Building My Confidence, Question By Question

By Savannah Joyner

Barnwell, S.C.

I was burning with embarrassment as I walked the humid streets of New Jersey. It was only my first day at the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program, but I still felt disappointed with myself.

My rapid footsteps on the paved sidewalk matched the pace of my heart. My person-on-the-street story about the 2020 election was not going so well. I breathed out.

A good journalist doesn’t give up on the first failure, so I couldn’t give up. I saw another person coming. I tried to speak but the words got caught in my throat. Time and again, I would find the courage to speak, and then I would choke.

My group and I walked to a small park, where I saw a woman with a dog. With a little push from my counselor, I approached.

“Hi, my name is Savannah and I’m a student journalist. Can I ask you a few questions about the 2020 Democratic debates?”

“Yeah, sure.”

My heart leaped with joy. Her dog shared the same emotion, as he jumped on me excitedly.

The woman’s name was Louise and she was 24, a native of Princeton.

“Who are your favorite candidates so far?” I asked.

“I would have to say Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. They agree about work, unions, civil liberties, and they know that the current administration is toxic.”

“Who do you think would win the 2020 election?”

“Umm, I’d have to say Bernie.”

My heart was racing but this time in a good way. Success.

As I left the park, I felt my anxiety begin to leave, and in its place, I felt confidence begin to bloom. I began to believe that I could do it. My heart rate slowed. I walked further, ignoring potential interviewees, because I didn’t want to lose this victory.

Eventually I stopped in front of a cute brick restaurant, which was where I met George, a 69-year-old Princeton resident. He said that his favorite candidates were Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.

Most people associate Elizabeth Warren with Bernie Sanders. I asked him to explain his picks.

“I like how professional Elizabeth Warren is. She has a plan and goes point by point. And I like Kamala because of her experience in government.”

Walking away, I felt the self-doubt creeping back. What if I wrote a terrible article? What if I didn’t do well enough?

When I got back to my dorm, I went to sleep conflicted. I felt success for doing two interviews, but I also felt failure for not doing more.

Three days later, I found myself having to do person-on-the-street reporting again. But this time, the game was different—and the pressure even greater. I would have to walk the streets of New York City and ask its denizens how they felt about their mayor running for president. I felt the same feeling of despair and panic that I had felt on my first day. But I had to get out of my feelings.

In New York, I interviewed five people. Yes, I got rejected a lot but I managed to not let it get to me. I felt different. I felt proud of myself.

The thought of having to do this a third time completely terrifies me, but I have a feeling that I will interview even more people next time.

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