A warm welcome to the rest of our lives

Opinion

Hello, my lovely readers, and welcome to yet another round of getting lit in the opinions section with Janvi. Except, as I’m sure you’ve figured out, this is the last one I’ll be doing.

By the time this paper falls into your hands, I’ll have tippy-toed across the graduation stage, collected my diploma, and left for lunch. In the meantime, you might be looking at the front cover of the paper that features extraordinarily accurate details about the graduation speech and wondered how the KO News staff was so prescient, as if they’d somehow written and printed the piece during graduation, or if Ms. Schieffelin’s journalism class also includes a time travel seminar (all things I wondered when I saw the post-graduation paper my freshman year). And since I’m just a huge softie, here, my friends, is a love letter to my opinions column, and to you.

At the beginning of sophomore year, my close friend Apara (’18) was the new head of opinions, and she asked if I’d like to be an opinions writer for the KO News. “Keep these articles short,” she said, “around 500 words is fine. Write about whatever you want.” And so it began! My first ever article was called “Memes vs. Emojis,” where I compared the effectiveness of Harambe pics to rolling eyes emojis in conveying ideas (hello, Mrs. Semmelrock? Yes, I have a new artifact for the museum).

At that time, I didn’t know what lay ahead for me that year—difficult classes, losing friends, figuring stuff out about myself and then hating myself for it. Yeah, tough is an understatement for my sophomore year. But I kept myself, and others, laughing with my articles. I wrote Halloween and Christmas do’s and don’ts, reviewed my favorite Vines, made a list of wacky animal facts, and more. I was basically a baby Buzzfeed, so to speak!

I thought it was really cool that I got this special privilege of having my articles printed in the news every month given that this was a job usually reserved for the news staff, who had all taken journalism. I always had this feeling, though, that unless I kept everyone around me entertained at all times, within the newspaper and in real life, I’d have all my social status and this special honor ripped away. Any person who knows me knows that I love to keep people laughing. But that year, although I loved my job to pieces and am still incredibly grateful to Apara for jump-starting my column, my relentless need to keep everything lighthearted prevented me from truly connecting with anyone that year and really talking about what I thought and felt.

The next fall, I was back with a vengeance. Gone were the listicles that I now regarded as childish; I’d tossed myself into the deep end of social awareness and politics over the last few months, and I was ready to give Kingswood Oxford a piece of my mind. Right off the bat, I went in on the president for his remarks calling the neo-Nazis at the Charlottesville rally “fine people.” It was fiery, it was fierce, it was furious, with a lot of question mark/exclamation point combos to emphasize that yeah, I was really bad and I had stuff to say about it.

Looking back at that article, it was impulsive, and was less of a hot take than just an exclamation of shock at an event that in hindsight was a long time coming. But still, it was just what I needed. Publishing that article gave me the confidence to continue becoming invested in forming opinions about the world around me, and something weird happened that month: a very right-wing senior boy took the time and effort to publicly bash my piece and actually send it to Fox commentator Tucker Carlson! It’s a strange feeling to have that happen to you, but it only affirmed my growing suspicion that, hey, maybe my 15-year-old thoughts are actually worth something, if an 18-year-old thinks it’s controversial enough to be torn apart by a conservative pundit.

That fall, my imposter syndrome began to fade as I came into my own as an activist. Over the next few months, as I learned more, I came to understand that so many concepts were beyond my reach, and that I needed to take more time to integrate social justice into my own life before I could just turn to my laptop to regurgitate what I’d just decided was my Opinion of the Month. I allowed my opinions to evolve alongside my knowledge and expanded my understanding of nuanced issues beyond just what a single person or news channel or textbook was saying. As that transformation took place, I decided I would get the best of both worlds—serious and lighthearted—by turning my newspaper column into a lifestyle section.

My “lifestyle opinions” have consisted of a blend of my own views on life and the world around me, and how to reconcile those views with my life as an everyday high schooler with my own problems and responsibilities to deal with. These included how to apologize the right way, becoming a better activist and ally, knowing when to stop supporting a problematic artist, and more.I remember writing my longest piece to date, “Growing Pains and Parting Ways,” and pouring out all these intimate details and hard truths about one of my worst heartbreaks ever, the friend breakup. After it was published, not to flex, but a lot of people told me that it was genuinely touching and helpful. That was the best feeling in the world: to know that I am not only seen and appreciated, but that I’ve actually done something to help someone in whatever minor way I can.

But all along, writing these articles has helped me grow as a person too, and for that I want to thank you. Thank you for reading what I write and being the witness to my fallen tree in the forest, thank you for allowing me to exist in your lives. I am immensely proud of anyone who decides to change their life for the better, and does it — that’s what writing for the KO News helped me do, and I know you can too.

This year, I have cried while writing articles. I cry because there are things I wish someone had told me, because it is so taxing to write thousands of words about the growing up I’ve done these last four years, because I don’t know what I’ll do when I am unmoored from KO and where I’ll be the moment you read this.

Yes, I am afraid. But where will I go if I allow fear to seep into my tears and tug my eyelids down from behind? How will I move forward if fear keeps me blind? So I let myself be soft. I make room for the fear and when it threatens to choke me out, I offer it a little room in my heart until its lease is up. I know that there are things each one of us fears about the future. But I want you to know that fear. I want you to breathe it in and eventually spit it out. I want you to know that every single one of your thoughts has value, that it is worth its weight in gold, that it is as precious as the smiles that you will bring with the change you can cause. I want each of you to know that you have the power to speak your mind and be open and to constantly blossom, flower, thrive. I want you to remember that we will all face long winters, shriveled leaves and dormant periods, but that they only make you stronger for the next season.

You are so incredibly important and my heart swells to think of the strong, smart, talented kids at KO who have so much to show the world.

Thank you, dear readers, for everything. You’re the best. For forever more, stay woke!