Guest Blog Post: Future Novelist in College by Tonya Vrba

journalism-building University of Iowa

This has been an interesting week for the blog. After the shootout from Nanopolitan, I got to interact with a bunch of very interesting people who liked what they read on the blog and promised to share their stories. Emails like these re-inforce my belief of touching a thousand lives.
The next guest blogpost is by Tonya Vrba, a journalism  major from the University of Iowa. Tonya is one of those fortunate people who get paid to do what they love, and boy, Tonya does her job well – from passion to feminism to online dating – her work covers a lot of ground. Her blog is quite interesting too. In this post, she talks about how her experiences during her childhood shaped her passion for writing and the challenges she faced on following her dream to become a journalist. More than anything, I’m thankful to Tonya for breaking the stereotype of only engineering guest bloggers (each of the previous guests is an engineer) and giving me a chance to glimpse into the world of a journalist. 


College has sure been an unforgettable experience. I know the stereotypical college student spends most of their time drunk, but that’s not really what secondary education is supposed to be. Ideally a person graduates with greater knowledge than they had in the beginning. More than anything else, I found my backbone in college life.

Growing up, life was pretty much hell on earth. I was pretty heavily bullied, especially in my middle school years. Looking back there were many reasons for this, but that my peers were horrible people was not one of them. I never really stood up for myself in my younger years. I let things happen to me and was happy to help out in any way I could. If someone wanted ahead in the lunch line, to borrow my pencil, or use the ball I was playing with, I gladly gave it up. Since I didn’t think much of myself, I thought everyone else was more deserving of everything. I would even sit in my bedroom and think about all the money my parents probably spent to buy me clothes and provide me with furniture in my room. Certainly all that money could go to more use. Spending it on me was a waste.

Well, this attitude wasn’t working for me. There was a time in my young life where I realized the only problem was that I let people do this to me. Whether people were really working against me or not, I don’t know. What I do know was that I assumed everyone expected me to fail. They all thought I was worthless. This eventually made me angry enough that I started standing up for myself a bit. The backlash was harsh, to say the least. My solace was in written word. I would read whenever I got the chance. While other kids would talk with each other on the bus, I would be content in a fictional world. I was happy to talk to someone when approached, but few ever seemed to take an interest in me. Perhaps my years of sad silence made them think I didn’t want to speak to them.

In a way, my growing obsession with the written word made me a bigger target. What kind of child reads during their free time? Multiple times I would be asked why I was reading or how I could possibly be having fun. I was happy to explain, but no one really wanted to listen.

Originally, enthralled with these worlds, I wanted to be a novelist. Entering high school, I through myself at everything I could. I even was able to read some of my own prose and poems at speech contests. Older and wiser in high school, I began to understand the chances of making a living in writing.  Most of the authors I knew of had day jobs or had previously worked for years before finally being published. I couldn’t expect that I would surely be a novelist upon graduation. It was in that spirit that I joined the school newspaper and year book. This is where I knew my life was headed.

Don’t believe what you hear, journalism is far from a dying industry. The evolution of media has lead to many online and non-profit publications. Businesses need people to help them maintain an online presence in social media. There are many options for us journalism majors.

I could see this, but my father worried. He called the local newspaper to ask what the average salary of a reporter was and tried to talk me out of the journalism major. I stood my ground. This was the path for me and I wasn’t about to let fear take it away from me.

To say that I had found myself at that point would be a lie. College is more than a place to learn employment skills. I have changed spiritually, physically and emotionally. I am coming out of these four years a completely new person. Along the way I learned some things about true love and real friendship. When I leave, I can think of the people who I will not miss at all and the others who will be friends for life. At the end of the day, though, I still haven’t ‘found myself.’ More than the classes and the parties, college helps you find the map on the journey to self discovery. I know very few college graduates who know exactly what they want to do with their life. They are still searching for their purpose. The difference between incoming freshman and graduating seniors is the way in which they view life. It’s funny how leaving everyone you’ve grown up around can really shine a light on the exact direction to go.

My future is unknown. I have a solid job at the moment, and will be continuing a search for something more permanent. Striking out on my own, I will have my own place and a life that is purely mine. My emotions are a mix of fear and excitement. I thought at this point in my life I would know exactly what to do with my life. Perhaps the real meaning of life is in never knowing what to do. We have this wonderful ability to learn and grow from our mistakes. Even big mistakes can be moments of learning.

I’m not sure what the future holds. I’m not even sure of my dreams at this point. My future is a question mark and my joy will be in every day discoveries that help me complete the image of my dreams. With that said, I still hold on to hope I will be a novelist someday.

If you’re new here, this is the tenth awesome post in the series of guest blog posts. This experiment has been successful so far because of people like you. If you have a story to share, I’d love to hear from you. You’re welcome to write about anything under the sun. The more, the merrier. Drop me a line, and I’ll get back to you.

The next awesome blog post is going to be by Gigi Lin, who’s joining the Chemical Engineering Program at Stanford this fall. She shares her curious story about deciding which grad school to choose from – she is undoubtedly one of those lucky individuals who had an admit from pretty much every top-tier US university. Stay tuned!


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