Category Archives: Student Struggles

Return to beloved hobby proves the power of leisure

I recently reacquainted myself with a longtime love: reading for fun.

While I appreciate literature whether reading for homework or leisure, there’s a certain thrill in picking up a memoir with the confidence that no essay prompt or pop quiz awaits. In the fall, I’ll complete my English writing degree with a course dedicated to life writing; I deemed David Sedaris’ memoir Naked the ideal choice for renewing my (complicated) bond with the genre.

Already, unapologetic honesty defines the memoir, and though I have little in common with the author, I find myself clinging to the universality of his bizarre tales — all moored on the page with that trademark Sedaris wit.

Even rambling a quick analysis of Naked reveals leisure’s sneaky power. Though I’m reading for relaxation, I automatically engage the more academic, formulaic part of my mind.

And the whole involuntary rambling thing felt productive. Wait, what?

Too often throughout my college career, I’ve felt guilty after taking an hour or two off to watch a movie or delay my homework for an impromptu ping-pong match. After all, that kind of ‘relaxation’ detracted from my ‘career path’ or whatever other jargon I created for an all-purpose guilt trip.

Since taking up leisure reading again, though, I’ve realized hobbies and interests are neither conniving nor determined to invade my life and steal precious time from work.

Rather, they’re opportunities to engage a different, too often dormant part of me. And maybe, in the uncanny haven of an author’s tale about ‘that one time way back when,’ the career-minded, ‘productive’ part of me might discover something valuable — something far beyond the cubicle.

The value of job-hopping

Real people work one job from 9-5. They drive to the office every day, probably in a reliable car with a “Drake alumni” decal (in my world, anyway).

At the beginning of the year, I had it all figured out. In May, I would begin a full-time job with standard hours and a steady paycheck. I would drive to work. That’s what real people do, and damn it, I’m nearing real-people-dom, with my graduation approaching in December.

Forever on the brink of fledgling adulthood, I wanted to meet my preconceived definition. That would prove I’m ready for the ‘real world,’ right? But the year turned out dramatically different — and I’m content.

Rather than drive to work, I ride the bus. Rather than work one job from 9-5, I work two part-time jobs and three on-and-off freelance writing and videography gigs.

Though I initially dreaded rambling off each job when asked the inevitable question, “What are you doing this summer?” I’ve come to embrace and even appreciate the array. Job-hopping proved to be exactly what I needed.

I devoted nearly all my time and energy last semester to two beloved publications, Think Mag and The Times-Delphic. Though I gained a wealth of practical experience and fondly remember my time with both, I often felt trapped in the grueling cycle of each publication.

Job-hopping, however, has allowed me to try a wide variety of skills and projects. Yet again, my pesky (but ultimately dear) friend chaos has returned and proved a beautiful part of my life.

In a ‘typical’ workday at the Science Center of Iowa, I sometimes go from producing video to editing a blog post to writing a press release to pinning periodic table puns (comedic gold, I swear). And that’s only job No. 1. After that, I might update an Excel spreadsheet at job No. 2 before heading to a local softball diamond to cover a high school game for The Des Moines Register.

Along the job-hopping way, I’ve created my own definition of real-people-dom. Rather than a realm defined by a practical car, regular paycheck and “Bulldog Pride” auto decal, real-people-dom, I’ve realized, can be whatever I make it — screeching Dart bus brakes, periodic-table jokes and homeruns included.

I hope to eventually trade my job-hopping habit for something a little closer to the aforementioned definition, but whatever I do, I know I don’t need to meet a predetermined definition of adulthood. I can create my own definition of it. Well, fledgling adulthood, anyway.

Expanding my perception of productivity

“Mean Girls” blared as my friends laughed in harmony, reciting Regina George’s lines and inhaling Sour Patch Kids. Meanwhile, my fingers hovered above my keyboard, pounding feverishly to silence their advice: “Taylor, it’s Friday night. Take a break from work, and watch the movie.”

I’ve long restricted my perception of productivity to two arenas of my life: my education and my work. In the spring of 2012, I realized my limited perception of productivity was sapping my life of valuable relationships and — my ultimate foe — relaxation.

While I admit I yet refuse relaxing at times, I’m slowly expanding my perception of productivity to include down time, family time and friend time.

Napping, playing pick-up sticks with my sister and watching “Mean Girls” (again) hardly advance my journalism goals, but they enrich and balance my life.

Productivity, I’ve discovered, is a broad term for any experience that contributes to personal growth.

Family time, for example, reveals that my achievements are the result of others’ lifelong belief in my abilities. That belief merits my gratitude. Under the hypnotizing spell of to-do lists and due dates, however, I neglect to thank my family.

Friend time reminds me to laugh, joke and enjoy my Drake University years. Work and play are equally fundamental to goal-achievement.

Even napping is a catalyst for self-development, as it reminds me again and again of my invincibility. Taking care of my body is a key step in taking care of my latest to-do list.

I’m moving toward balance in my life, one Regina George quote at a time.

Looking back at my second year as a Bulldog

It’s the end of the school year, so I have a steaming plate of spaghetti on my mind. OK, I have more than spaghetti on my mind, but I’ll get to that later.

At the end of the school year, my fellow Bulldogs and I always head to Spaghetti Works, a Des Moines staple, for one last meal. As we spin the slimy noodles and gulp ice-cold Italian sodas, we discuss the year — the highs, the lows, the mistakes, the lessons, the realizations.

I’ll give you a taste of my piece of the discussion (Don’t expect a taste of my pesto spaghetti, however).

This school year, I took on a new role as a manager. I was no longer solely responsible for my own work. As sports editor at The Times-Delphic, I had to manage a staff of 20 writers, some novice, some not.

Slowly, I realized what kind of support each writer needed. Some had never been to a tennis match. Some, I only had to say, “Hey! Write 500-600 words about men’s tennis,” to receive a well-sourced, publishable recap.

Management in the news is all about the staff and what it needs to succeed. It’s not about a title, a fancy nametag or using the “boss” voice whenever possible (I have yet to develop a “boss” voice, and that’s OK).

This school year, I also realized that I want to take my talents to a major city one day.

NBC building in ChicagoIn October, The Times-Delphic staff visited Chicago for the National College Media Convention. I was in awe as I gazed at the glowing NBC logo atop an insanely tall building. My awe didn’t stop at NBC, though.

Later that same day, I gazed up at the glowing logo at The Chicago Tribune. That was all it took to convince me that I want to live, work and write in a major city.

Lastly, I realized that I am bilingual as a J-School and English student. In a single day, I wrote an essay about revenge in the English Renaissance and a Times-Delphic story about the delay in the plans to install a key-card system in the residence halls.

The two disciplines mingled in my mind, making for two odd assignments, initially.

My revenge paper consisted entirely of one- to two-sentence paragraphs, an English no-no.

My Times-Delphic story included words like “oppositely,” a news no-no.

Luckily, my edits fixed the odd blend of English and news on the page.

Alas, my stomach is now roaring, so I am off to relish in a heap of pesto spaghetti, the company of my favorite Bulldogs and the realizations of my second year at Drake.

Giving The TD a new side of me

Recently, as I talked to a news-Internet professor, he said the sentence I had long avoided: “You know, Taylor, you won’t be able to write as much next year as editor-in-chief.”

While I realize the scope — and limitations — of my new job more and more every day, I had sought to delay the inevitable as long as I could. Maybe, I reasoned, if I ignored it long enough, I could devise a plot to trick both sides of my Times-Delphic identity.

Writer Taylor would simply avoid Editor Taylor, and Editor Taylor would simply avoid Writer Taylor. The two could coexist in mutual oblivion, and I could continue to write story on story as I edit the whole paper and manage the whole staff.

Since that talk, though, I have realized that I won’t be able to write every story that interests me.

Even the story about the set of identical twins on the Drake women’s golf team. Even the story about the Drake men’s basketball team’s buzzer-beating win over in-state rival UNI for the 2014 MVC title (I hope I don’t jinx the Bulldogs).

I have to rely on my staff to take over the bulk of a job I have long loved.

While I won’t be able to give The Times-Delphic as many stories in 2013-14, I hope to give guidance, instead.

It’s a give-and-take at The Times-Delphic, and it’s time I give The TD a new side of me.

What I have learned at The Times-Delphic

When I read and think about past issues of The Times-Delphic, my thoughts hardly transcend the obvious gaffes on the page: an extra period here, no hyphen there. I only have a moment, so I only think about the small.

Big-picture thoughts, good or bad, rarely receive my care. I wrongfully assume I need a few hours — even a day — to contemplate my progress. Wrongfully, too, I make excuses about self-reflection.

I need Confucian or Aristotelian wisdom to truly reflect. I need to eat Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream before I can can explore the deep or complex.

And, the excuse I toss out most of all: I don’t have time.

In this week off, though, I have taken the time to expand my thoughts to the big picture and take a look at The Times-Delphic and journalism beyond the page. Though this week is as busy as any other, I put the excuses away (Ben and Jerry miss my old, expensive excuse, no doubt) and took a look at what I have learned in two years at the TD.

The more self-assured you are, the more likely a source is to open up to you. As a gentle person, I formerly hedged around asking potential sources to speak to me.

My interview request procedure went somewhat like this: “Can I please interview you? If not, that’s OK, too. Just let me down gently, please.”

OK, I may have exaggerated that last sentence.

Now, though, I focus on the source and let him or her know how valuable his or her thoughts on X subject are to the TD and me.

Today, my interview requests are more concise, clear and, I confess, a tad frank. Though the change in tone, which has developed slowly over my two years, yet shocks me, I know sources are more eager to talk to me when I focus more on them.

This “more of you, less of me” idea has grown throughout my Times-Delphic career.

To move beyond commas, hyphens and interview requests, journalism is truly about more of you and less of me.

There are always more of you I have a duty to inform. More of you I have a duty to interest.

Most of all, there are always more of you I have a duty (and desire) to serve.

Relays theme relevant beyond special issue

The Drake Relays: For some students, the Relays guarantee a week of alcohol, a week of lost IDs and keys, a week of lost money, a week of (supposedly fun) shambles.

At The Times-Delphic, though, the Relays guarantee two weeks of junk food, two weeks of words and images, two weeks of AP Style, two weeks of (actually fun) shambles.

Every year, we produce a 42-page issue devoted to Drake’s history, culture and future. This year, the TD Relays theme was velocity, or the rate of change in a particular direction with regard to time.

Today at 5 a.m., when I left the newsroom, my second TD Relays complete, I noted a similar theme in my own life.

Every day, I move toward my goal to work as a sports reporter at a major newspaper. Some days, I even ask, “Can I just start my career today?”

Thankfully, though, time steps in and forces me to slow down and learn the trade — a trade I naively assume I already know, at times.

I have always been impatient, but velocity, thankfully, has a ready-made remedy for career-antsy college sophomores, in time. Though I am eager to start my career, I know that I need to let time teach me to report ethically and fairly, handle stubborn sources and write clearly and concisely, among many other skills I have yet to master.

As I reflect on my second TD Relays issue, I hope the theme of velocity resonates for the readers, too.

Why the urge to ‘out-busy’ harms students

“I am so busy.”

A sentence I hear constantly.

As constantly as I crave Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream. As constantly as I ascend the 48 steps to my room. As constantly as I check ESPN for the latest ATP and WTA news.

Though the sentence seems innocent enough, it reveals a socially toxic trend, one I confess I take part in: the out-busy. When a classmate describes his or her week, seven days usually replete in due dates, essays, projects and tests, my mind instantly swerves to my own week, one usually replete in the same stressors.

DSC02833A hasty “Wow!” later, I describe my own week, careful to accent the grave nature of my own stressors. I am always eager to out-busy my fellow students.

As fellow college students, though, we ought to comfort each other. We ought to ask when the essay is due, what the project is about and when the test is. The out-busy trend reveals that we are self-centered students who hardly accept that we are all stuck in a relentless state of busyness, one we hope leads to career success.

Plus, when we try to out-busy, we neglect a chance to learn.

“Your paper is about the decline of the Occupy Wall Street movement? Tell me more.”

However, I am yet stuck on my own more. More due dates, more essays, more projects, more tests. More busy. More me.

And, I confess, less you.

Clearly, I need to acknowledge that “more” is a staple of college. That we all balance many tasks and bear many stressors.

That I need less me and more you.

How about we discuss next week’s mutual busyness over a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream?