This column will be my last as opinion editor for the Commonwealth Times.
I started writing for the CT nearly four years ago, fresh out of high school, with light qualifications, no direction and a sampling of writing that included a high school editorial homage to the infamous song, “Pants on the Ground.”
In the initial interest meeting for contributing writers, I sat at a table with tall upperclassmen with theoretically better qualifications. I imagined their banks of sophisticated vocabulary and how their worldly experiences paled everything I’d so much as scribbled into a private composition notebook. Despite becoming the opinion editor as a sophomore and every subsequent achievement, there are still days when I feel like that.
There are an abundant number of journalism students, English majors and opinionated writers that could shred apart every column I’ve ever had published, but circumstance and an unyielding commitment brought about this course of events. It’s what brought me from the ranks of local obscurity into the slight noteworthiness that merits the occasional “good job” from administration officials, an interview and name-drop at a local news outlet and the ire of students that would like to see more diversity of opinions in the section, but are unwilling to inquire how they might contribute (as noted in the section lining, you can send contributions or letters to the editor to the email address provided).
What separates anyone from anyone else is merely opportunity, but what bridges that separation is passion. By expressing my passions through the opportunity presented to me by this publication, life took me to an unexpected venue. Passion drove me to accept this editorial position and passion drove me stay here for such an extended period of time.
If you’re not being driven by anything, you’re going nowhere.
Along the journey, the temptation to give up and quit repeatedly arose and it still does.
Our society too often equates giving up with failure, but whenever I walk through campus, I see people who are failures because they keep trying to push down walls, whether in their romantic relationships, in dealing with their family or in their academic choices
I’ve grown to embrace giving up whenever the opportunity presents itself. Life’s too short to live a regretful life. To that end, I gave up trying to live up to the expectations of others. I gave up on trying to graduate in under four years and minimizing the amount of debt I would graduate with. I gave up on pursuing a major I lacked passion for and I gave up fighting to present an inauthentic image of myself to the world.
What I’ve attempted, with some success and some intentionally taken missteps, is to construct a framework of sophistication and professionalism in this section unlike any other collegiate newspaper. Whereas other college newspapers or other publications geared toward the 20-something crowd might accept listicles of “10 ways to please your man” or “Easy steps to improving your GPA,” I’ve worked to push forth work that challenges current perceptions, establishes a discussion and works as local social commentary. While relationship tips may be applicable to many of us, they’re a Google search away; a thorough editorial on tuition increase or the archaic nature of foreign language requirements are material topics more suitable and relevant to the student body.
The effect may have alienated some readers looking for lighter, more superficial material, but I refuse to accept a standard that appeals solely to the lowest common denominator. To do so is demeaning to our readership and a waste of a valuable space. The guiding principle for my work, both in writing and in editing, has been to allow the unflexed arm impress: Shock readers with casual exhibitions of strength and consistent boldness.
The apathy that pervades our culture, both at the collegiate and societal level, urges us to procrastinate or otherwise busy ourselves with tasks to avoid taking up any communal cause. While offering your opinion on a matter that’s affecting you and other students isn’t exactly fighting “The Tragedy of the Commons,” it’s important for us to recognize our individual responsibility in engaging our world and speaking truth to power at any and every avenue, whether that power be professors, administration officials, the city government or state politicians.
Whoever my successor will be, I do hope they continue the trend set forth, but more than anything, I hope that they improve upon my every success and failure and serve the student body in a more engaging capacity than I have. This section is and should be the voice of the student body, whether you’re an undergraduate or graduate student, biology or business major, freshman or senior.
It has been an honor to serve the CT and VCU community for the last few years. Thank you all for allowing me the opportunity to work, learn and express myself here and supporting this newspaper, as well as every other student media organization.