Editors Marissa Burr and Sydney Umstead discuss the inspiration their recent trip to San Francisco had on their outlook on life.
Marissa Burr, Opinion Section Editor
My mind is always running rampant with questions: Should I do this? Wouldn’t it be easier to just stay within the safety of my apartment? Does anybody even want me there? The minutes before the plane took off to San Francisco for The Griffin’s editorial trip were no different. I’d had anxiety about the whole thing for weeks, and it had ramped up nearly to a full panic attack as I was sitting at the gate.
“It’ll be better if I just don’t go.”
Three of us ended up on a separate plane a few hours later. The waiting time should’ve helped calm me down, but it just kept me at a high level of panic through the airport for the second time that day. Well, my brain called bullsh** on my anxieties, and I got on the plane anyway. The intrusive thoughts didn’t leave though — not by a long shot. The next 12 hours of traveling were filled with worry and stress for absolutely no reason other than the fact that my mind thinks everything in the world is trying to kill me.
The moment I realized everything would be okay? When I stepped out of the Uber from the airport to the hotel, Managing Editor Pat Healy was waiting for us and gave me the biggest hug. Those ten seconds crushed every insecurity I’d had up until that point. If nothing else, he wanted me there and was glad that I had braved the journey.
The next morning a few anxious thoughts popped back up; what if the rest of the group thought I was weird for having been so anxious?
“Maybe I shouldn’t have come.”
As the glass elevator settled onto the first floor where those who had arrived yesterday were waiting, my heart sank with it into a pit in my stomach: Features Editor Ava Green pulled it back up with a smile and a cheerful greeting. Everyone wanted to know how I was doing, and in that moment I just felt so loved, and I knew I’d made the right choice.
That feeling was only amplified throughout the rest of the weekend. With my friends by my side, I braved public transportation, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and walking miles through a new city — all things that I never dreamed I would ever be able to do because of my anxieties.
When joining The Griffin this school year, I was afraid I wouldn’t fit in. I was new, and because of social anxiety, I had a hard time making friends. I really was only close with my head editors Julia Barth and Healy, as well as the girl who made me an Opinion editor to begin with, Grace Brown. I grew closer with Sara Umbrell and Liz Shingler (layout directors) through milkshake excursions, but overall I didn’t talk to many people during our Thursday meetings. Everything changed in California, though. I shared some of my hardest experiences with them, and instead of being met with judgment or an awkward silence — like my anxieties said I would — I was embraced and given an unending amount of support.
The conference made me a better writer, the miles logged made me a better traveler and the experience all together made me a better person. I have nine new best friends who I know will be there for me through anything. With them by my side, I feel positive about going through the rest of the year. I am ready to begin the best chapter of my life thanks to them.
I only have one question to ask myself now: will you ever let anxiety stop you from growing as a person again?
Sydney Umstead, News Section Editor
During the trip to San Francisco, I kept stumbling upon angel numbers, which are numbers that appear in synchrony, like 333 and 555. These numbers are allegedly universal signs that indicate a direction someone’s life may be taking. I felt like they were a sign that this trip, and what I’d take away from it showed me what I was meant to be doing. For the first time in a while, my belief that everything happens for a reason was reaffirmed, and this trip was proof of that. Months ago, I lost the pendant to my “The World” tarot card necklace, and as hard as I scoured my floor, I had no luck. People have said before that this means it has served its purpose and is no longer needed; so the necklace was gone into the abyss of my room, and I accepted that.
Miraculously, when I got home from the trip, it was there, appeared suddenly onto my floor. I know not everyone believes in these things, but to me they were a sign that I am on the cusp of what I was meant to do. The idea that there are moments in life — like plot points — that redefine an identity.
I have a tattoo below my collarbone that was stolen from Slyvia Plath’s journals, inspired by the idea that character is fate. Plath wrote, “If character is fate, I sure am adjusting mine under my lucky star.” For me, the trip to San Francisco was a redefining of my character and therefore my fate.
Strangely, if you talked to me at the start of the semester, I would’ve told you that one of my dream destinations was San Francisco. I grew up watching the TV show “Charmed” and in turn fell in love with the city. The nostalgia and the architecture are a part of the person I have become, and I see my own history in the seasons. To see the city, especially the painted ladies, was like giving back to my childhood.
My senior quote was from a line in “The Princess Diaries” that quotes Eleanor Roosevelt. We watched that movie in room five the first night of the trip. So I think it’s safe to say a part of me has always felt called to San Francisco. This experience has shown me parts of my identity that I have often been too scared to reveal.
There’s a quote from the novel “Let The Great World Spin” by Colum McCann that reads, “The world spins. We stumble on. It is enough.”. I believe that this experience is proof of accepting life’s little shifts and stumbling through them, because in a few small footsteps I stumbled into my dreams. If you asked me to pinpoint some character flaws of mine, one would definitely be my infinite fear of speaking. Yes, I’ve taken public speaking classes: no, they did not help. For me, I’m afraid that because I cannot control someone’s opinion about me, it is a personal failure if they do not like me. So I’ve often taken my position as a wallflower and accepted it. But this trip changed something internally.
I was suddenly placed into a group of people who individually I admired, and I gradually began to become less afraid of how they may interpret me. Following the trip, I’ve noticed that, for whatever reason, I’m more comfortable in my skin. I’m learning now more than ever that the best I can do is be myself and be kind. I don’t know if it’s from the sessions about embracing who you are and using that in your journalism abilities or the fact that I let my walls down and saw that the lurking voice of negativity that has consumed me was internal.
There is a border I’ve been attempting to cross since moving to Buffalo in the fall, and that is navigating the separation between the ghosts of my past and the person I have fought tooth and nail to become. I have lived, and in a way I have accomplished something that seemed impossible. As Tracy Chapman wrote in her song “Fast Car,” “Starting from zero got nothing to lose, maybe we'll make something. Me, myself, I got nothing to prove.”
If anyone reading this has had moments where they questioned their path, embrace and take note of how the experiences have made you feel. You may just stumble on to what you were meant to do.