PARTING SHOT: Buying from the marketplace
There’s a scene from an early episode of “Seinfeld” in which a recently unemployed George Costanza is sitting with Jerry and mulling over ideas for potential jobs. He really has no idea what he wants to do, and he provides a healthy amount of rationalization for each possibility. “I like sports,” he says, “maybe I can do something in sports.” When Jerry prods a bit more, George says that he could see himself as a color commentator — “you know how I always make those interesting comments during the game?”
Despite the fact that George would be inept at every job he suggests, I can empathize with him in that scene. His logic is close to how I justified my decision to write for The Cavalier Daily. I came to the University knowing that I wanted to become involved in something with sports and something with community service. That was about it. I spent the first semester bouncing ideas around in my head of what other clubs I should join.
Come second semester, I decided to try out for The Cavalier Daily. I figured I could perhaps provide my own interesting comments on University life or current events. Moreover, I had been an Opinion editor for my high school paper. Yet I was hesitant, since our high school only published content once a month and I had never considered myself to be a fantastic writer. In the end, though, I will always be grateful that I made the decision to continue journalism in college.
To be sure, my writing career did not begin seamlessly. My first several columns took ages to write. What’s more, they were often of questionable quality. Forming a link between my thoughts and words proved difficult. Indeed, it was the better part of a year before I could consistently produce articles with which I was satisfied. Oftentimes I would struggle with formulating a good argument or achieving a sufficient word count. But, around the middle of my second year, something clicked. Writing — or at least writing a column between 600 and 800 words — became easier.
Around the same time, I was tapped to become Opinion’s Senior Associate Editor. For the next two years, I had the fortune of simultaneously writing and editing on a weekly basis. This opportunity improved my writing and overall critical thinking more than any other experience I have had. I derived immense benefit from the marketplace of ideas — to steal a phrase I gleaned from my friend and fellow Opinion colleague Russell Bogue — that the different voices comprising the Opinion section created. Editing did more than keep me up-to-date on current events: it exposed me to different viewpoints, argumentative styles and writing quirks that certainly changed and improved my ability to express myself in all respects.
Writing, I have noticed, is something that too few people actually improve upon during their undergraduate tenure, especially if their academic pursuits do not involve essays or papers. The same is true for presenting a cohesive argument. My time in college has consisted of almost entirely economics, biology and other science courses, none of which are very writing-intensive. Those classes have, at times, involved a lack of clear correspondence, which has resulted in confusion with group projects, presentations and even test questions (professors, I’m looking at you). Unfortunately, math- and science-oriented people often pursue academic and career aspirations to the exclusion of writing and other humanities.
So, over three years and nearly 100 columns later, I am glad that I chose to send in my two try-out pieces. It’s not just because I got to see my name in print or have the privilege to regularly expose my views to the world. My decision to write for The Cavalier Daily has enriched my time at the University more than I thought it ever would. It has provided for a greater learning experience than I have found in any one class.
To be clear, I don’t consider myself a Christopher Hitchens of student journalism — nothing could be farther from the truth. Writing is often still difficult for me. My stint as a writer and editor, however, is something of which I am very proud. I am indebted to anyone who has ever read, edited, commented on or talked to me about one of my columns. You have helped to shape me into a more well-rounded person.