Reflecting on the uncertainties of college and career after MediaFest22


Emily Girard, Features Editor

Like many other things, this column used to be much different.

Its original title was “Is my existence inherently biased?” and it was 700 words of me ranting and panicking about my issues with unconscious bias and trying to reconcile the fact that my career path was not what I initially thought it would be.

After being advised to revise it, though, I thought more about where this panic came from. That got me thinking about my relationship to journalism as a whole. And where better to do that than at MediaFest22, a convention that was just all journalism, all the time?

When I took the eight-hour van drive to Washington, D.C., I was about a month and a half out from graduation. My life and perspective on the future had taken a turn away from what I pictured freshman year. To elaborate, I thought I would have most things figured out. I’d know what big news organization I wanted to work for, I’d know how to get a job there, and I’d know I was going to be the greatest journalist that ever lived.

I knew none of this. In fact, I didn’t even know if I wanted to be a journalist anymore.

I’ve always struggled with my relationships with identity, empathy and morality. I am never sure when I am doing the right thing in a given situation, and journalism was giving me no answers. I was only told to function objectively. And while I was able to do this, it was hard at times. I was constantly trying to turn off my feelings.

My identity struggles didn’t help this. I hadn’t met many people like me working in journalism, so I felt pretty alone. I had been told to use my unique perspective for good, but I didn’t really know how to do this.

I did the standard D.C. trip activities. I saw the Washington Monument and was amazed at how big it was. But I went into MediaFest looking for answers, and I got them. I learned that emotions do not lead to bias, as we are absolutely wired for empathy. I learned to ask questions about what I was feeling, not just what people were saying. I learned about trauma, and how newswriters can keep themselves safe — both physically and mentally.

In the original column, I asked if there was a reason I tended to shove my identity down people’s throats in every opinion piece I write. I believe now it was a cry for help, a signal that I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea how to be me. I wanted desperately to do this, to tell people’s stories, and I wanted desperately to be myself. Could I do both at the same time?

Even MediaFest’s LGBTQ round table discussion could not answer this question. However, I was still reminded that I had a unique perspective on the world, and in a sense, I knew this already. My issue was how I was going to leverage it, and how I was going to balance my career with my identity.

In another striking difference from the never-confrontational Emily of the past, I’ve been dealing with a lot of anger recently. My therapist told me that this was my reaction to change coming – stress over graduation, jobs and the uncertainty of life manifested itself as frustration.

I still don’t know if I will be a news writer in the future. However, I need to remember not to panic about this. This isn’t the first time my image of what my career will look like in the future has changed. In the past, my target careers have included database designer, elementary school teacher, astronaut and firefighter. (Full disclosure, those last two are from when I was four.)

But with change comes things that will stay the same. My opinions may change, but my brain itself won’t. I’m still the same person as I was when I was younger.

I’ve been to Washington, D.C., multiple times in my life. One time, I was nine and didn’t understand that we had just narrowly avoided a government shutdown. Some visits I don’t even remember. I’ve had various political perspectives through the visits. I’ve been varying levels of angry and disillusioned.

However, I know my wonder of the world hasn’t changed. Will I be able to harness it? I don’t know.

But the Washington Monument is still breathtakingly enormous.