay for class. You can put off learning coding until next semester when you have more free time. Take care of yourself first; the world won’t end, and you’ll still be a kick-ass journalist. (Even if “HELP HELP HELP” accidentally makes it into a headline.)
If I could go talk to that terrified sophomore, I would tell her to stop trying to be perfect. I would say she’s human, and she’s allowed to make mistakes. It will make her a better journalist and person when she learns to grow from them.
To the journalists I’ve worked with over the years: You’ve taught me more than any professor. Special shoutout to Caitlin Ostroff and Melissa Gomez for always picking up the phone when I needed them. And, of course, thank you, Michael Smith, for helping me hold this paper down during a whirlwind of a semester. I couldn’t have done it without you, even if we almost killed each other a few times.
So here we are four semesters later. I’m a different person now, but I still wear my aggressively red lipstick occasionally.
Take care of yourself, everyone, and go make a paper.
Katelyn Newberg is a journalism senior and Alligator Fall 2017 editor-in-chief.