A Letter To My Past Self: Lessons Learned and Lived

Dear 2020-Era Alexandra,

Hi, past me! This is the future you from April 2021.

I hope this finds you well I know exactly has this finds you. Amid this global pandemic, isolation, bad news and discouragement are constants in your life.

Saying that everything is going to be okay sounds cliché, so this encouraging letter is backed up by your actual future experiences.

For the past two years, you have worked hours away from your newsroom, but COVID-19 has escalated loneliness and eliminated any remedies that made you feel connected to the world.

But, Alex, take it from Alex – things will be looking up.

It all starts when you fill out an application for the Gwen Ifill Mentorship Program through IWMF.

In Summer 2020, you will have your first meeting with the other fellows – an amazing group of writers, photographers, and reporters of all kinds telling stories around the world.

And you’ll also soon meet your amazing mentor, Stephanie Foo. Of course, you look up to (and enjoy!) her work, but having her as a mentor will change your outlook and life.

In your first phone conversation, you’ll find yourself being more honest with her than you have been with yourself. This will set in motion a change in your life where you’ll start to forthright in talking about your experiences.

You’ll also talk with her about your experiences as a woman of color in journalism. Remember those things you’ve stowed away over the years? Well, you’ll be thinking about your reporting experiences in a new light. But, I am pleased to tell you that you’ll start to see them in a new way, and using the lessons learned to help you going forward.

These conversations will also inspire you to start thinking about public media and your place in it. Alex, you think you know what you want to do and where you want to be, but soon, those plans are going to be challenged. When Stephanie asks you about a podcast you’d like to do, you realize you don’t have all the answers you think. And that maybe there are other ways to do audio storytelling.

You’ll ask yourself, “What exactly am I doing? And do I like it?”

Find me one person on earth, journalist or not, whose plans, no matter how well laid, went accordingly. It’s okay to change, rethink and revaluate plans – whether it’s small as what you want for dinner or as big as what you want to do.

Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes.

I’ve spoken to you a lot about your goals and career, but your mentor is also an understanding and kind person. You are not even halfway through 2020, but there will be a lot to cover. However, you will be encouraged to look out for your own physical and mental health. Soon, you’ll notice that the better state of mind and health you’re in, the better your work is going forward.

The second half of 2020 sees you changing time zones and moving to Charlotte, where you’ll be working (still, from home) for a very supportive newsroom. As I write this, I am so excited for you to meet your future editor and newsroom leaders. You’ll have your newsroom, IWMF and your other fellowship to be there for you. There also will be so many reporters from afar who will be speaking out and wanting to make changes.

Changes are coming to journalism.

Of course, it’s not solely up to you or any other reporters to solve the many disparities in journalism. But you’ll be inspired to start a new cycle. You learn a lot from Stephanie, and you want to pass it on in some form. You don’t believe in the toxic belief that all journalists must “pay their dues” to the detriment of their well-being, but you hope that you can be somebody’s Stephanie someday in some form.

Oh, Alex, you’re going to learn so much. You will learn a lot from your mentor during this time, and you’ll be able to apply your mindset going forward in the future. The fellowship may be coming to an end soon, but what you have learned will stay with you for a long time.

I’ll end this letter here. You (and the world) still have a lot to go through in 2020.

But for now, get that application in for IWMF!


Future Alexandra

P.S. We got bangs again in 2021. I’m sorry in advance.