ARSENEAU: A rediscovered passion

When I was in middle school, I struggled to read and write.

It wasn’t a physical thing. I had been a fast reader from a fairly young age, and was writing stories since I could use a pencil. But around the time I was 12 years old, my mind stopped me.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder affects people in a variety of ways. For anyone that is unfamiliar with OCD, it involves having constant repetitive thoughts – obsessions – and the urge to engage in behaviors – compulsions – to make the unwanted obsessions subside. Without professional help, OCD can spiral out of control until you are wasting hours of your day as a prisoner to your brain. It can be debilitating.

For me, OCD most strongly affected my schoolwork. When I was in seventh grade, it could take me up to 30 minutes to read a single page of a book, as I counted the number of times I blinked and repeatedly reread words and sentences. I erased and rewrote words until the pages of worksheets I turned in to teachers were virtually unreadable. Typing essays was out of the question, as I typed and retyped the same sentences over and over. I spent hours on simple homework assignments, frustrated out of my mind by my slipping grades and difficulty managing time. I was constantly tired, embarrassed and my self esteem plummeted. And the passion I once had for reading books and writing stories just wasn’t there anymore.

My mental health history is not something I usually talk about. I definitely have never done so in such a public format. But reflecting on my past four years as a student journalist at the Marquette Wire, as I am weeks away from pursuing a career in reading and writing and typing on computers, it feels necessary to paint the whole picture of my complicated relationship with these aspects of my future career in order to fully express how much this organization has meant to me.

I was blessed with a strong support system in my parents and teachers growing up, and was fortunate enough to receive professional help that got me through high school. But to say I was anxious about starting college four years ago would be an understatement. I was terrified. 

I was hired as an Arts & Entertainment reporter for the Marquette Wire the summer before my first year of college. My first experience of college life was sitting in a desk on the third floor of Johnston Hall during Wire training week, listening to passionate upperclassmen explain the workings of Marquette’s student media. I was assigned a story for the Tribune and traveled into downtown Milwaukee to conduct interviews before I moved into my dorm room. I was diving headfirst into an unfamiliar city surrounded by unfamiliar people.

I loved it.

On the A&E desk, I was able to learn about Milwaukee as I ventured around the city for story assignments. I found a niche reviewing theater performances. I starred in some MUTV packages that today I cringe at, but are very much still available on YouTube. At the start of sophomore year, I became an A&E assistant editor. I discovered a love for the editing process. After two and a half years on the A&E desk, I became an assistant editor for News, where I was able to gain experience delving into hard news topics like the university’s demonstration policy and the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic. During my senior year, I became the managing editor of the Marquette Journal, and had the opportunity to lead an incredible staff in producing two magazines, and co-manage a third.

In all that time, I rediscovered a new passion for reading and writing. Years of struggling with OCD had largely diminished the excitement I once felt for reading and telling stories; But at the Marquette Wire, I was talking to new people, visiting new places, writing and editing for hours every week and sharing stories. I learned that I could be both unapologetically myself and a leader. I found a community of passionate individuals always pushing each other to work harder and be better.

I truly don’t know where I would be today without the Marquette Wire. This organization is the reason I decided to pursue a degree in journalism. It’s the reason I’ve met some of my closest friends. It’s the reason for some of my proudest accomplishments, a newfound confidence in myself, a readiness to enter the workforce. When I look back on my four years at Marquette, I know I will remember most clearly the late nights in Johnston Hall, the unbelievable feeling of seeing a story I worked on front page of the Tribune, a magazine I dreamt up sitting on newsstands across campus.

It’s all so far from the 12 year old who used a Sharpie to black out the words on a book so she could get through her homework, from the 18 year old who wandered down Wisconsin Avenue to conduct her first interview at a bookstore in an unfamiliar city. The Marquette Wire shaped my college experience and the person I am as I look to graduation, and I will be forever grateful.

This story was written by Kelli Arseneau. She can be reached at kelli.arseneau@marquette.edu