On November 21, 2016, my first article for the Odyssey came out. It was entitled Don't Wish It All Away (an open letter to high school seniors).
Writing articles and publishing them for anyone to read is more intimidating for me now than it was when I first started. I don't think I quite knew what I was getting myself into. The first thing I've learned from my experience with Odyssey is: the beautiful thing about it is that can you can write about anything you want. But the terrifying thing about Odyssey is that you can write about anything you want.
There are some weird articles out there, man. But it's so cool that Odyssey is an outlet for people to express their ideas, even if their ideas are rather obscure and perhaps, even questionable.
I think something we have to be wary of as writers and readers of Odyssey is this: just because someone writes and publishes something, and there is a small (or large) population of people who agree with that someone, that doesn't mean that writer (maybe that writer is you) is correct in their ideas. There is a huge difference between critical thinking and accepting the opposite of what is typically expected.
Being producers and consumers of media that anyone has access to means that we need to think critically about what we cite, where we get our information from, and if we trust a 19 year-old's perspectives on life's questions that they know little about (I'm one of those 19 year-olds and I know I don't have all the answers).
For example, breaking girl code's cardinal rule is not morally acceptable just because you write an article about it and there are a few people who deem it as acceptable. But the fact that we can write about something as important as that on Odyssey, and not be shot down by any sort of authority (unless there is bad grammar or bad argumentative skills), is pretty amazing.
And what's even more amazing is our ability to respond to each other, agreeing or disagreeing with each other based on knowledge, life experience, and different authoritative sources. Like this article, written in response to Cat Urbanski's I Broke Girl Code's Cardinal Rule and I Don't Regret It referenced above.
We tend to have a mentality that posting on the internet and getting any sort of validation from likes, comments, and retweets means that what we said is 100% truth and there's no arguing against it.
The biggest thing I've learned from writing for Odyssey is that what you think you are saying and what your readers think you are saying are often two different things. It is so important to be as specific as possible so there is little room for misinterpretation.
Even in conversation, people make assumptions about what you don't believe based on what you tell them you do believe, and vice versa. Often, it is simply better to clarify both from the get-go, before they even have a chance to misinterpret what you are saying.
Writing is important. Whether you publish it or not, allowing your ideas to flow to completion out of your mind and onto paper or through your keyboard is essential to understanding ourselves better, as well as better learning how to argue, how to express our ideas eloquently, and how to ponder relevant topics.
Having the ability to write is to have power, not wisdom. Wisdom comes from experience, conversation, being willing to hear other perspectives, accepting critique and feedback, and more writing.
Here's to another year, Odyssey. Let's make it count.