My first word was “doggy.”
It may have been my first, but it certainly wasn’t my last; once I started talking, it became near-impossible to get me to shut up. I often got in trouble for my “smart mouth” in elementary school, sass oozing through my every pore whenever I felt the slightest disdain for my teachers’ ways of instruction. I may still hold the record for most referrals in a single day there.
(If any of my elementary school teachers happen to be reading this, let me just say: Oops. Sorry you had to deal with that.)
Truth be told, I just had a hard time keeping my opinions to myself. I have big thoughts, and what’s the point of having them if not to share them?
You might think I’ve learned to keep my opinions to myself since elementary school.
You would be wrong.
I’m 22 now, and I’m still just as loud, open and blabber-mouthed as I was at the age of six. My thoughts, proclivities and dislikes make their way into every sentence I speak — and every sentence I write.
When I joined The Miami Student as a first-year in the fall of 2019, I didn’t think that would be a problem. I didn’t realize that journalists work extra hard to keep their personal opinions out of their stories — unless they’re in the Opinion section, which I wasn’t. Despite now being the Opinion editor, I actually got my start in Campus & Community.
My first article was about the Diversity & Inclusion Forum on Sept. 18, 2019. Though it may look like a completely unbiased and impartial article now, my first draft was full of outrage and disbelief. How could all of these issues still exist on Miami’s campus? It was 2019, for Pete’s sake!
It’s been three and a half years since that forum, and yet some of the stories I heard that day still stick with me — because I feel that strongly about pretty much everything. My love for strong feelings, however, was not shared by assistant news editors Tim Carlin and Briah Lumpkins.
Tim and Briah would go on to become The Student’s Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor, respectively, for my junior year. They were a powerhouse team and fantastic mentors to me; however, they (along with the rest of the editing team) ripped this first article of mine apart.
My first article had a total of 306 edits. For context, my most recent article had 3.
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Words were changed, sentences torn apart and stitched back together, entire sections were removed and new ones added. Worst of all, at the very end, a dreaded comment from Tim: “Ames we can work on this at budget.”
I showed up to the budget meeting to fight some of the edits, like the editors removing the Oxford comma from my article (even today, I’m still frustrated that we don’t use the Oxford comma in AP style). I left the budget meeting with one feeling in mind: that I was too opinionated to ever write for a newspaper again.
My own personal thoughts had, once again, shown too much, not in my speech this time but in my writing. I had always considered myself to be a great writer, and after that meeting, my hopes were dashed.
I quit The Student.
It’s fine to quit things — I ended up doing more of that during college, having overcommitted myself. But, at the time, I felt so ashamed. Here was my smart mouth, once again, ruining things for me.
My knight in shining paper came in the form of Kate Rigazio.
A senior and the Opinion editor during my first year, Kate invited me to an Opinion section meeting. Maybe she’d heard about my overly-opinionated style of writing — I have no idea — but, either way, I showed. I shared my ideas. I ended up writing an Opinion piece.
A few weeks later, I got my first validation in an email from Kate about my article: “It was well written.”
Four short words ended up changing my life.
Suddenly, my confidence was back. It wasn’t that I was a bad writer — it was just that I had too many opinions to write for any other section! I dove headfirst into writing for Opinion and worked my way up through assistant editorship to my current position of Opinion Editor. I also dabbled in other sections, including Campus & Community again, once I regained this confidence in myself.
This will be my 62nd article for The Miami Student. At this time, I’ve written for every section except for Sports. (That will change soon, Jack, I promise.)
I’ve covered everything from first impressions to gun violence, grief to all-day breakfast, the Friendship Tree to Bell Tower, potato rankings to being from Florida and lots and lots of coverage on Valentine’s Day. And that’s just a few of them.
If you had told me, when I was quitting The Student in October 2019, that I would not only return to the paper but also end up becoming an editor of two sections and a prolific writer, I would have laughed in your face.
But words fail me for the first time in my life as I try to describe how glad I am that I returned.
My TMS family is unlike any other found-family I’ve ever had. We share a sense of togetherness that can only be borne out of a common passion. We work together as a team, not because we need to, but because we want to. We are friends and family, in the purest sense.
I can ask in our Slack chat for a picture of a specific tree on campus and, 10 minutes later, it will be in my inbox, courtesy of Luke Macy. I can invite the entire TMS staff to my 22nd birthday party, where Taylor Swift-themed costumes were mandatory, and have them show up all in costume — Reece Hollowell slaying in a “The Man”-themed suit and Hannah Horsington in a handmade “Junior Jewels” shirt, to name a few.
I can complain to Abby Bammerlin about literally anything — she’s the best listening ear I know. I can bring any TMS problem I have ever had to Cosette Gunter-Stratton and she will always come up with a solution. I can throw last-minute changes at Soren Melbye and Macey Chamberlin and know they can roll with the punches. I can call Teddy Johnson my little brother, even though we’re not related in the slightest.
When I need a last-minute Food article, I can always turn to Maggie Peña. When it’s a newsroom chat between classes, I go to Meta Hoge. If it’s a board game partner or presidential running mate, Reagan Rude. If it’s an Opinion graphic, Hannah Potts — or a good game of Hangman, Sean Scott.
If it’s the best assistant editor/gossip partner/tattoo enthusiast/bagel arguer I could have ever asked for, I need to look no further than Devin Ankeney, my partner in crime, lamp-fixing and Opinion at The Student for the last year.
There are dozens of other people who’ve impacted my time here at The Student in ways I can never thank them enough for. If you’re someone I’ve interviewed, talked to, laughed with, written about or anything else related to the newspaper — all I can say is thank you, and I can’t say it enough.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
To all of my future loudmouthed, outspoken Opinion writers who have ever been told they have a smart mouth or they talk too much: no, you don’t. You are just fine the way you are.
I found the right outlet — and the right people, too, with it. Your outlet is out there. Your adventure is out there.
You just have to go out and find it.