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.