To this day, I’m not entirely sure what possessed me to sign up for the news email list at my freshman year club fair. In part, I can blame former Editor-in-Chief Theresa Schliep for her encouraging words as I eyed the sign-up sheet. But it’s probably also my fault for thinking, “I’m a writer, so I can totally do this.” And, though my stories at the time typically centered on such weighty topics as magical aliens and people who transform into plants, I assumed the Ram would be a natural extension of what I already knew.
That same month, coasting off the blind optimism only a first-semester freshman could offer, I signed up to profile a law professor who was running for Congress. My first email to the news editor opened with a glowing “To be honest, I’m not really sure what I’m doing.” The candidate ignored me, her PR team declined to comment and I ended up cobbling together an article out of student quotes and desperation. Overall, it was a fitting introduction to the Ram.
In the entirety of my freshman year, I wrote a grand total of three-and-a-half articles. My sophomore year, I took on the research column (alongside current News Editor Helen Stevenson). I would continue to be ignored, rebuffed and corrected. At multiple points, I wondered whether I was meant to write at all. Why was the Ram so hard, despite my lifelong love of words? Why didn’t writing short stories about aliens — or any other kind of writing I’d done, for that matter — prepare me for this?
I wanted to escape news. Instead, I was offered a position as an assistant news editor on Volume 100. I chose to face my demons: weekly deadlines, fickle interviewees, constant self-questioning and, scariest of all, talking to strangers on the phone.
My first year on staff held all that and more. Key figures declined to comment. Sources abruptly stopped responding to my emails. I broke down doors to demand information and articles would still fall through. I struggled to meet deadlines, felt overwhelmed and wanted to quit. Yet the difficult weeks taught me to trust both in myself and in others. Pushed beyond my comfort zone, I found I could handle more than I ever believed I could. On days when I faltered, my staff was there to prop me up and soothe my spirit.
Writing, I have discovered, isn’t simply the constellation of words you connect on the page. Writing is the grumble of your stomach in the library as you type up an article and try to remember the last substantial meal you had. It’s your sweat as you rush into an interview and the tremor in your voice as you ask questions of people far more intelligent and important than you. It’s neon yellow “suggested edits” and the blood-red copy corrections and the mortifying ordeal of being read. It’s late nights in a dank basement every Tuesday night for years.
But writing is also joy. It’s the satisfaction of seeing your words in print. It’s the courage to seek connections with strangers. It’s learning from the editors who came before and those who work alongside you. It’s being forgiven and accepted even when you fall short. It’s bursting with laughter in a dank basement all night, every week. It’s both contributing to a legacy and cultivating your own voice. It’s a blessing.
In short, being a writer means giving all of yourself. I never knew how much I had to give until I gave the past two years of my life to the Ram.
Thank you to Theresa, the editor who welcomed me into the fold and encouraged me to be better with every article.
Thank you to Helen, Joergen and Erica for laboring and learning alongside me throughout Volume 100.
Thank you to Aislinn, the best captain and copilot I could have hoped for — we’ve journeyed together from copy table to news desk to our current state of shared nocturnality, fueled by 4 a.m. Big Texas cinnamon rolls, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Thank you to the staffs of volumes 100 and 101, the smartest, funniest and kindest people I know, who have offered acceptance and community during times of pain and confusion. You have each taught me to be a listener, a belly-laugher, a truth-seeker, a printer troubleshooter, an editor and, of course, a writer.