Outgoing Opinion Editor
I’m leaving Washington College regretting very few things. Despite feeling like I spent most of my time people pleasing and playing the game of politics, I still feel like I did so with every ounce of flare and rebellion possible. The only problem is I feel like I’ve been like a cicada these past four years. For those of you who aren’t weirdly into insects, when a cicada hatches as a nymph, it immediately burrows into the ground for most of its life and then, whenever the time feels right, the nymph tunnels back to the surface to shed its exoskeleton and emerge as a cicada.
As many of you will understand, as a freshman I had no real sense of who I was or where I belonged, especially in a place full of what I just categorized as rich people. In all fairness, WC isn’t a cheap place and the debt I’m so graciously graduating with could have been avoided if I had chosen somewhere else. Aside from that, I just kept letting that overwhelming sense of not belonging control everything until I could barely make friends at first. Eventually I did, and it’s those friends to whom I owe so much, whether we still talk or not. Either way, I learned something from each person who I came into contact with, even if it was that sometimes people just aren’t meant to be friends forever. Or people can apparently be ideal on paper but not in person, whatever that means.
The point is, when I came to college, I retreated away from opportunities and experiences. Each year I managed to move more towards the surface, especially when I started writing for The Elm, because then I got the chance to write my beat about animal rights, alternative lifestyles, etc., and at least my voice existed somewhere. And that’s the most important thing. Forget about the people- pleasing because what’s the point if it’s burying you deeper out of reach? Getting my words published was an exhilarating thing and while I always wanted angry letters in response, even getting the love mail was proof of some connection I was able to make with another person in the community.
As an editor for The Elm, my focus became less about getting my voice heard and more on helping sculpt my writers’ voices. In all honesty, my writers were the driving force behind me enduring the long hours of editing and layout. As I leave and say goodbye, I only hope they were able to learn something more than how to put commas inside their quotation marks, because, as our Copy Editors know, that was a reoccurring problem. My main hope is that people understand the importance of getting our voices out there to be heard, whether written or verbal, because that freedom is something that truly does make all the difference in finding more about yourself and what matters in general.
That’s just the lesson I took too long to realize, because here I am graduating and only just now feeling like things are falling into place for me. I’m with people, friends and colleagues that I’m not ready to leave and want to continue to be with because they’re getting to experience the cicada part of me. I finally feel like I know who I am and what I want, but suddenly this point in time I used to look forward to feels like a hindrance in this progression rather than the freedom I once thought. I find that to be an interesting concept worth passing on because I’m sure it’s something many other seniors are experiencing. Regardless of the speed at which we acclimated to the environment here at WC, it has become something of a home to us. Routines, social groups, and the close proximity: WC is safe and graduation is intimidating. Graduating means job markets, new environments all over again, paying student loans, and just losing the familiarity we’ve spent the past four years building.
However, graduation doesn’t have to mean that we never see the people who have come to matter most, who make us happy and constantly realize new things about the world. After all, if there’s one take away from the past four years it is that, sure, that diploma means a heck of a lot for my future, but the people I met and the experiences we’ve shared will always be more important.
So to those friends: the distance shouldn’t matter, and it’s those friends and staff members that I want to thank for helping me find my voice and the courage to shed that exoskeleton of mine. And to The Elm for providing me a vehicle to begin that process, and thank you, for reading.