Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 21
The final Benchwarmer: Change brings new opportunity
By KRISTINA SEWELL
I have been in this position too many times to count now—the 90-degree angle of my body molds to the chair as if by second nature. And as with each time before, I sit here with a keyboard beneath my fingertips, an empty screen full of possibility in front of my face.
While the words came so easily before—spinning tales, fingers flying to meet deadlines—my mind is now blank. Admittedly, writing has come as naturally to me as breathing. From a young age, I chose to wield a pen as my paintbrush, creating pictures and feelings with words I couldn’t say aloud. But the usual stream of words that bombards my mind is quiet today.
There are 26 letters on the keyboard in front of me—stained with remnants of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The smooth plastic contours to the pads of my fingertips, so many combinations and possibilities beneath them … waiting.
But how do you capture with words what it is I’m feeling right now? How in 1,000 words or less can I possibly convey my appreciation, sadness, and fondness for this connection I must finally sever?
It was a connection that began three years ago when I walked into the Santa Maria Sun office. Fresh out of college with a conflicted identity, I reached out to make a niche for myself in the one area I ever felt confident—writing.
There were sets of brown-carpeted stairs that lead to the editorial office; I stood staring at them for a long time today. I thought about the first time I climbed them—nervous and desperate for any kind of chance to contribute as a working adult. And that same day, I walked down the stairs with opportunity in my pocket.
Thinking back on how the last three years have unfolded for me, it gives me pause. It’s an amazing phenomenon of human existence; we take risks and make choices—on the daily, never really knowing how they will work out or what trials and tribulations they will bring. When I decided to accept an internship with the Sun, I had no idea that it would lead to me becoming the sports writer for the paper.
As I reflect on this position and the time here, I realize I think of it as more than just a job. When you think of it as “just a job,” you relegate its existence to be nothing more than superficial—a means to a financial end. But jobs should be regarded with the value they bring to your character and sense of place in the world. But this was more than just a job; it was my first job out of college—those are memories that stick with you. My time at the Sun has taught me a host of valuable life lessons, some that can’t even be put into words on this page.
When I started out, I was very shy and the thought of striking up conversations with random strangers frightened me. I even made phone calls in private. I was a latecomer to the world of newspaper writing; I spent most of my time in college writing in the thesis-driven style of an English graduate. What I knew about newspapers came from my brief experience with my collegiate publication, and my infatuation with Rolling Stone. At 23, I wasn’t sure if journalism would be my chosen life path. All I knew was that I loved to write and would take any chance I could get.
Luckily for me, a passion for writing was all the Sun needed to make me the writer I am today. After working as an intern and freelancer, I started writing more for the sports section. Our former sports writer took another position out of town, and they asked me to step in. I jumped at the opportunity like a fly on a fresh pile of manure.
And that’s how I went from being the quiet intern to The Benchwarmer. I went from fearing interviews to walking confidently into a gym full of men and holding out my hand for a handshake. I went from flowery, literary analyst to sarcastic, pro-human sports writer with a penchant for equality and integrity in sports, the Green Bay Packers, and baseball. Every time I went up and down those brown stairs, I could feel myself growing more confident, more connected to the community, and more sure of my abilities as a writer.
I’ve been given time to discover my voice, while having the chance to pursue other career paths. But most of all, I’ve been given time to learn about myself and the world around me. Here are some prize jewels I will take with me:
• Journalists are the keepers of fair information; there is no room for corruption.
• Apparently, chauvinism still exists in sports.
• You can’t control the news or the weather, just yourself.
• There are crazy people—everywhere.
• My ability to write is a gift to be used, not wasted, no matter where I am.
That certainly isn’t everything; after all, I have three years of memories under my belt. Three is a short time for some, but time is nothing to those who prefer value.
Leaving my position at the Sun ultimately represents an enormous life change for me. Now, I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which in turn spawns some other control issues (cough, cough), so change is something I can handle if I’m well prepared. Though I have been prepared for this change for months now, it doesn’t alter the fact that change is scary, and I’m not too proud to admit there has been anxiety.
But at the age of 25, I stand on the brink of inevitable change. My life must continue to move forward; for that’s the only direction the universe gave us. Oddly enough, when I think of change, I think of the speech my college’s valedictorian gave.
Change for me will come in the form of leaving my current jobs to pursue a teaching career. This coming fall, I will take on student teaching at a local junior high school (I aim to teach language arts at this grade level). I decided to become a teacher after working with Special Education students. Much to my own surprise, I discovered how much I loved being around kids and in a classroom.
Becoming a teacher is much easier said than done I move forward in this journey with the faith that I have what it takes to be a successful instructor, but more so an inspiration to kids in the community. The legacy of my writing will continue with my own endeavors, as well as through my teaching. I will begin a new legacy as a teacher, following in the steps of my mother and soon to be followed by my younger sister.
My memories at the newspaper will stick with me forever, encapsulated in the yellowing pages of my personal collection. But though the pages will fade, the friendships I’ve made here and the lessons I’ve learned will shine forever.
So while I have a few words left …
Thank you to everyone at the Sun who has helped me on this journey. You all took me in, made me a part of our small, quirky journalist family, and showed me how to become a better writer. You all helped me through my struggles—both personal and professional. Thank you for the notes in the kitchen, beer tasting, and air-conditioning wars. But most of all, thank you for the opportunity.
And for you my fellow sports fans … thank you for reading, putting up with my seemingly endless line of occasionally tasteless sports humor, and helping me believe in the power of my writing.
I may not know a lot, but I’ll always be your Benchwarmer.
Staff Writer Kristina Sewell is on to greener pastures. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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