I know I’ve been AWOL, but finishing college, catching up with home and my graduation this past weekend have greatly slowed down my writing possibilities.
This weekend, I graduated from Northwestern University. It is no secret that Northwestern and I have not been the best of friends. I have spent more time with my friends from home than those on campus. I never fully embraced the experience or my time there.
At Northwestern, I discovered that I was not cut out for my lifelong dream of being a journalist. Isn’t my degree in journalism you ask? Why yes, yes it is.
I had dreamed of being a writer since I was a little girl, but I worried I wouldn’t be able to write enough for a book. Journalism seemed the logical conclusion to me. My school district was tiny and in the country, and as the internet was only burgeoning into what it is today, blogging wasn’t quite the outreach system of today; meaning I had zero journalism experience of any kind before college. I dreamt of attending NU since I was 12, and in high school I was an overachiever to reach the goal. I fell in love as a prospective student with the stunning campus, and I believed getting in was the definitive moment in my life.
As a freshman however, we were drilled with the basics of newspaper writing. I quickly realized that with a class of high school newspaper editors, I couldn’t possibly be the overachiever of the group. So I let that part of myself go. On a magazine track, I struggled to condense my writing to the bare minimum facts of newspaper, or to translate it on camera, of which the technological skills also escaped me. I made one poor soul give an interview to me 3 times before I got the sound to work. Not only that, I quickly discovered I was not cut out for interviewing. I hate phone calls, and more than that, I hate to stop and harass people on the street. My best friend could walk out onto the street and find his final project across 4 platforms in 5 hours. It took me infinitely more time for a much poorer result. My heart wasn’t in it.
Once I realized this, I also realized I had no idea what I wanted to do. My passion had always been writing and reading, but an English degree sounded completely useless. I had no desire to do grad school after the lack of guidance I frequently felt, so an English professor was out. Resigned to my fate, I decided to trudge through my journalism degree. Then I took a multimedia design class and discovered a skill. I can make things graphically interesting and pretty. I decided to finish out my journalism degree, but to do this instead. My internship at SI proved to me that this was possible. I also picked up a second major of English to indulge my love of literature classes.
While I took one class at NU that related directly to my probable future career, I did learn a lot there. I became a liberal there, and while in ways, I’ve always felt like a feminist, that developed with a knowledge of feminist history. It has shaped the way I interact and look at the world more than anything else probably ever could or will. I have read numerous studies that make me think outside my class, my location, my race, my past and my own preconceived notions. As an extremely judgmental person, I have learned not to judge a book by its cover. Growing up in a tiny town with its fair share of bigotry that becomes hard to avoid in some rural areas, I finally felt at home in an environment that embraced diversity instead of nothing but athletic achievement. Being eloquent and smart no longer felt like a sentence to the peripheries, but instead something that let you be heard and respected. The kinds of discussion, openness and possibility NU offers at ever turn made a major I was not meant for bearable while I indulged in the possibility of a world of good-intentioned intelligence.
It has also given me an insight into people, and writing. I have read more in my time at NU than probably the entirety of the rest of my life, a feat for an avid reader. Much of it has stuck. I have come to admire professors and authors as never before when hearing their inner voice put down in words. The English department and one spectacular and beloved professor reminded me what it was to write and to love doing it. I will be an author one day because of NU. And while I may not address the poignant subjects of so many others in my work, I have learned the value of research and emotion in everything I do. My voice has refined and become academic, and I have learned to read in a way much deeper than that of a teenager, no matter how intelligent. A reminder that each word can have an impact will never be forgotten.
I do not love you Northwestern. I don’t know if I will ever step foot on that campus that is beautiful for 5 months of the year again. I don’t know how many people I will see from those days. But you have given me a degree, a close friend, your reputation, some experience, self-sufficiency, city-saavy, but most importantly a voice. And for that I thank you, remember your lessons, and give you a small piece of my heart.