By Shelby Brown —
It wasn’t my plan to get involved with journalism when I was accepted to U of L. I was thankful to be back in school at all.
I graduated high school in 2009 and enrolled in community college (no shame). I was halfway through my Associate’s Degree when a car wreck derailed me. A CT Scan revealed a lesion in my brain and I was diagnosed with a seizure disorder. Needless to say, school went on the backburner. I didn’t have the car, or the money, to continue, so I dropped out.
It was almost three years before I got accepted to U of L to pursue my bachelor’s. I was ready to punch the ticket, get my degree and get out. No frills needed.
When I started at U of L, I was 24 and I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. I’d always loved to write, but it had always seemed like more of a hobby. When you tell someone you want to be a writer, they give you the same look as if you’d told them you want to be a movie star. They smile, but their eyes say “why would you intentionally try to be unemployable?”
Despite seeking out as many creative writing courses as I could technically take as a communication major, I wound up in Professor Ralph Merkel’s class fall 2016. Campus Media sounded interesting and I needed another communication class. Professor Merkel passed out paperwork on the first day and informed us we were now contract writers for the Cardinal. What had I gotten myself into?
I worked for the grade and worried endlessly about the next story I would write. I wound up covering Angela Davis’s lecture on campus and that’s the moment I pinpoint everything changing. I sat in my car afterwards, and it was probably near 10 p.m. My phone was almost dead from taking notes and audio and I had a long drive home, but I was so happy. I knew what I wanted to do with my life.
When you have anxiety and depression, everyday is a battle. Even though I wanted to be a writer, negative self-talk persisted. Getting to be news editor on the Cardinal staff was wonderful. Being Assistant Editor was a trial-by-fire. Editor-in-Chief? I went in kicking and screaming.
Professor Merkel battled with me and my self doubt on too many occasions to count. I felt capable. I could write that story. I could be a dogged reporter. I could handle being an editor.
There were days that I hated work. I’ve cried in that basement office more times than I can count. The stress, the panic, the setbacks are enough to make you want to walk out. But I promise, the good times, the great times, far outweigh the bad.
The friends I made on the staff, the thrill of breaking a story and getting to work alongside some of the finest Louisville journalists made it more than worth it.
So, from someone who was ready to high-tail it out of college before she barely started, I leave you with some parting advice.
Slow down. You don’t have to double-major and have 20 minors to be successful. Your time at U of L will be over before you know it. While it’s important, of course, to get good grades, don’t work yourself to death.
Explore what you love. On the topic of not working yourself to death, definitely don’t over-work yourself over something you don’t even like. Go off the beaten path. I promise you won’t get lost.
Do what scares you. I know what you’re thinking: does she want to be the pot or the kettle? It’s something I still have to remind myself of everyday. You can’t let anxiety run your life.
Finally, use your resources. U of L is packed with professors who want you to succeed. Tell them what you care about and what you’re passionate about. You might be surprised at how much they can help you prepare for the world that’s waiting after you take your diploma.
If you’re just starting your college career, no matter what age, I wish you the best. If you’re graduating, I hope you rock whatever you do.
It’s been an honor to write for you.
Photo by Arry Schofield / The Louisville Cardinal