In July 2018, a couple weeks before I would officially move to campus to begin my freshman year at Florida Gulf Coast University, I was invited to join FGCU's Odyssey community. All throughout high school, writing had been my passion. My outlet. A safe haven to channel all of my emotions and struggles. It was the first thing I had ever come to believe I was truly good at, and I had no idea how I was going to find my place - hundreds of miles away from home - without it.
So when the opportunity to write for Odyssey came my way, I snatched it up and put my heart and soul into this community, this platform. And it changed my writing forever.
For the first time in my life, I was writing for myself while also being recognized for it. I poured my heart out on this platform after losing my grandfather, one of my best friends in life, and this was the first article of mine to ever blow up. It showed me the power of sharing your voice, the power in discovering you are not alone, which is what Odyssey is all about.
Shortly after, I wrote an article about why I love my school, which was re-shared by FGCU on social media. I had professors and students alike come up to me to tell me they read it and how much they loved it. Even the Director of the Honors College sent me a personal email to praise my article. Out of nowhere, for the first time in my life, I was receiving Internet and in-person recognition. But I never let it get to my head. I just kept on doing what I love to do.
After this point, my articles only started to increase in views, until one in particular hit 64,000 views. It was an unpopular opinion about a popular TV couple on the show "Outer Banks." It was a basic mini-rant that I felt the need to write mid-quarantine, and the Internet rained fire down on me for it. But it was my first viral article, and I couldn't have been prouder.
And the beauty of Odyssey is that my very next article was about how to be polite on the Internet, even if you disagree with someone.
Odyssey's "share your voice" initiative changed everything I knew about writing. Typically, when you write for yourself and your own emotions, it gets lost in the sea of writings being promoted by platforms who are dictating the content their writers put out. But when you write for one of those platforms, and they allow you to write whatever you want, it really is life-changing.
I would go on to write almost 100 articles, including a tribute to Chadwick Boseman after his unfortunate passing, a personal connection to Justin Bieber's song "Lonely" the day it was released, a variety of articles on the Enneagram personality test, a PR piece for a nonprofit I was working with, and so much more.
My favorite part of this experience, though, is that I would go on to become a community rep, specifically the Editor-in-Chief, for the FGCU Odyssey community.
Leading this team has been my absolute pride and joy in college. At our peak, we had over forty writers, and as I make my not-so-subtle exit, our team has had about 5.8 million views since its origin.
But those numbers mean nothing without the actual people, the sweet and talented souls, who helped bring our community to life with the power of words.
Sharing my words on Odyssey was the greatest experience I had in college - and I had A LOT of amazing experiences. And I stuck with it for my full three years of college, not only because I loved writing, but because I loved the platform, the community, and the team.
I will always cherish this platform and everything it brought me. I may be saying "Farewell, Odyssey," but I am also saying "Thank you for letting me share my voice and my writing with the world."