Lessons in the struggle

I really thought iMedia would be easy. (I’ll wait a moment for the explosion of laughter to subside.)

Seriously, though, I entered the program thinking it would be a breeze compared to the work I’ve done before. I spent years working as a journalist at newspapers in Virginia, Mississippi, and most recently, North Carolina. There were days when I worked almost literally from sunrise to sunset or even later, not leaving the office until after midnight. I’ve turned around three or more news stories in one day. Some assignments involved not only writing, but also live tweeting and shooting short videos. What else could be more exhausting than that, right?

We all know the answer.

My automatic response to questions about my weekend plans is, “Homework.” I don’t think about what’s showing on TV during the week; chances are I won’t be home to watch it anyway. I’m routinely up early each morning to finish reading or other assignments. I routinely fall asleep while reading or working on my laptop. My life was completely different almost three months ago, but that’s a good thing. Yes, I’m usually exhausted and somewhat overwhelmed, but I generally feel good about what I’m learning and doing. The pain and frustration, generally, are worth it.

I joined iMedia hoping to broaden my career options. I also entered with what I thought was a clear plan of what I wanted to do next. A few days of boot camp made me realize that like Jon Snow, I knew nothing. But that’s a good thing as well. Here’s why: I’m already doing things that were completely foreign to me before I started this program. I’ve actually coded websites. I’m much more comfortable with Photoshop and Illustrator — programs I hadn’t really used before.

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We’ve also had a number of guest speakers, which is one of my favorite things about the program so far. Less than three months in, we’ve heard from a number of iMedia alumni. Other guest speakers include Scott Kelly of the Elon business school and Lee Rainie of the Pew Research Center (who is also author of a book we read in one class). We attended a session with internet pioneer Vint Cerf. I also attended a broader university event with legendary Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward.

Insight from those guests, as well as everything I’ve learned in class so far, led me to toss aside my post-graduation plans. I don’t know what I’ll do then or what I will be capable of doing. While that occasionally sends me into a panic, it also leaves me a little excited about the possibilities.

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