You know, readers, there’s a feeling that I hope will never abandon me. Even when times are tough and life seems just a little bit too overwhelming, I hope I never lose the feeling of being in awe. I love being in awe of something. It’s an addictive sensation. It’s this amalgam of, as the New Oxford American Dictionary puts it, “reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.”
I hope I never become so jaded or so arrogant or so crappy of a person because there’s a stick shoved up a particular orifice that I’m no longer awed by experiences and ideas and human innovation and this massive rock we live on that somehow finds a way to keep spinning through it all.
One thing’s for sure — I’m in awe of this newspaper. I’m in awe of this group of people that I’ve had the great honor to work with over the course of this year.
We set out to fundamentally change The Carolinian. We wanted to revolutionize its brand, its aesthetic, its content, its procedures, its culture. And I’m amazed. I’m amazed and I’m humbled. We did it. We really did it.
There’s an idea that I’ve clung to vehemently throughout my life: it’s the idea that a group of committed people with something to believe in can, and will, catalyze unthinkable change. This publication and this group that has overseen it have provided me with empirical evidence for the enduring truth of that idea. I walk away from this project more optimistic and more in awe than ever.
Don’t get me wrong. We messed up — a lot. I messed up — a lot. But I’m thankful every day for those mess-ups because, despite the stress they induced, they’re the reason I’m not the same person who began working for this newspaper three years ago. You don’t grow from getting things right.
To be sure, there’s still work to be done. This is an unfinished project — it is an infinite idea — and that’s what I love most about it. My successor, Taylor, is going to do an amazing job next year. She’s intelligent, dedicated and driven. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to take over this newspaper. The editorial board that will join her is one hell of a team, and I feel proud to pass this thing off to them.
You know, I’m the type of person who’s continually looking to tomorrow. It’s one of my best and worst attributes, and I’m more than aware that my mom has always been onto something when she’s tried to remind me that today isn’t such a bad thing to focus on either. But my lofty, idealistic, face-turned-to-the-heavens obsession with what lies ahead is the result of my optimism about what people are capable of. Human beings possess incredible capacity, after all.
I used to think that pessimism and cynicism were qualities that somehow made me more enlightened and clued in, but I know now that that was just my arrogance speaking. Optimism isn’t the antithesis to realism. Normative thinking isn’t the death of pragmatism. Just because I choose to focus on what the world can be instead of what it is or what it has been doesn’t mean I’m blind to the present reality. I’d argue that history, whether for good or for bad, has only ever been changed by a perspicacious group that is more than acutely aware of its reality.
But all of that doesn’t matter right now. For this column, for just once, I want to dwell. I don’t want to look to tomorrow. I want to ignore reality for one more moment. I want to hold onto this experience for a little while longer, even if it’s just for these next 300-odd words.
It’s an emotional thing, leaving this newspaper is. It’s given me so much. It’s taught me about my strengths and my weaknesses and my convictions and my resolve and my fallibility. It’s humbled me and inspired me and frustrated me and pushed me. I’ve learned to take my work seriously, not to take myself seriously and to forget about the smudge on the window because it’s nothing compared to the landscape just past it.
I learned that I don’t really know much of anything, and I also learned that I’m just fine with that.
This paper has taught me a lot about myself, but it’s never been about me. This paper is about us, readers. It’s about the group that has worked to shape it over the course of this year; it is about the community it serves; it is about the great tradition that it preserves.
This team that I’ve had the honor of working with over the past year has made everything worth it. I am a better person for having known them, and I cannot thank them enough for their commitment and creativity and intelligence and insanity. They are the smartest, kindest, funniest, most passionate group of individuals I’ve met so far over my 21 years. It’s from people like them — my friends — that I draw my optimism about our generation and about the world we will create.
It’s funny, readers. I’m as scared today as I was when I wrote my first column. I was scared then that I wouldn’t be able to do enough for this publication and for this team. And I’m still scared I wasn’t able to do enough.
But I guess this is the last lesson The Carolinian has to offer me. I’m learning how to let something go. I’m learning how to pass on an idea, a vision, a dream. I’m learning about my own dispensability. And I have to tell you, I find it pretty damn liberating that something can be stronger than the people who have created it.
“I was never supposed to be the editor-in-chief of a student newspaper.” Those were the first words I ever wrote as the leader of this publication. And now, as I let it go and pass it on, I turn again to look to tomorrow, this hazy, exciting cloud of “was-never-supposed-to-be’s.”
I’m already in awe.