Farewell Column from Daniel Wirtheim— “This is Water”


Illustration by Dafne Sánchez/The Carolinian

By Daniel Wirtheim, Former Features Editor

There’s an old joke that I could never understand; it goes as follows:

Two young goldfish are swimming in a fishbowl when they pass an older goldfish who’s just waking up.

“Mornin’ boys,” said the older goldfish to the two. “How’s the water?”

The two young fish just kept swimming, until one finally turns to the other and asks, “What the hell is water?”

I started writing for The Carolinian as a special contributor during my sophomore year in 2012, when Tristan Munchel told me I could get free tickets to see the Brooklyn punk rock band, Parquet Courts, if I could just write 600 words on the subject.

After a semester of contributing content whenever it was needed, I wrote for Arts & Entertainment, where I took to the streets, trying to tell as many stories as I could. I reveled in the access my staff writer position gave me. I blushed when someone told me they liked an article I wrote, but more importantly,

I fell in love with the people.

From events like Moog Fest to a filmmaker studying monks, everyone had a story to tell. I became addicted to the power of storytelling, and by the beginning of my senior year, I assumed the position of Features Editor. Being the Features Editor allowed me an authority I should never have been given.

I became my own source for content; the things I saw everyday, the utterances I heard, the voices in the halls, became my subject matter. I used the “Slice of Life” column as a vessel for exploring my world.I wonder what future employers will think when I give them some “Slice of Life” as a writing sample. I wonder if I’ll ever get a real job, and like the two young goldfish, I wonder what sort of energy surrounds us, molds our dreams and defines our community.

At first, The Carolinian was about my resume and my social status, but as I swam on, listening to the people of Greensboro and retelling their stories to the community, I was transformed myself. The stories of the community transformed what was once a watered down university in an old southern textile town into the dense and beautiful center of the universe.

In the many facets of this universe, I saw stories of passion, heartbreak and longing. Some convoluted, requiring further statistical analysis, some clear as water and others bright as mirrors, reflecting our own faces and our own eyes, beyond our eyes and into our most distant thoughts, glinting, wheeling like galaxies. As I look back on these stories, reading between the lines, they all read the same way: “This is water. This is water.”

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