Monday, November 25, 2013

The day my dream of being a writer died

When I was a kid, I kept a journal. I started when I was in middle school and I kept notebooks and notebooks of journals until I started college. I never let anyone read them, although I'm fairly certain my older brother did behind my back, and I would bet money that my mom snooped through them. I treasured my journals and knew that I would have a writing career someday.

I went to college and, of course, got started with the student newspaper right away. I loved the people I got to be involved with, I loved the late nights in Lage putting the paper together, I loved getting to know people on campus and interviewing (hot) senior boys becuase they were worthy enough of a feature. I had so much pride in The Tack (the newspaper with a point) and I eagerly took assignments and poured my heart into them.

The advisor to the paper was a man named Chuck. He had years and years of newspaper experience and he made sure we knew that. I made the mistake of taking one of his classes, and one day our lesson was to read one of his prior columns and list everything he did right. I'm serious. He seriously planned an entire class lesson around us sitting and complimenting him. I couldn't deal with that, so I IMed my friend (who was also in the class, sitting across from me) something smart-assy, and she fired back with something equally smart-assy. I giggled out loud.

"Are you seriously IM-ing someone right now?" Chuck called me out.

I stared at him like a straight-faced emoticon. And then I got seriously annoyed that I was paying a ridiculous amount of money to sit in a class and tell a man how awesome he was (his column wasn't even awesome. It was too fucking long and it bored the shit out of me).

"Yes, I am," I answered. "I finished reading your article and I have nothing to say about it."

He looked shocked. I was probably the first person in history to not bow down to him. He told me to get out of his class.

"Are you serious?" I was floored.

"Yes, get out." He pointed to the door.

"Awesome!" I grabbed my stuff. "Going back to bed!" I yelled at my classmates.

What a jackhole. The next day I was supposed to leave with Chuck-o to go to a newspaper convention. I politely bowed out. I wanted to quit the newspaper all together, especially when he pulled me off to the side and apologized for kicking me out of class, but said he had to use me as an example because he knew no one was paying attention. But I didn't quit, because I loved The Tack and I really wanted to be a writer someday. Then Mr. Chuck laid another strike and single handedly ruined my dreams of being a newspaper writer.

That year (my sophomore year) some guys in my class did a stupid thing that probably seemed like a big joke the night they did it, but it ended up having pretty bad ramifications. One drunken night, they beat a swan to death with a bat. Gross, yes, and I believe they got charged with some sort of crime. We reported on it, they served whatever sentence they got handed, and that was that. I know it's gross and it's not like I'm belittling what they did. It was fucking stupid. But whatever. The news of it faded, like news like that always does, and then the campus started talking about the next stupid thing that some stupid student did while drunk.

Several months later, one of those guys was in a horrible car accident. Like almost died. He was a football player and a popular guy, so the campus was pretty tore up about it. I got assigned to write a story on it, and I spent time creating the perfect piece, talking to his parents and his friends. It was a news story, so I kept it professional, but I worked hard to make it just emotional enough.

When Chuck was reading it over, he told me I had to include in the story that Lance was one of the guys who beat the swan to death. "You just have to mention it somewhere," he said.

I refused. He said it was the professional thing to do. I told him that I was not going to do it, that I had just spent time talking to his mother on the phone and I was not going to humiliate him or his family like that. He told me that it would not be printed if I didn't include that line.

Guess who won? And guess who spent the next several weeks getting hate mail, threats and even a nice phone call from Lance's mom, crying and asking why I would do that?

I hated Chuck. I hated the newspaper. I had no idea what to do. So I gathered up as many Tackers as I could find who felt the same way and we went to the Dean of Students to complain about how he treated us.

About a week later Chuck resigned.

I wish I could say that I overcame that and I work in newspapers today, but I didn't. He killed my dream. I did stay with The Tack during the rest of my college career, and I absolutely loved it. Jamii, who took Chuck's place, was amazing (and is still amazing, as she is still at BVU). I wouldn't trade my time with The Tack, and with the staff, and in Lage, for anything. But I knew during that time that I couldn't write for newspapers.

Which is why I blog. He may have killed my dream, but he didn't kill my writing spirit.

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