The weight of words

Leaving a legacy upon graduation

As an English major, I invariably deal with a lot of words. Poems, essays, short stories — whatever form they’re in, I’ve experienced them.

We’re told that words carry a lot of weight. But what does that mean? Obviously, words can affect people. But it has taken until now, as I start nearing the end of my time here at the University, that I really started thinking about what that weight was.

Being human and — for the most part— inherently social creatures, we throw around a lot of words every day. The frequency with which we use these words steadily devalues their currency, until they become like pennies we find under our car seats. We throw them around recklessly, spending them without real thought or attention to their worth.

The empty promises of “Let’s catch up soon!” and the things we claim we “love” fill up voids in our everyday lives — a steady stream of tarnished copper coins we forget about as soon as we let go of them.

I’ve spent my fair share of time partaking in this arbitrary economy of words. I’ve spent countless lectures daydreaming and letting a professor’s lesson wash right over me, no doubt missing some glimmer of wisdom I could have seized. I’ve cast off good advice in favor of some inane fixation or preoccupation I’ve created for myself. I’ve even said a lot of things I don’t mean, throwing out my own words without real thought or care for where they may end up.

But, in the midst of all this empty flotsam lies the weight we carry around within ourselves — the moments and the words that have stood out among the rest and buried themselves deep inside of us. The last lecture in the ethics class you took first year, the card your best friend left you during finals, the perfect passage you stumbled upon in a book during a terrible week — these are the instances that give depth to our speech, the meaningful tokens that catch us off guard amid a trading of insignificant currency.

During my four years here at the University, I’ve been a pretty normal student. I worked hard in my classes, made amazing friends, and had the best college experience I could have wished for, but I wouldn’t say I made any significant dent on the University itself.

I didn’t head some prestigious committee or live on the Lawn, and you definitely won’t find my name on a plaque anywhere. For the next two years or so, I will be remembered. I will be spoken of occasionally by friends who still go here, but they too will graduate and move on and so will my presence here at the University.

But my words — they will still be here. I’m almost positive no one besides my mother has ever really read much of the work I’ve done for The Cavalier Daily over the past four years, but it will still be here. Long after I graduate and move on from this place, these words will continue to exist without me.

All of the embarrassingly terrible articles I wrote as an eager first-year and the anxious, rambling columns of my fourth-year self — all of them will remain tucked away somewhere. I’m not naïve enough to think these will have some outstanding or life changing effect on someone who reads them, but I’d like to think they have hidden within them a little weight of their own.

Perhaps someday, 20 years from now, a nervous student will stumble upon something I’ve written floating around on the Internet or tucked away in the old newspaper copies in the bottom of Alderman. And maybe, for a second, my words will resonate with her and will give her a sense of comfort or a feeling of being understood — a fleeting moment of certainty among the meaningless.

And in that brief moment, I will be present here again at the University. Somehow, my words will carry on for a tiny instant and, distantly, I will be remembered. And that’s all right by me.

Mimi’s column ran biweekly Wednesdays. As she is graduating in May, this is her final column for The Cavalier Daily.

Published April 22, 2014 in Life

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