I’ve had the same shoe size since the fourth grade. It’s one of those weird facts I share at parties when I feel uncomfortable. I have a few pair of shoes that I’ve owned since then - most of them worn once or twice a year. I don’t outgrow a lot of things - I’m someone who was always okay with a lack of change.
A year ago I made the decision to change my major, chop off my hair, dump a few terrible friends, and embark on this crazy journey that has lead me to now. It was brash, impulsive, and so unlike the Ali everyone used know. I remember the insane reactions I received from friends, advisors, and mentors.
Now, about 365 days later, I’ve had more success than I could have ever imagined.
I’m not the same Ali from last year in so many ways - I’ve learned so much both professionally and personally. In a way, I’ve outgrown the old Ali.
I’m not saying that it’s been easy to get here. Besides one quick trip to Orlando in August, I haven’t been home since March. I miss my friends and family so much. When I saw my dad for the first time in months this week, I was so excited to spend just a few hours with him. I haven’t seen my best friends from back home since this summer. I won’t be heading home until a few days before Christmas… I’m working on a story that means a lot to me.
But there have been moments that have made it all worth it -
While I may have outgrown the old Ali Schmitz, I couldn’t be more pleased with how my professional life is turning out. It took a lot of risks, and a lot of change. I missed dinners, parties, weddings, and milestones. I spent the second half of my summer coming into the newsroom every day at 6:30AM, just because I wanted to learn more.
And this May, I move to Phoenix for a few months to report for News21… For those not familiar with the program, I have it linked here. I’m so grateful for the University of Florida’s support on this project - especially for the J-School’s Dean, Diane McFarlin, and Matt Sheehan and Ted Spiker, who served as faculty advisors. Accountability journalism (in the words of Len Downie) is so important to me - and I can’t believe I get to spend the summer covering voting rights.
This time next year, I don’t know where I’ll be. There’s a whole world for me to explore. I have no idea what medium I’ll be working in. I get a little nervous even thinking about it.
Hopefully, wherever I am, I’ll still have the same pair of vintage cowboy boots that I put on once or twice a year.
Multiplatform journalist. University of Florida Grad. Last seen at News21 and WUFT News.
"Good news is rare these days, and every glittering ounce of it should be cherished and hoarded and worshipped and fondled like a priceless diamond."