Editor’s note: Turning anxiety into excitement
January 17, 2023
Stepping into Etched in Stone’s Co-Editor in Chief positions this year is Jordan Brownhill and Lizzy Camp. They are both excited for this new opportunity in their journalistic journey, but both have experienced anxiety. However, the pair is overcoming the feeling by supporting each other and trusting the newsroom staff.
As I sat in my basement in late 2020, staring at that blue “publish” button, I was taken by the numbing feeling of anxiety. For me, anxiety hurts; a physical pain in my chest that throbs and sounds like TV static. It was the first time I would publish a piece to the front page of the paper. It was also a more personal piece: a story about my journey of writing an entire novel in a month. I had always wanted my writing for the world to see, but now that the choice faced me, I found myself balking.
I have always been an anxious person. When I was little, my mom would cover the car clock with a bandaid so I could not tell if I was late for school. I experienced physical illness from anxiety many times, missing days because my stomach ached horribly. For a long time, I let anxiety control me and take over my life.
Freshman year as I joined Journalism 1, I went into the class with hesitation. Journalism has always been a big part of my life; my mom and I would spend hours in the car listening to National Public Radio together. I loved listening to Invisibila and Radiolab, and hoped to create my own podcast someday. Although I was nervous, there was one thing that kept me steady: my friend Jordan Brownhill who would be by my side throughout the journey.
I grew into journalism throughout the years. Milestones came and passed: publishing my first article, winning a Best of Sno award (and getting many hate comments for it), and getting awarded Best of Colorado for some of my articles. There were as many successes as there were failed articles and “inexcusably terrible” photos, according to my good friend and fellow journalist, Dylan Heinrich. Through all of these experiences, I began to discover that my anxiety pushed me to be better.
A large part of journalism is about putting yourself out there. Many people hesitate about the idea of journalism because the main job description is “talking to strangers”. You get to know someone on an intimate level by understanding nothing but their name beforehand. However, as I wrote more and more, I began to crave this. There were so many people in the world, so many stories, and I wanted to get out there and tell them all.
Entering my junior year in 2021, I was stepping into a position I had never seen myself in: News Director. Suddenly, I was responsible for standing in front of the newsroom and assigning stories to staff. It was terrifying, and I felt like I had the weight of the entire newsroom on my shoulders. But as I grew into the role, I learned that I was not alone. Jordan was there for me, as was the rest of the staff.
Anxiety soon turned into curiosity and adventure. I scoured the school for potential articles and dove deep into journalistic experimentation. I tried new article formats and even made my first podcast. I became comfortable with the unknown. When my first podcast did not make me very excited, I dumped the idea and tried a new one. In a class where you are given complete freedom to explore, why not take it?
The years of journalism seemed to culminate into a final act: my senior year, playing the role of Co-Editor in Chief. Jordan and I had been dreaming of this since Journalism 1 in freshman year, planning what we would do and the lessons we would teach. Our dream came true, we would get to teach the class and mentor younger staff members. But a few nights before the start of the class, we found ourselves both experiencing journalistic nightmares. I dreamed that my car had broken down (something my car tends to do often) and I forgot to tell Jordan that I would be missing the first day of class. She experienced a similar dream, and we both realized just how anxious we were.
As the day neared closer, I reminded myself what I was here to do. It was okay to make mistakes. In fact, no one was expecting us to be the perfect Editor-in-Chiefs on day one, or even on day twenty, fifty, or one hundred. We were human, and learning, just like everyone else. Once I realized that, I grew more excited than anxiety ridden. The lessons I had learned from every year of this experience crowded together in my brain. Why did I need to worry when I had a whole classroom full of people to support and love me?
I am so excited to be this year’s Co-Editor in Chief. I want the newsroom to continue to put out quality content, while driving innovation, creativity, and curiosity. I hope to leave a lasting impact on our newsroom, but most of all, I want other staff to feel safe enough to make those big mistakes, learn from them, and become better. I am ready to jump into this wonderful adventure, with my friend and staff by my side.
The first thing I can remember wanting to be was a writer. Words made sense to me. I spent my summers as a kid reading. I brought a book with me everywhere. I never rode in the car without one, even when I inevitably got car sick. I wanted to be exactly like all my favorite authors. I remember once as a kid digging an old notebook out of my closet and deciding to write my first book in it.
As I got older, I started learning more about the world around me, and my dream of becoming a writer led me to journalism.
Writing books in old notebooks turned into hijacking my mom’s computer and making a fake newspaper about the events in my family’s lives. I loved to write about even the most mundane things. I just liked the feeling of stringing words together.
So as I scanned the list of classes available to me my first year of high school, I jumped at the chance to take a journalism class. It was a chance for me to write for a real paper, a paper that would publish my writing for others to see.
My first thought when Ben DeGear explained to me in Journalism 1 that I would have to interview other students was “How can I pass this class without doing that?” I never had to interview anyone when I was writing alone in my room. I spent the first several weeks of that class seeking out articles that I could write without talking to anyone else.
I have never loved being a part of things that push me out of my comfort zone, but there was something about being a part of the Etched in Stone staff that made me want to stay. Even as a sophomore, when so much of day-to-day life was a question of whether or not learning would happen in the school building or at home, I was struck by how connected the Etched in Stone staff was. I loved being a part of something that felt so safe and genuine.
Throughout my time as a high school student, the journalism room has been my homebase. The most valuable life lessons that I carry daily are things I learned in N123.
By nature, I am a perfectionist. I tend to take constructive criticism as a sign of failure. I feel that people telling me I have made a mistake is a sign of confrontation, and I have always hated confrontation.
But I learned in the newsroom that it is possible to be proud of the work I do and still accept that there is room for improvement. I learned that criticism is a sign of potential, and that confrontation is the way we improve. Even the articles that I am the most proud of have things I would change, but that does not change the fact that I am proud to have written them.
As I step into the role of Co Editor in Chief I feel a wide range of emotions. I am thrilled to step into a role that I have watched other editors thrive in. I am also terrified of being the exception, the editor that people think of as an example of what not to do. I do not want to be the editor who failed.
There is a lot of responsibility that comes with being a leader, and I was unsure of whether I am the best person to take on that responsibility. I have always been shy and I have always avoided confrontation.
Reflecting on my years in journalism, however, has changed my mindset.
I thought I would not make a good leader because I am too shy. But I learned in the newsroom how to push myself to talk to people, and I am not as shy as I was three years ago. By learning how to interview, I learned how to speak to people. Asking questions does not just apply to journalism; it applies to life.
I thought I could not be a good leader because I hate confrontation. But it was in the journalism room that I realized confrontation is one of the most valuable tools in life. It is impossible to improve without it.
Not only am I walking into the role of Co Editor in Chief with all the necessary tools to succeed, but I am walking side by side with Lizzy Camp. The newsroom would not have been the place that it was for me without Lizzy there with me everyday.
I walked into my first day of Journalism 1 and sat next to Lizzy, and I have been honored to sit next to her everyday of Journalism since. I cannot say that I would have made such an effort to get better at interviewing if it did not involve the promise of being a journalist with one of my closest friends.
As our first day leading the Etched in Stone staff approached, Lizzy and I were both experiencing a lot of anxiety about doing the best job we could. But underneath that anxiety, I felt a great deal of excitement, because even though it was scary, it was also incredible to realize that we had made it to this point.
We have hoped to be Co Editors in Chief together since our first year writing for Etched in Stone, and it is an incredible feeling to know that we are getting to fulfill that dream.
To know that the little girl who wanted nothing more than to write something meaningful, the little girl who dug up old notebooks and forced her parents to read a fake newspaper filled with information they already knew, the little girl who was terrified to talk to other people, is getting to be an editor with one of her best friends. That is an accomplishment I will never cease to be proud of. Being a part of Etched in Stone has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and it is my ultimate goal to make sure that writers who come through this program get to experience that feeling as well.
Despite all of the anxiety Lizzy and I have faced when it comes to leading the newsroom, I am so excited for both of us to face this challenge together. I have faith that we will make an incredible team, and I would not want anyone else by my side to take this risk with.