Where the trail ends

Four years is a very neat little time frame.

It doesn’t come with a whole lot of worry. Four years of high school, four years of college. The beginning of each term even brings a sense of comfort. A rocky start doesn’t sound the alarm, because there’s plenty of time to smooth things out. A sophomore slump is expected and embraced as a learning opportunity. You can breathe easy knowing you have a plan; all you have to do is stay on the neat little path laid out for you. Sure, there are some uncertainties there, when dealing with the regrettable consequences of questionable decisions, but even those can be chalked up to inexperience. No one expects you to avoid straying entirely.

And then, after the term is up and you’re shoved out the door and up onto a stage to walk across it in a giant black robe and accept your prize – the trail you’ve been following ends.

There has been a lot of change in my life in recent months and only some of that has come as a result of graduation. I’m at a point where there is no longer any four-year plan laid out for me in an orderly fashion. I don’t have a four-year plan, or a five-year plan or a one-year plan. I have no idea what I’ll be doing in six months time. And I’m learning that that’s okay. Many of the things I thought I knew are not what they were before, and I’m figuring out how to deal with that and move past them. I’m learning to embrace the idea that this is exciting and not solely sad.

And besides those changes, yeah, I moved back in with my parents, (which is a lot different than making macaroni and cheese with my best friends/roommates at 3 a.m.) and I work 40 hours a week, (which is a lot different than having a couple classes a couple times a week) but all of this is just teaching me how to deal with myself. Without the distractions of coursework, nonstop socializing and a college town, I’m spending a lot of time on my own, which can absolutely be a bummer. But once I get past feeling that way, I can start to enjoy hanging out on my own. I’m not so bad to spend time with. If anything, it makes me appreciate the time I spend with friends a whole lot more.

Postgrad life is absolutely 100 percent different from college life, there’s no doubt about that. But it also holds its own kind of excitement, and I can’t help but think that it’s time to let go of the idea of those predetermined four-year paths. I’ll find my way.

Soaking it in

I’ve been feeling really lucky lately to get the chance to sit and listen to people talk.

Whether this is worthwhile depends mostly on the people speaking, and based on who I’ve been listening to, it definitely is.

I spent last weekend in San Francisco at the Associated Collegiate Press Midwinter National College Journalism Convention, where I sat in on sessions with titles like “How to be an editor without killing someone,” listened to keynote speeches from people like Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Mark Fiore, had a small group Q&A session with a news reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle and enjoyed complimentary coffee and red pens.

acpsf I geeked out, to say the least. These conventions get me pumped about my career, and getting the opportunity to engage with professionals and my fellow student journalists from all over the country is priceless. Not to mention the fact that my own newspaper won first place in the Best of Show contest and took home a trophy. I triumphantly carried that bad boy home on BART and then back to the newsroom in Chico. We also won second place in the multimedia package category and fourth place for our website.

The awards were a nice way to end the weekend, but the networking I did and much of what I got to learn were the best parts. Just getting to see how other student newspapers run and look was interesting. And I mean, Storify cofounder Burt Herman made a Storify about the conference during his keynote speech using what all of us had been posting online with the #acpsf hashtag. How cool is that?

I got back to town from the convention Monday, but by Wednesday I was already gaining more insight from another professional, this time on campus. Ali Manzano, the social media editor at The Oregonian, visited our newspaper critique session this week to talk social media as part of the Scripps Howard Foundation/AEJMC Social Media Externship Program.

oregonianShe talked to us about branding, referring to our social media accounts in print and engaging with our audience on these platforms through questions that go along with articles.

Manzano basically created her job at The Oregonian in 2010, which is pretty impressive. It’s always interesting for me to hear about the backgrounds of people with awesome jobs in order to see how they got to where they are.

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And even with all of that, I’ll also be sitting and listening to people talk Thursday and Friday. Chico State is hosting its This Way to Sustainability Conference, where I’ll get to gain insight from professionals about various global, national and regional environmental issues. Many of the sessions directly relate to my minor and my interests, so I can’t wait to see what else I can soak in this week.

A busy Bay Area weekend ahead

I’m back in the Bay!

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I’m home for the first time this semester, but I definitely won’t be relaxing. I drove down from Chico late last night after my night class and woke up at 6:30 a.m. to make it to BART. I’m currently on a train making my way from the east bay to San Francisco, where I’ll be attending the Associated Collegiate Press National College Journalism Convention.
It’s conveniently located just across the bay from my hometown this year, so I’ll be spending the weekend at workshops and skill sessions with hundreds of other student journalists from across the country. It should be a good time, and I’m hoping The Orion can bring home a Best of Show award. We’ll see!

And so it begins.

This seems to be the phrase of the week. In the whirlwind that has been these past five days, I’ve finished my summer internships, moved into my new house in Chico, hosted orientation for the newspaper and had a handful of meetings. All of this while trying to comprehend and come to terms with the fact that my final year of college technically begins in just four days.

I’m back in this town that I’ve learned to love, and I feel the words “I’m a senior” come out of my mouth when meeting new people. Simultaneously, there are swarms of freshmen who just moved into their new dorm rooms with big dreams and hopes and absolutely no idea of all that they’ll see, learn, do and explore over these next few years. It makes me nostalgic and envious that they have four wonderful college years to look forward to while I am scraping at the bottom of the jar to make the most of my final one.

But I’m optimistic. With the most supportive roommates I could ask for, a senior year “bucket list” and a new job as managing editor of the newspaper, I see no reason why this shouldn’t be a year to remember. My only request is that time moves slowly enough for me to appreciate and take advantage of each day in this town before everything changes and “real life” sets in. The college lifestyle is a rare one—one that you never get back after graduation.

Of course, I’m also preparing myself for the many, many instances in which people will ask, “So, what are your post-college plans?” I’m hopeful about those too, and I look forward to finding out those plans once the time comes. Until then, I can only hope that I end up doing something I enjoy as much as my college experience.