When I came to the University of Indianapolis, the only thing I really felt confident about was my writing ability, and while that wasn’t totally off base, I definitely should not have been as confident as I was. However, the passion I had for writing is what made me join The Reflector, and honestly, that was the best decision freshman Zoë made. I had some of the best experiences of my college career up on the third floor of Esch and with the people I met on The Reflector. This has given me a chance to develop my writing skills to a point where I actually can be confident in them, learn how to take photos, create graphics and run on only a couple of hours of sleep.
Every sleepless night was worth it because of the amazing people I got to meet. The people I’ve gotten to interview have been one of the highlights of my tenure. I loved getting to see what other people are passionate about and become a mini-expert in that area so I could write the article.
But the biggest thing I got out of working on The Reflector was an awesome group of friends that I sometimes even call my Reflector family. Right away, I felt welcomed and quickly developed friendships with the older editors who helped me grow and become who I am today.
Even though there isn’t anyone left on staff from my first semester, the experience remains the same, if not better. I’m not going to mention anyone by name, because then this would turn into a book, but I will say I have never felt more like myself or laughed as much as when I was having a rousing debate, strange conversation or just messing around with my friends on staff. This also wouldn’t be complete without mentioning our wonderful adviser and mentor, Jeanne Criswell. I know for a fact that The Reflector, and my time at UIndy, would not be nearly as good without her.
And now, I want to offer a piece of advice: don’t think you know it all, try everything and find a place that makes you feel like you belong, because those are the three things that really made my time here great, and I’m sure they will for you, too.
During the three years that I have worked on The Reflector staff, I have read every senior send-off and thought about what I would say when the time came for me to write mine. Do I try to be funny, and tell stories about all the late-night productions, group chats and inside jokes? Do I take a sentimental approach, and try to put into words what this staff and program has meant to me? There are a lot of ways to go about this, and I considered them all, but now that I’m here in front of the keyboard, it feels impossible to do justice to the laughter, tears and memories of the newsroom that have become such a part of the person and professional that I am today. It feels almost cheap to try and write about it, but as a journalist, I do believe that writing is the best way to say anything.
Let me paint a picture: small-town try hard goes to college, lanyard around her neck and a nice clean North Face backpack, ready to take on the college world. Needless to say, that lasted about a week. I really could not find my place during my freshman year. I was a staff writer for The Reflector, but separate from the editors, and no other extracurriculars appealed to me. I am not athletic, so intramurals were a no, and I am not religious, so ministries did not appeal to me either. For really the first time in my life, I was not certain of myself or what I was doing.
All I really knew was that I loved to write, and I was good at it. But I was not disciplined in my writing. I was a master of adding fluff (thanks to many years of high school essays with required page counts), constantly editorializing and unsure of how to take new approaches to stories depending on the section it was being written for. More than once during that first semester, I dramatically lamented that journalism “is writing but with all the fun taken out.”
But I was so wrong, and I realized it once I started to gain my footing. I am 10 times the writer now that I was when I first took the elevator up to the third floor of Esch Hall as a freshman. I know how to use my writing now, how to adapt it for different subjects and audiences, how to maintain my creativity and individual voice while still being objective and truthful. If I never write another article in my life (which hopefully won’t be the case), I will still use these skills and benefit from them every day.
Most importantly, though, my heart aches when I think of the friends who, no matter how well I stay in touch with them, I will never be as close to again as I am now. The people I have worked with over my three years in the newsroom create such a special environment to be part of—one where I could be completely myself without fear of judgment. One where we work hard, but play hard too, and genuinely enjoy one another’s company. Sometimes when I am job searching, I have this persistent fear, almost as pervasive as the fear of unemployment: what if I have to work with people who are actually normal? How boring that seems compared to the environment that I am accustomed to. And honestly, how lucky am I to have that fear, because it shows how much I have loved being a part of the Reflector, my home away from home.
Not everyone is lucky enough to find where they really fit in college, and I don’t take for granted that I had that chance, even if it was only for three years. I’ve gotten opportunities and made friends that three years ago, when I sat alone in my freshman dorm wishing for better things, I could not have dreamed of. I cannot express how thankful I am to every member of the staff, the ones still here and the ones who have left, and to Jeanne, who always had so much faith in me. I hold you all and the memories we’ve shared close to my heart, and please know that the best parts of the girl leaving UIndy now exist, at least in part, thanks to you all. I hope I’ll make you proud.