As I sit here writing my 77th article for the Odyssey Online, I marvel at my two-year stint with the organization.
When I began writing for the Odyssey at the close of July 2016, everything was in a state of flux. I was preparing to leave my home and my state which had been my abode for near 18 years to move 800 miles south to live in a strange city amongst fellow strangers.
As a nation, the United States was in a bind between a boisterous billionaire demagogue and a corrupt bureaucrat looking to forge a win by means of a political dynasty. Not knowing who the next leader of the free world would be had everyone walking on eggshells, with the added knowledge that finding out who was next wouldn't necessarily alleviate any of that anxiety.
And again in my own personal life, I was in the midst of a contentious romantic relationship, which had its own inefficacies exacerbated by the two aforementioned instances of chaos. Not only did we have a degree of political disagreement, but we were also going to colleges separated by extreme distances: me to Atlanta and she to St. Louis.
This was the world that I occupied at the beginning of my Odyssey career. It was a time of great tumult in my life and, as we all know, such strife usually breeds great creative potential. Of course, this sort of broader picture wasn't in my mind at the time. I was much more concerned with what sort of meal plan I'd be getting and if I'd get along with my roommate than with any kind of lofty blogging ambitions.
Still, when Ryan Fan came knocking, I was eager to join. I was already an avid writer and with everything going on, I definitely had some things to say.
Odyssey gave me a voice.
Maybe that sounds corny, but really in the beginning and through to today that was my objective: to say something of significance. To be heard.
Now, I'll be upfront with you. In my two years, I've written my fair share of Buzzfeed-esque, top 10, clickbait-y articles. Yet, in the majority of cases I've used Odyssey as a platform to pontificate ideas worth sharing, from depression to love to sports culture to the biggest political issues of the day. And in the majority of cases I've gotten fantastic feedback from all points of view and wonderful support on virtually everything I've written.
And that sort of repetitive production, turning out an article per week for the better part of my career, has strengthened me as a writer in incredible ways.
I think it's also not very much a secret that motivation (or lack thereof) is one of the greatest opponents of writers everywhere. So, to have an entire community out in support of you (and more importantly an editor gently nudging you along) more than helps in that department. The one per week system has forced me to be more deliberate with my writing, not to mention that the only way to get better at something is, in fact, to do it.
As I look back appreciatively at what Odyssey has given to me these two years gone, I can't help but to remember that growth. That I've gone from merely hitting an issue head on to examining it from many different angles in a more nuanced stance is something that Odyssey is directly responsible for.
As I'm staring down the next two years of college I find myself even more appreciative. Appreciative of my time at an institution like Emory and appreciative of this opportunity to cry out into the void.
The future at points may be uncertain and it is more than sure to be tumultuous, but as long as I have something to say and somewhere to say it I can rest assured in my ability to be a part of the conversation and, more powerfully, to shape the future.