A year ago today, I graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

It’s strange to think about, even now. I was sorting some of my stuff a few weeks ago and came across my diploma. Holding it in my hands, it felt a little surreal. Did I really pay tens of thousands of dollars just for this sheet of paper? And I’ll be spending the next ten years or so paying off all those loans.

Was it worth it?

Yes.

My senior year was a bit rough. There was a sense of impending doom hanging over my head, giving me so much anxiety that I sought out counseling at the health center. Most of my tweets that year included #impendingdoom. I “failed” a computer science class that I was taking pass/no pass. I struggled through my logic class and pulled off a B-, and I’ve never been so proud of a grade before. I spent many late nights at the Hi-Way Diner with Ruth working on my thesis and reading 18th century German literature while eating a slice of chocolate pie. I avoided classwork the best way I knew how — binge-watching TV shows on Netflix (I watched all five seasons of “Chuck” during the homestretch weeks). I made it over to Rachel and Jude’s every Saturday for cat therapy and to mindlessly watch TV shows and chat.

Was all that stress and anxiety worth it?

Yes. My answer will always be yes.

There were many times during my college years where I questioned whether I should’ve taken a gap year and traveled first. Or maybe I should’ve just entered the workforce (doing what, I don’t know). Most of that was the stress and anxiety talking.

I remember my first summer after freshman year when I had three or four different late night freak outs about my major, journalism. I didn’t think I had the gumption to be a reporter. Or I wasn’t smart enough. Crazy talk, right? I came so close twice to changing my major to English and giving up on journalism. (Note: Don’t try to make life decisions at 2 a.m. It never ends well.)

But I stuck with it, obviously, and graduated with my journalism degree. Initially, I thought I had to be a reporter and hope to get to the news editor position some day. Luckily, I had my first editing class that fall. I realized that being a journalism major didn’t equal being a reporter once I graduated.

During my sophomore, I gave reporting one more chance. I was one of a few senior reporters at the Daily Nebraskan, and earned the bedbug beat my spring semester (a saga best saved for it’s own post or two). The summer of 2012, I went to India with a small group of photojournalists for three weeks and then spent the next 2 ½ months in Mitchell, South Dakota, with a reporting internship. I enjoyed the stories I wrote that summer, but I wasn’t in love with reporting. At all.

Thank god for editing. And thank god for Sue and Scott. I can’t imagine what my college career would’ve looked like without them.

Sue is my editing guru. Without that beginning editing class with her and without the American Copy Editors Society, I probably would’ve turned my back on journalism. I didn’t have to be a reporter; I could be a copy editor and a damn good one with Sue’s help. Participating and eventually leading the ACES chapter at UNL opened up a whole new world for me. I got a copy editing internship at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and then a Dow Jones News Fund copy editing internship at The Denver Post. I traveled to New Orleans, St. Louis and Las Vegas for ACES’ national conferences. Sue even found me the job I have now in Chicago. Without Sue, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Toward the end of my sophomore fall semester, Scott took a chance on me. I had never taken a class with him, yet I found myself in his office as he helped me find a summer internship. Eventually, this led to me accepting the internship in Mitchell and traveling to India, even though I wasn’t a photographer. Though I wasn’t planning on being a reporter, Scott gave me another opportunity: podcast assistant. For 2 ½ years, I worked with him to build the Air Schooner podcasts. I learned how to work with audio files, whether it was mining through interviews for good quotes or putting together the Reading Series. It became my UCARE project and the basis for my honors thesis. He also made sure I got into a magazine production class to put together a magazine for the India trip and then again to produce the Native Daughters: Oklahoma magazine. Without Scott, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

The third element that made my college career unregrettable was the Daily Nebraskan. I spent SO many hours in that dungeon office, whether it was typing up a story, calling sources, copy editing, working with news reporters and going through proofs to approve the issue. Some nights were longer than others. Sometimes there would be an entertaining game of HORSE to keep everyone occupied. During my senior year, the news desk plus Ruth would have movie nights and not worry about classes or the paper. The DN was my life outside of class, and the closest thing I had to real-world journalism other than internships. It was at the DN during my bedbug semester that I swore an oath that I would never go over to the dark side — PR. Without the DN, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

I met so many amazing people during those four years in Lincoln. Living in Neihardt aka Nerdhardt (Hepp 3 represent) my freshman year was one of the best years — getting the Reading Room all to myself, hanging out in the Sun Room with equally nerdy people and late night talks with Brianna. If I didn’t live in Nerdhardt, I don’t know if I would’ve met Rachel and be best friends now. Though I didn’t last long with the swim club, I met Lynn, one of the best people and found out her mom went to high school with one of my cousins. Copy editing shifts were the best when Sarah and Danae were around — Danae and I stuck together when it came to 303 aka #impendingdoom. The three of us and Tammy had the best of times whenever we were able to hang out together. Christina helped me get through my senior year and #impendingdoom as well; Friday lunches were the best, especially because she dragged me out of Andersen to get food. There are so many people and memories I’m leaving out, and I’m so glad to have met all of you.

I think my high school self would be really proud of where I am right now. Not only was I able to travel to different states for internships, but also I traveled to India and England (!). I was a Dow Jones intern, and spent the best summer in Denver. I decided on a whim (by my standards) to move to Chicago without any job prospects and found an amazing full-time copy editing job within a month of moving. For one of the first times in my life, I am truly happy where I am. I am an independent woman making my own decisions, living my life the way I choose to in one of the best cities.

Sometimes I wonder how I would’ve turned out if I had decided to go to the University of Minnesota-Duluth or Concordia College Moorhead. Would’ve I have majored in English? German? Maybe I would’ve been able to spend a whole semester studying abroad instead of two small trips. Would I have ended up in Chicago the first year after graduation? But I always stop myself before I get too far into wondering.

I was born and raised a Nebraska Cornhusker. There was really no other option. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Me with my wonderful diploma on the way to a celebration lunch. (Photo by my mother)
Me with my wonderful diploma on the way to a celebration lunch. (Photo by my mother)
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