Viewpoint: You grow in the moments where crap happens

Linda BWBy Linda Wilkins

I was convinced they would discover I didn’t belong.

When I joined the Lariat staff three and a half years ago, I had little writing experience in a professional setting. I was stunned when I got the email from then Editor-in-Chief Chris Derrett telling me I was hired.

The newsroom was intimidating. Everyone was older than me — I was just a freshman — and they all seemed to know what they were doing. I knew it was only a matter of time before someone realized I was horrible at being a staff writer. So I didn’t speak to anyone. My quietness stemmed from an introvert personality, but also from my theory that I wasn’t good enough to be here.

Three years later, I was named editor-in-chief.

People like to tell stories about their time during college — what they did, saw, won, who they knew, etc. I have some pretty great college stories, and most of them originate in the Lariat newsroom. You can’t spend three years in a place and not make some memories.

There was the time during Christmas 2013 when we wrapped the Director of Student Publications Paul Carr’s office in Christmas wrapping paper and it stayed for the whole spring.

The time we went haunted house hopping all over Texas in fall 2013.

The nights we stayed up late putting together a 36-page paper and a special section at once, despite the fact many of us had homework.

When we would have Disney moments and burst into song.

The times the newsroom broke out into full-blown debates over current events.

Blowing up around 200 balloons to fill up the Assistant Media Adviser Julie Freeman’s office for her birthday.

Getting to film and take pictures at the final home game during the inaugural season at McLane Stadium.

Covering events like the April 17, 2013, fertilizer explosion in West or the Fort Hood shootings.

The sleepless nights of organizing and figuring out how to handle tough situations.

Moments when I wanted to shut down in tears of anger or frustration.

Times when I felt like the Lariat might just kill me.

My time at the Lariat has been filled with both good and bad, tough and fun.

Every moment has been worth it, even the moments that grew a few gray hairs.

The hardest part of leading a team is managaing all the different personalities. There are the go-getters, the “I’m just here for the paycheck,” the people who do only their job and leave, and the people who try to do everyone else’s job.

Leading a team is kind of like running a marathon, except the goal is finish all together instead of individually. Your own time matters — you want to be and do your best — but you have to help the people who aren’t running as fast make it to the finish line. You have to encourage the people who want to quit. You have to direct the people who are running on the wrong path. You have to pull the people running too fast for everyone else into line so they can run beside other people and help them.

Your attention is constantly divided. It’s hard.

But never once have I wanted to quit. I was given an opportunity, and I did the best I could with it. That’s all we can do.

Now I feel it’s appropriate to impart a little wisdom to other journalism majors, people interested in joining the Lariat staff or anyone trying something new or unusual.

You should absolutely seek the opportunity to get involved with something during college. Perhaps you join the staff, take the reporting class or are a contributor for the Lariat. If you love writing, then write. If you love pictures, then be a photographer. The same goes for video, blogging, web and social media, design, editing, etc.

If you are a journalism major, where else are you going to go besides the Lariat? This is the best place for you to find your talent and be a gold medalist in a skill (sometimes literally, you can win a ton of awards). If you’re business, join a business group. If you’re into science, do something science-y.

Just keep in mind that all of your work will be public, especially at the Lariat. You will receive criticism from everyone. It’s inevitable.

There are going to be times when you want to quit. When you feel like it’s just too overwhelming. When you want to strangle everyone around you.

But the friendships you make, the people you meet, the experiences you have and the portfolio you leave with are worth immensely more than every bad moment.

So when you feel like you’re just out of place, give it some time. You may end up being the top dog on staff or in your field. No matter what, you have to perservere despite all the crap that flies your way.

Perservere. Learn much. Take away memories. Gain experiences.

It’s all worth it.

Linda Wilkins is a senior journalism major from Tyrone, Ga. She is the editor-in-chief and a regular columnist for the Lariat.