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Why I stuck around

Four years ago, I believed I was destined to be a sports journalist. I would spend my after-school hours poring through Duke’s journalism options, and when I first arrived on campus in 2015, I prioritized signing up for the Chronicle’s sports section.

The Chronicle soon became my only non-academic commitment, and I devoted so much of my free time trying to assert myself within the sports section. I still remember the thrill of seeing my first blog post—no matter how much it had to be edited (most of it)—publicized on Twitter and Facebook. I also remember my first article as a beat writer and my piece covering the men’s basketball team following Coach K’s return from surgery.

At some point in my first year, though, I realized that I didn't have the same zeal I once had for journalism. That’s not at all a reflection of my experience writing for the Chronicle. It was just that, for me, writing had become a chore.

I knew that there were still some aspects that I thoroughly enjoyed—after all, there’s a reason I was initially so drawn to it in the first place. But it was difficult to isolate what I liked and didn’t like about writing, and subsequently, how I should move forward for my next three years.

Finally, I realized that I loved the creative aspect of journalism, rather than journalism itself. 

I cherished, and continue to revere, the opportunity to convey my interpretation of any event, profile, or feature story. After isolating my thirst for creativity from the rest of the process, it became easy to choose my major in statistical science. With statistics, I can be just as creative in asking questions—this time with datasets instead of people.

So why did I stay with the Chronicle?

There’s a multitude of explanations: finishing something I started, not wanting to let others down, making lifelong connections and meeting people I otherwise wouldn’t have crossed paths with, and so many more.

But there’s another one that for some reason, I could never seem to shake. It's not as if the other ones are invalid or don't pertain to me—they do. But there's only one principle reason. It’s why I have remained involved in the Chronicle as an associate editor, columnist, beat writer and social media editor for the past three years, and have devoted myself to my first extracurricular at Duke.

I wanted to make seven-year-old me proud.

I wrote my college essay on my passion for sports writing and the importance of truth. It had been something I had been subconsciously—and then consciously—working toward since I was seven years old when I would memorize all of the baseball statistics on the back page of the New York Times’ sports section and then beg my father to quiz me.

I thought about that seven-year-old a lot when trying to figure out my role within the Chronicle. I sought a balance between other academic pursuits, outside passions and the commitment to sports reporting that I made to myself so many years ago. Yes, at seven I was more focused on playing in the MLB, but as I grew older, I focused my efforts solely on journalism. 

It was not that I thought I would have wasted all that time I spent hammering obscure sports knowledge into my brain, and it wasn’t that I could not let go of the past—I just wanted to make the younger version of myself smile if he were able to peer into the future 14 years later.

I know it may seem like a ridiculous reason to continue committing myself to something I was not going to pursue in the future. But not everything has to be done with one eye on the future, and little by little, I started to enjoy writing again. I began taking pride in the little things that don’t necessarily pop out when sorting through my now-226 bylines, especially the work I have put in covering a struggling women’s lacrosse team the past four years and this column that received a decent amount of flack.

This vision of my younger self made every part of the process so much better. That’s not to say anything about writers who write to tell stories—that’s an amazing reason to report too. But for me, to be unapologetically Benjamin Aaron Feder, I needed to isolate the reason for continuing to do something that on its own was none too enjoyable for me.

And for that, I have to thank my seven-year-old self.

Ben Feder will graduate this May with his B.S. in statistical science. He is still pursuing opportunities in the data science field, so feel free to offer him a job. 

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