The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

PARTING SHOT: The greatest show on Grounds

Everything began with a blinking cursor and everything is ending with one.

I’ve stared at this page for a long time. Adjectives and verbs would fill in sentences and paragraphs, then read back hollow and pale. I’d erase what I had worked on. Nothing could really accurately describe how my time at The Cavalier Daily felt during or after three and a half years. No $5 words or $10 sentiments could enrich empty phrases, and I knew that.

So here goes: another redo.

Every word in a sentence builds upon the ones which follow it. Every sentence in a paragraph builds a greater point. You could say all writing is is a written version of the domino effect. Once your blueprint becomes a final draft, the ensuing work under your byline could build on the legacy you unknowingly started. I only believe this because up until The Cavalier Daily, the domino effect held true in my life.

If my parents had never heard their son would never walk nor talk, I would have never been enlisted in 14 years of continuous physical therapies, leg castings, Botox surgeries (!) and even karate lessons. If I had never trudged through those obstacle courses and needle plunges to combat my cerebral palsy, I would’ve never found a story worth pursuing. Since then, my life has been following the lead that was set without my editorial hand: I was born with a disability. That didn’t mean I had to have the narrative turn darker as it grew longer.

I found my bright spot in an unlikely place. I dove into the loud, fast world of punk music at a young age, despite never attending a show in a sweaty basement or growing a mohawk. The freedom the genre gave me seemed infinite. The lyrics boasted about blazing a personal trail. I wanted to articulate exactly what these songs meant; I wrote album reviews of everything from Blink-182 to my uncle and sister’s band in the fourth grade. I knew there was a market for this — I read Alternative Press and memorized the journalistic tone, the ways of expression — but I didn’t radically increase my output until college. And so here we are.

Joining the Arts and Entertainment staff surrounded me with people who, for the first time, combined their love for music (among other things) with a love for words. I’ll admit my desire to distinguish myself from the pack wasn’t always done in prose. I never wore Vineyard Vines in Charlottesville, and a much younger, snarkier me wanted you to know that with my band tees and blue jeans. If I hadn’t chosen that path, I wouldn’t have learned it’s not about what you wear — it’s about what your words are outfitted to say.

Without The Cavalier Daily, I wouldn’t have downed several cans of Mountain Dew a night trying to make deadlines after a week of procrastination. That jolt of energy gave me the courage to run for Senior Arts and Entertainment Editor, one night after procrastinating on a potential speech (and wardrobe selection). As Senior Editor, I learned to become a leader, a mentor and a better writer, all the while cultivating and maintaining some of the closest friends I could have asked for. I did so in the same band tees and jeans I donned earlier, but acted with relentless kindness instead of a smirk.

Any member of our editorial staff could have summarized their final moments by counting the stress headaches. I just remember near-50 faces in a circle of beanbag chairs rallying around what many considered to be a publication’s throwaway section. To me, that desire to make something as legitimate and exciting as a breaking news story isn’t unlike what I faced at birth. I could’ve been written off as something unspectacular, but I wasn’t. Many domino falls later, I was able to help do the same for a wider community obsessed with pop culture. We all followed different paths, but at The Cavalier Daily, they converged for an hour a week, hopefully more than that.

Last May, I was asked to contribute to Alternative Press, the same magazine which taught me the basics of being a music writer in elementary school. While it was a confirmation of a lifelong dream, without The Cavalier Daily I wouldn’t have made it that far so soon. That’s what I loved about the show that went on every night in the Newcomb Hall basement. No one had a mohawk, not many wore band tees and Arts and Entertainment wasn’t our shared interest, but consistent camaraderie and a desire to turn any passion into words was more than enough to give me a chance to continue my story.

My cursor blinks no more.

James Cassar was the 125th and 126th Arts and Entertainment editor of The Cavalier Daily.