Isabella Vaughn, who graduated in December 2019, reflects on her time at BYU
I stood by the TV monitor next to the anchor desk in the newsroom. With dread, I watched my last news package of the semester play out on the screen in front of me. I couldn’t hear it, but I knew what was coming. The image changed to a man talking into a mic I had carefully placed on his jacket. As he began speaking, I heard loud groans and shouts coming from the control room. The mic malfunctioned and all you could hear was static. My face turned bright red. I had failed. I could barely look into the camera as I wrapped up my package live from the studio. I would lose several points on my assignment and end the semester on a disappointing note.
This experience happened several years ago when I was a beginning reporter for our live, student-run newscast KBYU 11 News, later called Newsline. But, it is a good representation of the feeling I often felt there, a feeling I had felt all of my life: fear of failure.
Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be a part of the media. I loved writing and telling stories, and I couldn’t bear not to be at the center of everything going on. I wanted to write history as it happened. When I came to college, I immediately pursued the news media program and was accepted. But when I came into the lab, I realized how little I knew about creating a newscast. I had never used a high-tech camera or advanced video-making software before. I wanted so badly to succeed that my fear of failing left me paralyzed every time I came to class. And my fear of failure became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I didn’t overcome this fear by not failing. I failed all the time. Sometimes my video would be shaky because the tripod was missing a piece. Sometimes the mic would go out during an interview, and I would realize I forgot to check it beforehand. I forgot my SD card multiple times. Interviews would fall through at the last minute. I’d edit the audio levels wrong or put together the whole package backwards or write too much. No, I didn’t overcome the fear of failure by not failing. Instead, I conquered it by treating each failure as a challenge, by refusing to compare myself to others and by basking in the joy of my accomplishments no matter how small.
Since then I’ve chosen to do many things I was afraid of. I chose to go on a multimedia journalism study abroad to Spain where I came up with stories on the fly, navigated my way around an
unknown city and interviewed people who spoke a different language. I came out of it with five videos that I was so proud of. I also chose to do an internship in Washington D.C. I remember I was so afraid that it was the right choice that I didn’t turn in my application or gather my letters of recommendation until the very last day they were due. It turned out to be the best experience of my life. I interned on Capitol Hill where I was completely out of my element. I wasn’t a political science student and knew very little about the inner workings of government. But, because of my experience at BYU, I knew how to dive in, work hard and simply try. It opened my eyes to new career possibilities, and I was offered a job because of it. When we challenge ourselves to do the things we are most afraid of, we can grow in ways we never imagined.
In the eyes of others, my accomplishments have been small. Compared to others, my successes are insignificant. But to me, they are proof of my divine potential to grow and become a glorious being. I don’t believe perfection comes in this life. But as we try and try and try again, we can be worthy of the help that comes from the One who is perfect, Jesus Christ. He magnifies our efforts. He takes our best tries and turns them into our greatest successes. Many times at BYU, I found myself in tears and on my knees begging for miracles or for help to accomplish the things I didn’t know how to do. Sometimes I failed anyway. But, eventually successes would come, as they always do if you don’t give up and put your trust in the God of miracles.
I’m not one of those people who came to BYU with incredible gifts or talents waiting to be discovered by a brilliant professor. But, I came with a hunger to learn, a passion to pursue a dream, and a hope that one day I could grow into my potential and give something back to the world. I now work for The Lisa Show at BYU Radio where I am a producer. I still fail all the time. Thank goodness. How would I ever learn?