I was in my first college discussion section. Italian history. The syllabus encouraged class participation to earn the highest grade. Our TA kicked off the section by asking about our thoughts on the reading.
I looked at my notes – interpretations and questions I had jotted down in my course reader. I began to mentally piece together an answer to my TA’s question. Others around me had already raised their hands, ready to speak. But I continued to stare intently at my notes, curating my answer and rehearsing it in my head. The TA called on one of the students. I hadn’t even raised my hand yet – I was still editing in my head, dismissing one idea and replacing it with another. I kept going back and forth, not sure if my thoughts were worth contributing. I settled on an idea, but before I could gather the courage to speak up, the TA had moved on to the next question.
I’ve been plagued by this feeling of self-doubt for years, and it never completely left me. I don’t dominate conversations. I tend to stay silent in group chats. On narrow sidewalks, I trail behind the group rather than make room for myself. I shy away from the spotlight on the rare occasion it finds me.
I often contemplate contributing to a conversation, but stop short of speaking. Nobody really wants to hear what I have to say, I’d say to myself. I’d miss an opportunity to chime in but I wouldn’t worry – nobody missed out on anything valuable, right?
I have felt this way for much of my time at the Daily Bruin too – never quite sure of the value I added to an organization of talented students. I was an on-the-fence hire when I applied. Not too many expected me to stick around, much less apply to be a staffer or an editor. I don’t blame them: I was meek and unassuming. I didn’t really make a case for myself. I never felt sure of my abilities, if I even had any worth noting.
I considered quitting many times. I never fully entertained the idea, though. The first time was on the second Saturday of intern training in fall 2013 – I almost skipped the mandatory session to go to Disneyland. Another was my nerve-wracking first shift as a slot editor – I was in the office until 5 a.m., afraid the paper would never be published because of my incompetence. Most recently was while leading training as managing editor last spring – I felt unqualified and unsure of everything I had learned over the past three years.
Every moment of doubt and uncertainty made me question my place in the newsroom.
But sticking it out all four years at the Daily Bruin gave me a sense of confidence. I’ve learned so much here – the difference between en and em dashes, how to export an InDesign file, where to find tabloid paper for the printer. Knowing these small, seemingly inconspicuous details built me up bit by bit.
I felt like I knew something important. I felt like I had something to offer. How do you spell Kerckhoff? Well, there’s a C before the second K and don’t forget the H after it. Not sure if you should spell out that number? If it’s nine and below, you spell it out. The server address for Cyberduck? No sweat, it’s 22.214.171.124.
It might seem silly, but knowing these answers gave me the confidence to stay active in the newsroom and find the courage to be ambitious.
I wasn’t quite ready to become managing editor last year. I’m not a natural leader. I was frightened at the prospect of telling people what to do, of people asking me questions I could not answer.
The first day of leading training was anxiety-ridden: If you were there, I’m certain you heard it in my voice. I knew what I was saying, they were the same things my editors had taught me over the years. But I didn’t think I should’ve been the one up there teaching it. Why did we gather 52 talented editors to listen to me?
The next training was better. I repeated to myself that I knew the material – I had learned and practiced it for years, after all. It had given me the confidence to pursue my ambitions. I knew I was teaching something valuable. And it got a little easier from there.
I am beyond grateful for all my teachers at the Daily Bruin. To my Copy parents Grace and Michelle, my late-run headline-writing partners Matt Joye and Aubrey, and my Daily Bruin MVP and living legend Sam Hoff – you’ve given me the knowledge and courage to do more in the newsroom.
To Emaan and Tanner, I couldn’t have imagined a better managing team. Every time I felt unqualified and unprepared, I could turn to you for advice and reassurance.
To the 2016-2017 editor team, you’ve given me an unforgettable year that’s so much more than just the bullet point in my resume. You’ve taught me a sense of responsibility and commitment to this century-old institution that has seen thousands of students emerge through its ranks.
You’ve made me feel valued and loved, and for that I cannot thank you enough.
Das was a Copy contributor and staff 2013-2014, slot editor 2014-2015, assistant Copy chief 2015-2016 and managing editor 2016-2017.