The merits - and mercies - of paring down
Sometimes smaller is better.
My favorite Netflix binge is The Great British Baking Show. Amateur contestants attempt to bake items at increasing levels of difficulty to be judged by professional bakers. The baker who doesn't make the cut each week leaves until the last one standing is crowned the best. What could easily be an uninteresting show about the seemingly boring endeavor of baking manages to be dramatic, emotional and heartwarming in its earnestness. I find myself genuinely rooting for my favorites and sympathetic to the ones who don’t make it to the next round. It’s the best of reality television without the snark and cynicism of most.
A recurring theme in the show is that often the contestants who try to do too much are the ones who fall short of the judges’ expectations. They often aim for pieces too glamorous or too fancy without supporting the right technique or skill or organization. They shoot for stunning only to wind up failing excellence. It’s common and relatable and often empathetically heartbreaking to see these talented bakers not reach their potential.
Ambition can be its own kind of trap. When I came up with the idea for The Gettysburg Voice over the summer, I had visions of sugar plums dancing in my head: effecting change, revitalizing local journalism, reframing Gettysburg as the vibrant, diverse, contemporary community that it is. I came up with a plan that I thought would be smooth, if not easy, to execute.
It’s been difficult to find the funding the operation needs to function on the scale I first envisioned. It’s been more difficult than I predicted to find student interns to help contribute articles for the website. (This I find a little perplexing. I started working at a newspaper when I was 15 and relished the experience to be a part of something professional. Apparently I’m the only one in this regard?) Keeping up with my original publication schedule while working for myself has proven the most challenging.
After taking a hiatus to reassess things, I realized I needed to readjust my approach. Instead of being a revolutionary nonprofit news source, I’m crafting a more personal operation. I’ll have a less frequent publication schedule, but I’ll remain committed to writing the stories I find unique and interesting about my community, especially ones I think run under the radar. I don’t necessarily need it to be impressive anymore; I just want it to be meaningful.
So here’s to a new year with a new outlook that smaller is better and proper execution matters more than flash. May you find ways in your own life to reduce the stresses of ambition. Let’s all shoot for the quality shortbread cookie over the fancy florentine.
Wishing you the best for 2023 and more to come.