Spring 2015: A semester retrospective

If pain is weakness, I had no room for pain and no time for weakness.

This past semester I was faced with a challenge far beyond what I was capable of accomplishing. I knew the moment it began. I knew before it began. But I survived.

Actually, I thrived.

I had rarely felt so broken, so beaten, so close to collapse. Giving up felt easy. I wanted to throw in the towel — because of one class. But this was no ordinary class. It was the infamous, make-it-or-break-it class: Reporting. At the University of Florida, no course sends shivers down the spines of sophomores like the whispers of Reporting's brutality. It's a class designed to test the students' will, to push them to a new level of writing and journalism. Gather the facts, tell the story. Period. Then, you're done.

Simple as that. Well, not really.

Every student's experience with this class is different, obviously. Some conquer it head-on, passing with flying colors, their A rising above the sea of Cs like the only life boat on a sinking ship. Meanwhile, some struggle to pass, salvaging all their extra credit in an attempt to stay afloat. These are two extreme ends of the spectrum, I know, but we were all sailors on the stormy seas of journalism school.

This is my story.

Anxiety is something that comes naturally to me. However, I've never experienced it like I did those first two weeks. Panic, fear and agony hit me like a stream of bullets from a machine gun. Every week we we're required to gather and write our own stories. "Outside Stories" as they were called.

"Crap, I have to go outside."

The first day passed. I had nothing. The second day passed. I had nothing.

I already wanted to quit by the end of the first writing lab. My confidence was sub-zero. There was nothing in me that wanted to even try to succeed. Despite my doubts, I didn't want to give up the one thing in the world I knew I loved doing — telling stories.

Fear overwhelmed me. To this day, I believe there is no greater restrictive force than fear. It will cripple you, but it gives you a cushy crutch to lean on. I was terrified but comfortable. I didn't want to move. My desire to make progress toward success stopped in its tracks because I was afraid. Allowing my fear to dictate what I did or didn't do felt better than the alternatives. You know, actually trying.

Still, I was anxious to the point of trembling. I was panicking. The deadline was creeping ever closer, and I still didn't have a sliver of a story idea.

But by the grace of God and the kindness of a dear friend, I was given a story to pursue. It was all I had. Something was better than nothing.

Within a day, I had gathered everything I needed. It was a thrill. I conducted interviews and gathered quotes. Until then, I had never done anything like it before. Looking back, I still can't believe I considered something like that to be difficult. I guess that proves how far I've come.

The rudimentary elements of journalism were completely foreign to me. At least I was enjoying it.

Deadline arrived, and I was ready. I submitted the story, relieved. It was done, complete. But it was far from over. I had to hit the reset button, and do it all over again.

This process continued for the next 16 weeks.

(By the way, I got a 46 out of 100 on that first story. But the number didn't matter. It showed how much I still had to learn. And learn I did.)

All semester I battled my fear, laziness, anxiety and myriad of other vices, while attempting to become a better writer and journalist.

Eventually, it became second nature. I knew what I had to do. I was thinking weeks ahead for story ideas. I wasn't going to let my ship sink, even if it meant being consumed by the storm.

The only thing getting in the way of my success was myself. Lazy reporting or idleness were mine to deal with.

At times, it seemed like the only person bent on seeing me fail was me.

When it's all said and done, I wish I could just say, "Somehow, I made it. I passed—with a higher-than-expected grade too. Not sure how, but I did it." And end it there. But I can't.

The truth is that I know how it happened. From the beginning, I knew I wasn't going to survive this course. It was the Lord that carried me through. I have to give credit where it’s due. He gave me the strength to push on, even when I wanted to give up. His mercy and grace guided me through my anxiety and self-doubt.

On my own, I would have failed. I know it.

I can't forget what He did for me. Reporting broke me this semester. The love of my Savior put me back together with a confidence in writing like I've never had before.

I still have a long journey ahead. I'm not a perfect writer, and I'm far from being a competent reporter. It’s still one of the most difficult skills for me to learn.

Despite all my shortcomings, God carried me through. When I felt like a failure, He was there. When I wanted to give up, He was there.

I survived the voyage across the ocean of Reporting. Before me lies another adventure harboring its own share of trials. At the port, I look to the horizon from whence I came.

And I hear that familiar voice echoing against the raging sea.

“Don't sink.”

The photos you may or may not have enjoyed throughout this story were a part of a series I did called "UF at Night." (Super original, I know) I basically just took photos around campus after midnight. Actually, that's all I did.