Upon entering college, one of my main goals was to establish myself as a journalist by working my way up to the position of Editor-in-Chief of the Campus Times. After three semesters on staff, first as a staff writer, then LV Life editor and editorial director, I was offered the position and I took up the mantle hoping that I would be as good, or even better, than my predecessors.
I had an idea of how things would play out before the semester began; I saw myself jumping on the important stories as they came up and spending long, but fun, hours on Thursday for production all while improving my skills as a writer at the same time.
The first few weeks of the semester went well, although I was not jumping on the bigger stories just yet, I was still able to manage the process as smoothly as possible. While I enjoyed my previous semesters on the Campus Times, it was my time as editor-in-chief that made me truly fall in love with the process. The added responsibilities of the position brought with it a sense of structure that I desperately needed in my life.
However, it was almost overnight the way in which the pandemic forced the bright future I saw for the rest of the semester into quick perceptions of failure.
With the pandemic came an opportunity for journalists across the globe to write up award-winning stories, but as the weeks progressed I failed to come up with any focused beat. Because of this, week after week I was left watching my prior excitement for the semester dwindle and my love for writing came to a halt. With the implementation of social distancing mandates, my safe routine came to a crumble and I found myself battling to find the energy to get out of bed.
Anyone who knows me knows I suffer from severe allergies, and every day I have to fight back the physical exhaustion from my symptoms. Most of the time it is a losing battle, even with medication, against body aches, difficulty breathing, chills, fevers and a runny nose – most of which are considered to be similar to the symptoms of COVID-19.
With that being said, all semester the thought of possibly having the coronavirus loomed heavily on my mind, but nonetheless I still tried my best to keep up with school.
Coping with the transition to online only courses coupled with a hellish level of allergies hindered my performance, and I felt at personal fault for my inability to perform as I normally would. Despite my efforts being praised, I still felt like a failure.
However, looking back at this experience, I realize how important it was for me to go through it at all. It took losing my passion for reporting and optimism for my future to finally realize that I need to take a step back and look after my own mental health and remind myself that I am not alone in this battle.
During my freshman year, I found myself making a promise to never let my mental health affect the quality of my school work. This promise developed due to my feelings of isolation, as though my situation was too unique for anyone else to go through as well. Now that my mental health has majorly affected my school work, I regret keeping that promise for as long as I did.
The pandemic helped me to realize that I am not alone in my struggles with feeling as though I do not measure up to expectations. Seeing other college students flock to Twitter and TikTok as a way to cope with the stress of life while using humor to express their own emotions showed me that I am not alone.
The only constant I had throughout the semester was watching season 12 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” every Friday night. Watching the show I again saw examples of people struggling with feeling like a failure, specifically in contestant Crystal Methyd. At the start of the competition, Crystal struggled to find their place, but eventually got to the top after letting loose and finding inner confidence.
The final challenge of the season featured the song “Losing is the New Winning,” which perfectly captures what the contestants felt during the show, and how students like me feel. We may not feel like winners all the time, but we will still come out on top.
I see myself in the students laying their hearts out on social media and I see myself in the contestants on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” These people found a way to turn their feelings into art to come out on top, and now it is my turn.
So although the semester did not pan out the way I wanted, I will still come out on top like prior editors before me.
David Gonzalez, a junior journalism major, is editor-in-chief of the Campus Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.