Ditching the plan

By Claire Anderson

(Courtesy of Claire Anderson)
(Courtesy of Claire Anderson)

I had a plan freshman year. A great plan.

I would stay at the University of Massachusetts for a year before transferring to the school I had been deferred from the year before. I would study biology, and become a doctor. But like most life plans, it crashed and burned.

The plan that was keeping me sane my tumultuous freshman year was shattered when I took chemistry, good bye GPA. I tried to hold onto the idea that everything was okay, that chemistry was just a bad hump in the road, but it was not. I just couldn’t bring myself to let go of the plan.

I felt like someone had suddenly ripped the rug out from under me and I was falling. After some wallowing, I gathered what courage I had left and in a snap decision partly fueled by anger and partly just to prove to myself that I was still good at something. I came to The Massachusetts Daily Collegian. I was always a pretty good writer and thought a different hobby would give me some stability.

My first printed piece was an opinion piece, and was quickly ripped apart by the night editor. She didn’t like it because the piece was dry, too much like a class paper instead of an opinion piece. I had no idea what to do, again feeling like a rug had been pulled out from under me. She sat me in front of a computer in the Collegian offices and made me think: what did I want to say with my 750 words? Why would the topic of presidential nominee Newt Gingrich’s proposal of sending people to live on a moon base apply to anyone?

I started reflecting on how silly the proposal was, and my mind leaped to the idea of living in space, then to the neon jumpsuits and funky earrings in Disney’s “Zenon.” I realized the column needed some spark, some of my strange brain leaps. It was a weird night, but by the end I was all set to be published in the next morning’s paper. I left the offices with a high that I have been chasing ever since.

Joining the Collegian was one of the best things I did while at UMass. It broke me out of my boring shell and inspired me to abandon the plan. I started spending more time at the Collegian, writing articles and annoying the other columnists until I realized I was hanging out in the offices just for fun. The Collegian became one of my favorite places to be and remains my favorite spot on campus.

Despite the fact that I loved the newspaper and that my plan had burst into flames, I wasn’t prepared to be a journalism major. Instead I created my own major through BDIC, one of the hidden gems at UMass. I took all kinds of classes, including some at Amherst College, where I saw a lot of pastel outfits that I could never pull off but also made some great friends. I went abroad for a year, spent one semester in Brazil, before hopping continents and studied in Germany for a semester.

Journalism is exciting. I never know where a story will take me, whether it is a government protest in Brazil – best protest ever – or a veteran’s march. I found my home with the Collegian and storytelling. It sounds corny, even writing the words I can tell you are rolling your eyes. This year I represented the Collegian at the Neiman Foundation’s college journalism conference, covered UMass’ reaction to the Super Bowl, reported on heroin addiction in western Massachusetts and lost 10 pounds – how was your senior year?

Ditch your plan, life works out so much better after you let it go.

Claire Anderson was the Op/Ed Senior Producer and can be reached at [email protected]