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.