And…cut!

I’m writing this blog post from my apartment in Rome, Italy with my mom in the next room packing for our next stop, Florence. I am ecstatic to travel across Italy and yet, it’s weird not packing next to Isabelle in my Thessaloniki apartment. It’s even stranger to be taking a train rather than the 20-person-full Greyhound bus. The weirdest part of all…I even miss the whole journalism part too (don’t tell Carlene 😉 )

Right now, aside from the aforementioned feelings of weird, I don’t think I have even begun to process what I just did during these past five weeks. To tide my loyal fans over (and to satisfy the required posting of blogs) I have put together a 7ish min montage of my time in Greece. I would like to pre-apologize to Mike, for I have used zero tripods in the making of this clip, BUT I did include audio fades and one transition.

Enjoy.

If you have been reading this blog, then you know of my roller coaster of emotions in my “On…” series. While those feelings were true to their core, while on this trip, those represent just a small snapshot of all the moods, feelings and thoughts I’ve had in this short period of time. I hope that I can someday put all of them into writing, either on this blog or elsewhere, but honestly I don’t see that ever being possible. Anger from this trip will fade into melancholy and acceptance, sadness into a tiny fraction of what it was and sadly, even the extreme happiness found in Greece will turn a less vibrant shade of yellow as the small details slip away.

However, this trip should not be looked at as fragments of a whole but as a huge, amazing, extraordinarily-hard-to-describe-no-matter-how-much-I-want-to experience of a lifetime that I will forever cherish and remember as something that has helped me to grow as a journalist, a friend and an overall person.

Thanks for reading.

Now, onto pizza, pasta, gelato and a well deserved break from reporting.

On Support

On my walk back home from the subway this evening with Asia, (a walk that deserves another blog post itself, stay tuned), there was a short lull in our seemingly never-ending conversation and in that temporary pause between inside jokes and echoing laughter, I realized something. I had only really met Asia five weeks ago and yet we have grown so close and shared so much during this emotional, rewarding, stressful, fun and challenging trip.

This dialogue has taught me many things. One major take away from this trip has been learning just what an amazing support system can do and why I very much need the kind of system this group of 18 individuals has given me. Throughout this post I am going to give a few shoutouts, but truly, every student on this trip has taught me something for which I am forever grateful. I appreciate you all more than you will ever know.

To start, I have learned to believe myself. No, I did not forget to write the word “in” here. I have learned that my truth is my truth and I need to believe it. After Olivia read through a work of mine she told me not to believe that it didn’t hold up and that it could not only stand on its own but should. I started out thinking it was worthy, and when I faltered in that thinking, I needed her reminder to believe in my gut and in my work.

I have also learned to share, hopefully not for the first time as I hope Kindergarten also taught me the basics of that. I don’t mean share as in the sharing of work, credit or praise. I mean share as in sharing my feelings with those I trust and not worry if I am burdening them or dragging them down. My roommate Isabelle can attest to this, as can Asia and most likely Paxtyn (freshmen have to stick together), but I have had talks/cries/rants with them more on this trip than in my entire first year of college and most likely longer than that. In those moments, they encourage me to let it all out, wanting to help not because they have to but because that is what a friendship is all about. In turn, I have done the same with no negative feelings or negative energy surrounding myself afterward, but it’s harder I suppose when it’s you that needs the support. I used to think I was infecting them with my sadness or anger, but now, after much assurance from Isabelle, I know that I am not and we can (and did) all go out an hour later to enjoy the town we have right outside our hotel doors.

I have learned that my work should reflect myself in it and I have to be proud of everything that leaves my workspace and is published on another with my name on it. David, while reporting on the protests of Thessaloniki, reminded me of that, while trying to get each word right on our long story. I have always loved to write and loved it almost as much when I see my name published in bold next to anything I have had a part in working on. A once self-proclaimed “slut for bylines” I have now fully realized just how much my work means to me and don’t just want a byline but want a byline I am proud of having above an article I fully support. While writing a story (yet to be published, stay tuned maybe) in Athens, I was proud of how it read, beginning to end. When I later found out that some of it would be scrapped, and not just in simple edits, I realized how deeply I connect to my work. I was reminded by Asia that loving what one has produced and standing by its quality is to be applauded, no matter the consequence. I am no stranger to edits, but I am also not one to have her voice snuffed out nor produce half-assed work for the world (or anyone who Googles my name) to see. Another thank you goes to Cody for helping me in getting my stories out there and hopefully onto the pages of Google, offering to help me pitch stories to the real world after the trip. (If you decide to move to Minneapolis, HMU for a tour.)

Most of all, I have realized that I am not alone here. I have always had someone to go to dinner with. I have never sat alone on a rooftop bar or at a beach or even in a taxi. More importantly, when I am feeling a certain way, there is always someone who is feeling that way too that I can talk to. When I have had frustrations on this trip there has always been a hotel bed to sit and rant on, everyone exchanging similar tales of grievances or annoyance. When I have good days reporting, Isaac is always there with a bottle of wine and everyone else is there to drink it and celebrate too. We trade stories, complaints, laughter, edits, suggestions and most likely germs too (thanks Brandon + the grads for getting me sick), and I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.

Support is not easily come by in a world (and profession) riddled with rejection and harsh criticism. When you find those people who support you but also don’t sugar coat the truth, cherish them, spend five weeks with them in a high stress environment, and please try and keep them around for as long as you can.

Here’s to the last three days, lets make them count and I’ll (inevitably) see you all on the rooftop bar in a bit.

On Ups and Downs

I have always been afraid of roller coasters. They are high and fast, and as someone who hates bumps in the car that make you lose your stomach for just a split second, I can NOT handle the loop-de-loops.

To parallel to something less random, I also do not like having unstable moods. The “roller coaster of emotions” (trite) expression is almost as uncomfortable as being strapped into the real thing.

These past two weeks have not only had the bumps of a car trip down an unpaved street but the drops and steep climbs of the most insane coasters at Disney.

The trip itself, the friends, food and all-around experiences have been extraordinary.

Here, I am not a lowly freshman, I am up there with the rest and have learned (and possibly taught? Input, guys?) so much from my new friends here, from rising sophomores like myself to 25-year-old graduate students (happy birthday Brandon! How’s 25 feel?). I never knew how good it would feel to be surrounded by such driven yet down to earth people who are all riding this ride with me. While I may be the most terrified, white-knuckling it in the back, I know that everyone else has been there too, now at the front of the ride waiving their hands in the air like it’s no big deal. We were all beginners once and we all get scared sometimes.

From days at the beach where I swam in the Aegean Sea and talked about life over milkshakes to nights that end at 2:30 a.m. in an nondescript bar with a piece of pizza in my hand, ouzo and cigarette smoke in the air and chatting about politics with colleagues turned amazing friends, I am truly living. I could not picture a more amazing trip, and it has only been two of the five weeks.

Then the drop hits. When it does, my stomach filled with milkshakes and laughter slips up into my throat.

This trip has also come with challenges and downfalls, the kind that leave you feeling scared for the next inevitable drop and twist in the tracks that makes me want the ride to stop for a moment to collect myself and then move on.

As a first-year journalism major, I have not yet perfected the skills needed to be on a coaster that only goes up. (can you really perfect it though? Always a small bump, no matter what, I suppose, no matter how old you get.) The “you must be this tall to ride” sign looms over me, and at some points during the trip, I have let that defeat me. After my first story finished up, I was faced with a blank reporters notebook, and worse, a blank mind. Quickly, my brain filled with a whole jumble of ideas for my next article. While I still love most of those ideas, they were shot down almost as fast as I could come up with new ones.

Each time an idea was turned away, the coaster lurched down, sending my head reeling and sinking my heart further into the pit of my stomach. At one point, I wanted to get off.

However, as I am writing this, I would like to inform you all that I am still on my ride, a steady incline in my horizon as I have finally found a story to tell and have the resources to do it and the go-ahead from our faithful conductor (can I call you that, Carlene? It fits the whole theme).

I still hate roller coasters. They are scary, unpredictable and can go down at any second. But I am so thankful that I didn’t give up on this five-week ride, because riding the high of a published story, a great interview and the feeling after an amazing 3 a.m. conversation has been worth the lowest of the lows.

Here’s to the next peak! Stay tuned for my upcoming article and of course, more blog posts.