Choosing Passion Over Fear


(Hunter Benegas / The Fordham Ram)

At the end of 2019, I was set to be the news editor for the Fordham Ram and the vice president of the Theatrical Outreach Program; 2020 was supposed to be my “big” year. I finally declared my double major, and I was working on the most creatively fulfilling theater project of my Fordham career. I started this year at the top of my game, having finally achieved all of the things I worked so hard for over the past two years. 

But come March, all of my carefully laid plans came crashing down around me. And if I’m honest, I hadn’t been handling everything so seamlessly before COVID-19 hit either. Everything I thought I knew went out the window, and I felt like I was back at square one, struggling to figure out what to do next. 

I no longer felt excitement and pride for my work. I only felt fear. Fear of the future. Fear of loss. Fear of the unknown. 

But reflecting back on that time, I know what got me through it was the same drive that got me to the Ram in the first place. 

I have the same ‘doe-eyed, scared freshman at the club fair’ story that many of our staff members have when they talk about how they ended up here. I signed up, I went to a writers meeting and I decided to start slow. I copy edited for a semester because I was too scared to write anything. I didn’t know how to write the news. I didn’t know how to interview people. I figured I’d just sit and watch for a while. 

What changed all of that was an email asking if anyone wanted to write the USG column. I was scared of not knowing what I was doing. I was afraid of looking stupid. But I responded to the email anyway. 

Flash forward a year later, I sent in a staff application to be an assistant news editor. I remember the morning of my interview like it was yesterday. I was so anxious that I was afraid I would throw up. But I forced myself to show up. 

Most of my time at the Ram could be summarized as “I was scared, but I did it anyway.” I was scared to add my name to that email list. I was scared to write that column. I was scared to do that interview. A career in journalism does not make a lot of sense for me. I’m an introvert; I don’t like being pushy, and talking on the phone makes me anxious. 

But part of the reason I love this work is because it forces me to leave my comfort zone every single day. I have the privilege of talking to interesting people and telling their stories to a broader audience. I get to write all day every day. The Ram has given me real world experience within a comfortable context. 

I barely followed the news two years ago, but now I read the New York Times and listen to NPR every morning as soon as I wake up. I even own an AP style guide (but it’s the 2018 edition and therefore irrelevant). Not only did I move past my fear — I leaned into it so hard that it consumed my whole world. 

The number of events I’ve skipped, hangouts I’ve left early and long nights I’ve pulled because of the news would blow your mind. If there’s breaking news, I can’t focus on anything else. But I am happy to make those sacrifices for this job. 

And the thing I love the most about the Ram is that despite how crazy I might sound to an average reader, the people on this staff completely understand what I’m talking about —  Working with people who care so deeply about the same things you do make the bad times okay and the good times even better. At the end of the day, the people I have the pleasure of doing this with are what makes it so great. 

Being the news editor has been both the greatest challenge and the greatest honor of my time here at Fordham. Having this experience has been so valuable to my skills as a journalist, my skills as a leader and has reinforced the idea that putting yourself out there is worth it. It pushes me to be the best I can be for my writers, for my staff and for the people that read our work. 

I want to thank Aislinn Keely and Erica Scalise for teaching me everything I know about the news and for teaching me how to push past the obstacles that seem impossible. 

Thank you to Helen Stevenson for always answering my phone calls (and for literally everything else.) I feel like you’re in my brain sometimes. It has been an honor having you as my boss for the last two years. 

Thank you to Eliot Schiaparelli for being my fellow assistant news editor. The nights spent in B-52 writing bad headlines and fighting over the photo of the week are some of my favorite memories at the Ram.  

Thank you to Joergen and Hasna for rolling with the punches and picking up my slack. And thank you to the rest of the staff of Volume 101 and 102 for supporting me in all my crazy endeavors. You all are better than most. 

Lastly, thank you to my roommate Becca for listening to me constantly complain about Fordham and the news over the last three years. Thank you for not getting annoyed when I eat crunchy snacks at 2 a.m. on Tuesday nights. Thank you for ordering pizza on production nights this semester to help me feel more normal. I could not do this job without you. 

I never could have imagined that my last semester as a Ram staff member would look like this. But it helps me to reflect and appreciate how far I have come and how resilient this group of people is. If I had to give a piece of advice to the future of the Ram, I’d say don’t let fear consume you. Feel what you’re feeling, and do the damn thing anyway.