So, it’s fifth week and I suddenly find myself in a odd position. This past week, one of our beloved (but comps-ing) editors-in-chief decided to take a sabbatical and for who knows what reason, perhaps insanity, entrusted me to fill in for her, working alongside the stellar J.M. Hanley, for the rest of the term. And thus, I find myself sitting at 10:45 on a Thursday night, attempting to write an editorial, but in actuality, just searing my contacts into my pupils by staring at the computer screen for too long.
An odd position indeed. A year ago, I never would have thought that I might be holding a title at the paper or having any semblance of responsibility. I was only a lousy little copy-editor, a shy freshman who shuffled through the door of the office at 8 pm after layout was done to catch (or really, not to catch, right?) our paper’s oh-so-notorious typos. But then, I also never anticipated enjoying that copy-editing so much, or enjoying writing for the paper so much. Somehow, between a year ago and now, I moved from the copy-editing table to the computer, without ever really thinking twice about it.
It seems to me that we all come into college with preconceived notions about who we are and what we will or should do. I wanted to play frisbee, and sing acapella, and do a million other things. But I quickly learned that despite its many fervent admirers, Ultimate wasn’t my thing, and I soon realized that while my voice was fine and good, it really wasn’t acappella-worthy.
We map out our futures in a place and often, without us even noticing, that future shifts; certain features drop away, disappear and dissipate, while others appear slowly or spontaneously to fill in gaps. Eventually, some coherent thing emerges; eventually, if we do enough shaking of our arms, a picture shows up on the Polaroid. And sometimes the picture looks like what we thought it would and sometimes it doesn’t at all. Sometimes, you start out as the one fixing the typos and become the one making them.
Change can be both swift and unnoticeable. Mid-way through the year and mid-way through winter (at least, I hope we’re mid-way...), I tend to forgot about progress. As in, I forgot that things change. Because doesn’t everything feel interminable and endless? School work spreads out before us like a vast tundra; we’re exhausted, we’re cold; ninety-nine percent of us, and probably ninety-nine percent of the entire population of Minnesota, is severely vitamin-D deficient. I get in a dark place where I begin to wonder whether I’ll ever finish that eight-hundred page novel for my Victorian lit class, or whether I’ll ever get enough sleep, or whether I’ll ever feel that wonderfully warm sun and shining grass on my skin again. The polar vortex appears, in a word, never-ending.
But then, the questions are all about perspective, and given the right lens, I think we are able to see beyond stagnancy--we are able to see where we came from, where we might be going... we can see, in short, the progress, or that elusive sprig of spring sunshine at the end of the tunnel.
I’ll admit it: this week was tough. I groaned and whined, and worried I was groaning and whining too much, but then heard other people groaning and whining, and then groaned and whined more. I spent a lot of time rubbing my eyes in class just as an excuse to close them for a minute. During this strange week where we find ourselves in the middle of everything--of the term, of the year, of the winter, with the vanishing points for all things way off the edges of the paper--spirits may be understandably low. We are liable to feel sad and ignored and grumpy. Perhaps we even get a bit of middle-child syndrome.
But as Albert Camus’ wrote in The Stranger, “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invisible summer.” I haven’t read The Stranger (or anything by Camus, actually; I just quoted him to sound smart), so I don’t know the context of the quote, but taking it by itself, I’m struck repeatedly by those two simple words, “within me.”
...Now where was I going with this? I’m sorry. I haven’t slept, as I’ve obviously made clear. OK, right: progress, perspective, what have you. Those two words--within me--emphasize the importance of our own self-resolve and outlook in surviving the “midst of winter.” Because as I was explaining at the beginning of this editorial (which feels like a long time ago now, doesn’t it?), progress exists. It exists very clearly, but often we don’t realize it until we’re in those odd positions that force us to realize it.
Logic tells me that the work will diminish at some point, that the snow will at some point melt, and that the temperature will at some point stubbornly creep upwards. Progress must and will happen; it’s happening right now, but while we’re in the thick of things, its movements are usually imperceptible. We feel stagnate and hopeless, but within us is the capability to see things differently, to remember that there is something beyond the endless days of sub-zero temperature and mid-terms.
Things are shifting; a new future is coming into view. Soon enough, we’ll all be wearing shorts and slack-lining on the Bald Spot... but for now, keep at it, have heart; get some sleep.