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Monday, December 5, 2022

A journalist’s love letter to writing

How The California Aggie allowed me to pursue my passions

By MICHELLE WONG

Throughout my time at The California Aggie, I’ve learned a multitude of lessons — how to stay composed when interviewing professors, how to meet deadlines, how to speed-write an article in an hour to meet said deadline, etc. But above all, what The Aggie has taught me is my unrelenting, inescapable love for writing.

My undergraduate career has been a whirlwind of assignments, midterms, research, extracurriculars, plans with friends and more. There was always so much to do but not enough time. In this flurry of chaos, I have learned the art of letting go — that no matter how much I want to experience, I can’t do everything I want to and I have to prioritize some things over others. The problem was always determining what was worth prioritizing, what was most important to me.

I joined The Aggie as a volunteer staff writer for the science and technology desk back in fall quarter of my freshman year of college, October 2018. The one regret I had about my time in journalism during high school was not starting sooner, so I was determined to get involved right away. With a newfound confidence and a determination to empower those whose voices have been ignored, I dove headfirst into the challenges college journalism brought — intimidating professors, new writing standards and an unfamiliar campus. 

“If you find something that you love, something that brings you joy, something that brings you toward the person you want to be, don’t let go of it.”

Just in my freshman year, I learned so much about how to converse with various doctors and researchers, how to write professional emails and how to write science articles that could be understood by the general public. I felt my passion for journalism grow and was excited that I was producing content I could be proud of. Finally, I had found the perfect medium for combining my love for science with my passion for writing.

But I suppose all writers’ highs eventually ebb — despite the joy journalism gave me, as I was promoted to being a paid staff writer and I took on more and more outside of The Aggie, writing became more of a job than something I did for fun. Initially, writing was my escape from the STEM classes that consumed my time, a way to stay connected with the part of me that loved the arts and humanities. But as my mental and physical health deteriorated due to my inability to balance my schedule, I began to view my journalistic responsibilities as a hindrance to my academics and my goals of becoming a doctor. Ultimately, I made the decision to take a break from The Aggie. 

Looking back, although I regret taking this short hiatus, I suppose it was an occurrence that had to happen for me to realize how much I need — not want, but need — to write. No matter how busy my commitment to The Aggie made me, I was not content pursuing an education in science if I was not able to pursue my love for writing simultaneously. 

My friends in the STEM field often comment on how different and far apart my interests of medicine and journalism are. But I beg to differ. Both journalism and medicine have an ability to empower others, just in slightly different ways. To me, both professions involve listening and understanding someone’s story — their background, their pain, their joy — and serving as an advocate for them. Without my experience as a journalist, I am certain I would not be as confident in becoming the kind of doctor I aspire to be. Journalism has taught me not only professionalism, but compassion, kindness and understanding towards people from all walks of life. 

But back to the original plotline. My hiatus didn’t end up lasting for long — in fact, it was a few months at most. Despite “resigning” at the end of the school year, I offered to continue writing articles throughout the summer and ultimately reapplied in February 2020. Once again enveloped in the warm, welcoming environment that is The Aggie, I went on to become the assistant science and technology editor and ultimately joined the Editorial Board as the official science and technology editor where I have met some of the kindest, most inspirational people here at Davis. 

Being a journalist has become a part of my identity now, a part of myself that I am actually proud of. UC Davis is full of insanely accomplished and intelligent people, and it is so easy to become discouraged and spiral in one’s insecurities — believe me, I still do. Not often do I feel fit to be among such people, and oftentimes I dislike myself for not being smarter or, for lack of a better word, better. But when all else fails, my love for writing and journalism is something that I do, and always will, like about myself.

My love for writing has shown me the part of myself that needs to create. It is not a sharp pull, but rather a constant longing to produce something that has the potential to move others and evoke change. It is hard to put into words and it is rather unexplainable, but I think everyone has found, or will find, something that produces this feeling.

If you find something that you love, something that brings you joy, something that brings you toward the person you want to be, don’t let go of it. Perhaps you don’t know what you’re passionate about yet or you’re scared to pursue it. Maybe you’re like me and you think it’s better to push it off, to concentrate on “logically” how you should be spending your time at college. But I’ve found there’s something funny about passions — they don’t really go away. So do yourself a favor, and even if it goes beyond all reason (well, maybe shoot for a little within reason), pursue it anyway.

Written by: Michelle Wong  

Michelle Wong is The California Aggie’s current science and technology editor. She joined The Aggie in fall 2018 as a science and technology staff writer. In summer 2020, she took on the role of assistant science and technology editor, serving in that role until becoming the science and technology editor in July 2021. She is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in neurobiology, physiology and behavior with a minor in psychology.