A journalist looks at 26

Gray Hughes

So my 26th birthday is Monday (please hold all applause until the end).

My 26 years on earth have been interesting, for sure. Like everyone, I’ve experienced very high highs and very low lows.

I’ve learned a lot. As a lifelong learner it’s imperative that I learn from my mistakes. Sure, my girlfriend wishes that I didn’t need to make mistakes to learn obvious lessons, but, apparently, that’s not how I roll.

I know that I’ve only been on this planet for 26 years, but I feel like I’ve experienced more than the average person my age. What I have experienced has shaped me into the person I am today, and I wouldn’t trade those terrible experiences in my life for anything because they made me who I am today, and I am pretty happy with the person I have become.

But if there is one lesson that I’ve learned that stands out above the rest it’s this: don’t be afraid to take a chance.

Take my path to journalism as an example. When I was a kid, I had a nanny who would save me the newspaper to read every day. I loved it, and I soaked in as much knowledge from those pages that I could.

Because of that I wanted to become a journalist.

But dreams fade over time. My interest in journalism waned, and I turned my head in high school towards other professions such as becoming an attorney or teaching.

I went to college with the intention of becoming a teacher. In fact, I was one class away form getting a minor in secondary education. But then, in between my sophomore and junior years of college, I got an itch that I hadn’t felt since I was a kid: the journalism itch.

I scoured job boards, trying to find a way to crack into the business. I found one with a now-defunct sports blog. I didn’t get paid, but I loved it anyways. I was picked to write about a subject very near and dear to my heart: the Philadelphia Phillies.

Like I was when I was a kid, I was hooked, and I needed to do something about it.

When it was time to return to campus, I found a job in my college’s communications department where I got to do things like write press releases about students, help departments on campus enhance their web presence and help curate which articles should appear on certain pages of my school’s website.

It was the articles that I wrote on the blog that got me the job in college.

I knew, because of that job, I wanted to make journalism my career. I was already an English major so I didn’t have to change my major, but I dropped secondary education as my minor and added political science. My school didn’t have a journalism program at that time, so I thought a combination of English and political science would be the way to go.

If I wanted to make journalism my career, I knew I needed an internship with a real newspaper. During spring break my junior year, I went to my hometown newspaper and asked for an internship. They gave me one on the spot. It was the experience I had writing sports blogs and press releases that got me the job.

That summer was a blast. I was essentially a full-time reporter. I did everything a “real” reporter would do — work long days, interview people, write stories, the works.

At the end of the summer, the editor at the time said if I wanted a job once I was graduated to just ask them for one.

In spring of my senior year of college, I was officially hired. It was because of that internship that I got that job.

I worked at that paper for two years before I moved here. I wrote probably thousands of stories and really got to learn what it took to make it in this business.

It was because of that job that I got my job here at the Prevailer, the best job I’ve ever had.

Now, I can add a new chapter. My job at the Prevailer consists of a lot. I write stories, take pictures and lay out the paper every week. But, just like when I was in college three years ago, I felt an itch: an itch to learn.

I started researching graduate school, but it had to be very specific. I didn’t want to leave my job at the Prevailer, so it had to be online. It also had to be affordable.

I found a program at South Dakota State University that I could do online. I jumped at that chance and applied. I got in. I found out about a month ago. Best of all, I don’t have to leave the Prevailer. I can be a full-time student and still be the full-time editor of your paper.

It was all those little chances that I took that lead me to that acceptance. Had I not done that sports blog when I was 20, I would not be going to graduate school for journalism.

Like I said, I know I’m young, but I hope this little story about taking chances inspired you. The chances you take don’t have to lead to anything major. Maybe you’re looking to try a new dish this Christmas season or you want to try skiing. Either way, no matter what the chance is, don’t be afraid to take it because you have no clue the doors that will be opened if you jump right in.

OK, now you can applaud.

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