Anxious Maria finds voice in Daily Texan basement, remains anxious

Maria Mendez

After my first semester as a senior reporter for The Daily Texan in the fall semester of 2017, Peter told me, “When you first started, I didn’t think you were very good, but you’ve become one of our best reporters.”

I was shocked to receive a compliment from our adviser, who rarely says stories are good. But I wasn’t surprised by his initial doubt. I had already told myself the reasons I wasn’t cut out to be a journalist:

I didn’t grow up regularly watching the news or reading newspapers. My grandmother didn’t even know how to read and write. My mom, who moved us to the U.S. in search of more opportunities than the ones our tiny Mexican hometown could offer, didn’t have time to follow news while she worked to provide for us. I’m also too quiet and often perplexed by anxiety.

But when I joined the Texan, I found that my experiences as a Latina immigrant, first-generation college student and introvert made me a stronger reporter. They helped me share the stories of underrepresented communities, including fellow immigrant and first-gen students who trusted me with their stories.

I still feel doubt, but in most cases, I deliver a good story. And, yes, I’ve made mistakes, but I continue to grow.

So dear young, doubtful journalists out there — yes, I’m looking at you @anxious_maria — know that you belong at the Texan and that your story and ideas are valuable. 

Don’t be afraid to raise your voice and other people’s voices in a newsroom that may still not reflect your communities. 

Don’t be afraid to make yourself at home, especially among all the amazing people in the Texan’s dingy basement. Here are a few I met:

Lisa, you forced me to quit commitments to join the Texan. I love you for that. Keep forcing students to join with your passion and kindness.

Kayla, my first editor, thanks for hiring me and showing me that you can have mental health struggles and still be a kick-ass journalist. 

Ellie, you’ve taken so many chances on me — from hiring me as an SR to letting me pursue all my ideas and looooong stories. I hope I made you proud, News Queen.

Forrest, when we first met, I said you were “legendary.” I still believe it. Your passion for journalism has taught me so much.

Juan and Rachel, thank you for supporting me during my crises of confidence. Your amazing photos will take you far, but I hope we remain close.

Catherine, you will be an incredible managing editor. Go bird girl!

Tiana, Megan, Meghan and all you prolific young journalists: Thank you for your work. You’ll make us retiring DT folks proud.

Peter, thanks for the many critiques that pushed me to improve.

And thanks, Daily Texan, for giving me a space to find my voice.