Then and Now
It was a culture shock unlike anything I’d ever experienced. One minute our crowded grey vans full of energized youth are driving through the rich beach-front avenues of San Diego and Chula Vista, Cali. The next, we’re crossing the border into the cardboard-box neighborhoods of Tijuana, Mexico. Homeless children chased mangy stray dogs and rugged men, aged prematurely by the elements, watched as we wound into the heart of the city. We pampered Missourians were there for one reason: to lend our sweat and blood to a family of six so they could have a roof over their heads. For two weeks, as the temperatures reached 110 degrees and 40-pound buckets splashed skin-burning concrete onto our arms and legs, we saw another world.
On that first day in Mexico, I finally realized how I could make a difference. Every person we met had a story. They didn’t have to be Hollywood starlets or local philanthropic millionaires to have an impact on our lives. I just never would have known if we didn’t cross that barrier and find the tales out there.
Like most journalists, the opportunity to travel abroad and write about experiences is one reason you dream about the profession. Mexico was my first chance to travel outside the U.S. and outside my comfort zone. But the passion for writing started long before that. There was just something about the written word that intrigued me. As a young girl, sitting in my parent’s backyard and finding inspiration from even the smallest things around me, I started weaving words together into fiction, diary logs, and even theatrical plays.
I applied to the Missouri Academy my sophomore year of high school. A math and science school, the Dean even said during a preview day, “If you plan on being a journalist, this isn’t the place for you.” Yet, it was the best two years of my life. The Academy helped students mature much sooner than our hometown peers and certainly prepared me for the stresses of college.
Even among the data-driven world of physics and calculus, my passion for journalism grew. So when it came time for picking a school, the University of Missouri was the only place to apply. As my family joked, of all the Academy graduates that will be multi-million dollar scientists and engineers and I had to become a journalist.
Three years at MU — filled with an accelerated magazine sequence program, Marching Mizzou, a biology minor and Mizzou Tigers for Tigers — led into a year of graduate school.
November 2007 was a good month. My high school crush, then a Corporal in the Marine Corps, proposed at the last home football game in front of 60,000 of my “closest friends.” I was finishing up a magazine redesign project that would later lead to a future job. And I found out I was one of 50 students going to Beijing as a part of the Summer Olympics program.
The ability to travel to a place like China, with its history and copious traditions, will be like opening my eyes again for the first time. My father and friends joke that it was simply another way for me to talk more about sports, which in part is true. I’ve always had a love for athletics and religiously follow anything that’s in season. But moreover, I want to get the stories behind the games. What other chance will a journalist get to experience so many cultures and traditions in one place at one time?
I wanted to know about the athlete who has always dreamed about standing on the podium or the little girl seeing a gymnast for the first time and a whole new dream beginning. I wanted to paint a picture for the millions of other people who never get to experience something unworldly.
Dreams always fly by, and amazingly so do two months in a foreign country. I returned home to a dream first job in the health care profession, a new apartment, and a new life as a married woman. One thing is for sure, life is never boring.