Your Story Here
Mount Prospect, Illinois
When I first came to Carleton, I was scared. I remember being gathered in the chapel along with the rest of our class, swimming in anxiety. Here I was, one person, one set of experiences, bobbing along in a sea of people easily more talented and compelling than me. This, now admittedly irrational thought process, was reinforced when Dean of Admissions Paul Thibotout regaled the accomplishments of our fellow class mates in an attempt to inspire us. All it left me with was a sinking feeling that my future contributions were going to be limited because I hadn’t started a Dance Dance Revolution club, written a book for Novel-Writing Month or was a nationally ranked Magic card player.
Luckily, my deluded freshman mentality dissipated throughout my years as I began to engage more with Carleton, adjusting to the ebb and flow of the culture. I have always been humbled by the achievements of my classmates. However, as I began to find my own niche, my own pockets of passion, I became empowered in the sense that every one of us, me included, has a spark of something great, something distinct, and something to add to the mosaic that makes up our community.
In high school, my newspaper adviser taught me that everyone has a story. Every person, no matter how he or she may seem` on the surface is the star of a narrative, both original and strong. And after reflecting on my time at Carleton, it’s a lesson that brings into crystal clarity how much my insecurities had clouded my initial perspective.
Four years later, I have learned that everyone indeed has a story. I have met a kaleidoscope of individuals, each having lived through their own set of experiences, trials, and accomplishments. What has been especially enriching for me, has not been learning about the actual experiences themselves, but how people have created meaning from their own narrative, taken agency over how the events in their life have shaped their past, present, and their future.
As an editor for the Lens, a faux “New Yorker” style publication, it has been my pleasure to work with a sliver of the stories that my classmates have experienced. I have had the honor to edit and package these narratives and their meanings and present them back to the student body. In doing so, the hope is, that every one of us will learn from each other’s story, maybe even prompting us to tweak our own or at least tell it with a new and fresh wink.
I’ve worked with a girl who had to reconcile her identity after immersing herself in the spiritual rituals of the Navajo culture for a summer. I’ve gotten insight into how sand can inspire an enthralling dance performance. I learned of one student’s foray into the world of on-line dating. I have read how someone used a turkey sandwich as political fodder to take on a tyrannical School Board president.
But I use the Lens only as a case study for the nuanced and fascinating tales people have told. As I said, the Lens only represents a microcosm of the driven and colorful personalities that are woven into this campus’ fabric.
I know of people who have spent the entirety of their Tuesday evenings volunteering in Northfield, fueled by a passion for public health. Through fellowships, our classmates have found meaning in locations as diverse as rural Illinois to a Peruvian cave. Even on campus, I’ve witnessed students rally together to keep traditions alive. Everyone active and engaged, initiating the change they want to see.
We are all writers of our own story. And graduation is simply a time for us to take a step back and allow the ink to dry on the chapters we have already written, looking forward to the arcs, twists, and climaxes to come. Whatever clichéd metaphor you dust off in order to represent transition, the significance of today remains universal: we are on the brink of overwhelming possibilities, throwing caution to the wind as we forge ahead, and if we’re lucky, we won’t be catching our breaths anytime soon.
But more importantly, as we reflect on our own stories, our individual accomplishments, the kinds that Paul Thibotout will continue to quote to prospective students in the coming years, I for one, am not just leaving here as the only person who has put a pen to my pages. I am leaving here a product of all the stories I have witnessed and heard. I have been inspired, influenced, impressed, and at times even a little intimidated by my fellow Carls, but all of them have helped shape who I am and who I want to become. I feel privileged to have been exposed to a cohort of some of the most sharp-witted and stimulating people I have ever met and I feel assured that I am a much more fleshed out character because of it. Today, being the narrative junkie that I am, I look out and see around five hundred writers filled with tales waiting to be written. I see stories waiting to be lived, voices waiting to be heard. Carleton has taught me to be confident in my own story, and each of us should feel proud to go beyond and show how our narratives are bigger than the confines of this campus. Proud to show that everyone does have a story, and that ours, each and every one, is a story worth sharing.