Dearest students, parents, teachers, alumni, fellow-bloggers, loved ones/liked ones,
The headline of this “article” (though it is a letter) is Letter from the editor and I am the one writing it which means I am “the editor.”
In the first week of my senior year in journalism, I was named Editor-in-Chief.
Editor-in-Chief is the quarterback in the world of journalism. People work hard for high titles like quarterback, student body president, CEO, etc. And here I was feeling like it wasn’t something I necessarily worked or strived for. I just like to throw all of myself into what I do and this is where it landed me. As a junior I wrote my stories, I met deadlines, and I helped out when needed, but the goal was never to come to McNick or take journalism to begin with, let alone take it another year and become Editor-in-Chief. I can write, but journalistic writing is not my preferred style. There are no rules in writing, but there are rules in journalism — rules I don’t always like to follow. I always thought (and still do) the best I can do is fix minor spelling and grammar mistakes. Even still, I put commas everywhere in my writing that always end up needing to be taken out. After two years, I still don’t even really know how the Microsoft Word review feature works. What I’m trying to say is that Editor-in-Chief is the “top-dog” and I am far from a master in the topic, adequate would be questionable too. Even still, I was named Editor-in-Chief. The Milestone was not something I ever planned to be involved in, but I’m certainly glad I was. This letter is a letter not necessarily an article, and so I have a bit more freedom in the style I write. I want to start by saying thank you.
To those I addressed above: Thank you. Thank you for reading our stories. Whether you read all of them, only the ones about sports, ones you were featured in, or participated in the occasional quiz. On behalf of the entire Milestone staff, thank you. Your thumbs-ups and even your thumbs-down encouraged us to keep writing. And as I ended every Monday publicity email, “The Milestone is written by students, for students,” thank you especially to the students of McNicholas High School who sent in story ideas, willingly or begrudgingly left class for a few minutes to be interviewed, answered our surveys and constant emails, and let us know with a simple thumbs-up that our hard work was not going unnoticed. Without you, there would be no need for a student-run newspaper.
To the Milestone staff: Thank you. Thank you for the 11 p.m. emails with your stories. Thank you for looking to me for guidance and edits. Thank you to Paula Zalar and Kristen Van Huss, my co-editors who deserve just as much praise and recognition. I believe it would have been humanly impossible to edit 8+ stories a week on my own. Thank you for the laughs, leading and editing with me, and making stressful Milestone Mondays bearable. Thank you to Lauren Cox for your well thought out story pitches and insightful current event discussions that always left me knowing more than what I did before. Thank you for being my best friend. Thank you to Cassidy Jacobs for your compassion for others that shined through each of your editorials — whether you wrote about people needing to be more careful with their words or the dangers of cancel culture. Thank you to Audrey Hurlburt and Amanda Braig for being the first freshmen in Journalism ever and for not being afraid to put yourself out there your first year of high school. Thank you for looking up to me. Thank you to Jackson White and Kyler Helvey for letting me experience a journalism class with at least a few boys, something that wasn’t the case my junior year. I think I speak for everyone on staff when I say I admire the brotherhood that was witnessed through every Q&A you both wrote together. Thank you to Sammy Waterman for your timeliness in getting stories to me and your willingness to complete any needed task, and Charlie Everhart for your easy-going personality that let you always be willing to put others needs before your own.
Thank you to the journalists and writers I’ve crossed paths with either by my journey through high school in general or my work with the Milestone directly. Thank you to Lauren Fisher (’15), Katie Limberg (’20), Mark Curnutte, and Brian Combs –to name just a few — for inspiring me through your own writing and journalism journeys. And thank you to my favorite authors Anne Lamott and Chanel Miller for making me feel at peace with pursuing my craft as a career. (Though the chances of either of you reading this is probably less than 1%.)
Thank you to McNicholas High School for the good, the bad, and the ugly. All of it. The good like my two best friends I can confidently call my sisters and 116 other friends I can call my siblings. I mean it. The good like the teachers who have taught me and not, who root for me from the sidelines, keep me afloat, and treat me like I am their own. Thank you for the bad and the ugly for giving me the opportunity for triumph in my life and to at least try to come out on the other side better than I’ve ever been and more importantly share with others how I managed to do so. Thank you for the bad and the ugly for giving me something to write about. Remember that pain is a part of life, and to experience it is a reminder you are living a full one.
And of course, thank you to Mrs. Noble. Thank you for assigning me the responsibility of Editor-in-Chief, a title of which I didn’t think I was worthy, and one that at one point, I didn’t even want. Thank you for editing every single piece of writing I ever asked for your guidance on, whether it be an email, a speech, a thank you note, a college essay, an article, or a Scholastic entry. Thank you for your constructive criticism and for holding me accountable when the tone in my writing was definitely too much and far from journalistic. Thank you for answering all of the emails and Teams messages and for making room on your plate for me for things both journalism related and not. (I know, “things” is a taboo.) Simply put, thank you for believing in my writing and believing in me. (I know, that is a cliché.)
To everyone: Write and don’t stop. As author Anne Lamott wrote in her book Bird by Bird: “One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life as it lurches by and tramps around.” Write down compliments people give you to re-read when you feel like you can’t go on, write down words you overhear to look up later and use in your next English essay, write down funny jokes and steal them for your next conversation, write down euphoric experiences and awkward situations because maybe you’ll write a memoir one day and could use them. When you write, it’s impossible to forget. Writing is the soul in its purest form.
To the Class of 2021: Some may argue that due to Covid, we got the “short end of the stick,” and therefore didn’t get much of a 4th year of high school. With Covid disrupting and canceling many of the traditional senior activities like a Homecoming and Mardi Gras dance, student sections, Appalachian service retreats and more, it’s easy to feel like we missed out on what just about every other graduating class got to experience. To that I say this: Take the joy you would have felt on the night of a senior Homecoming or Mardi Gras Dance, the spirit you would have felt during those Friday night football games, and the compassion you would have felt while serving those in the Appalachian Mountains- take all of what you missed out on during your fourth year of high school, acknowledge it and hold it near to your heart, and with it all in mind, live the 4th.
Writers bleed on paper. They word-vomit everywhere. Writing can lessen the weight of what happens to you and around you, because Anne Lamott also said: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
Remember that the best writing is real; authentic. It holds nothing back.
Thank you to everyone. For reading, for believing, for listening, for being.
Olivia Elizabeth Rohling | Editor-in-Chief
Dust yourself off, and go on.