Anxious is a state with which I’m well-acquainted. Like a sweater that’s faded and worn-in, I habitually cloak myself in nerves. I don’t have an anxiety condition that I know of, but a quick perusal of the nervous natures which populate my family tree would seem to indicate that worry is an unavoidable inheritance.
As I head into the final few issues of my term as EIC, I’m taking stock of what I’ve learned over the last year guiding our beaut of a paper. The first thing that comes to mind when I consider how the past eight months have affected me is learning to deal with stress.
This job has been simultaneously one of the most rewarding and exhausting experiences of my life. I’ve had to let go of two staff members, received immediate resignations from three, handed out several disciplinary warnings, and dealt with myriad problems ranging from our InDesign program crashing midway through a production night, to cutting a section. I’ve learned that I’m passionate and get riled up in defence of the paper, and that having other people’s help is way better than attempting to function solo.
It always seems like the end of the world. The Nervous Nellie that I am, I’ll spend sleepless nights worrying about what will happen to the paper, thinking in circles about how I can fix a problem. It’s like if I think long and hard about the issue, I can make it disappear. Not surprisingly, grinding my teeth and indulging in my nerves doesn’t accomplish much other than making my dentist a very rich fellow.
Every EIC who’s come before me has their own horror stories, their battle scars that they’ll grimly show over a bottle of wine or a shot of whiskey. Being in charge isn’t facile, and anyone who assumes the person fielding all the problems has it easy is kidding themselves.
But as many problems as arise, things have always worked out. No problem, no matter how seemingly massive and unconquerable, has destroyed our newspaper in the 41 (goin’ on 42!) volumes that it’s been around. It doesn’t mean that we’re invincible, but that problems can just about always be dealt with and mitigated. For someone like myself—whose stress is written into my receding gum line, my cracked and ripped cuticles, and my tea dependency—that’s been a difficult but important lesson.
Don’t get me wrong: my brow still furrows, and I still get a pit of dread in my stomach when I get wind of another problem. Worry is ingrained into my very being—my mom teased me about being a “worry wart” back when I was in elementary school—and that mental pattern ain’t changing anytime soon. But I’ve come to recognize that these problems are all manageable, and that my worry won’t accomplish anything. I still do it, but it’s become easier for me to pause, breathe, and figure out how to shovel the bullshit.
We’ve all got problems, complete catastrophes that come up at the most inopportune of times. It’s alright, and probably unavoidable, to indulge in some worry, and I know that not all problems will be dealt with seamlessly; I’m incredibly fortunate to have a crackerjack team of bulldog staff on my side. You can’t always change the problems, but you can change your outlook and attempt to approach those behemoth obstacles with a modicum of calm. So crank some Streisand and shout that nobody’s gonna rain on your parade, because honey, you’ve got this.