What Over 730 Days At Odyssey Has Given Me

What Over 730 Days At Odyssey Has Given Me

Having written with Odyssey for more than two years, I've seen, and learned, a thing or two.

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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.

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10 Bible Verses for Self Esteem

Sometimes you need to search for inner strength and find your own self worth.
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We all get those days that we just don't feel good enough for anything. Everything is going wrong. For me, I go to the bible to read the words of God. His personal dialog for us is filled with encouragement, hope, and lessons we can learn from. Here are my top ten verses that are uplifting and impacting when at the lowest of lows:

1. Philippians 4:13:

I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.

2. Psalm 46:5

God is within her, she will not fall.

3. Proverbs 31:25

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.

4. Psalm 28:76

The Lord is my strength and my shield.

5. 1 Corinthians 25:10

By the grace of God, I am what I am.

6. Romans 5:8

I loved you at your darkest.

7. Psalm 62:5-6

Only God gives inward peace, and I depend on Him. God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe, and he is the fortress where I feel secure.

8. 2 Timothy 1:7

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.

9. 1 Peter 2:9

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

10. 2 Chronicles 20:15

The battle is not ours, but God's.

Cover Image Credit: chinadaily

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'Sierra Burgess Is A Loser,' And So Am I

The latest of the Netflix rom-coms, "Sierra Burgess Is A Loser" spoke to me for reasons other than the relationship.

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When I watched "The Kissing Booth" and "To All The Boys I've Loved Before," I watched them for the sole purpose of enjoying them. I watched "Sierra Burgess Is A Loser" because I wanted a distraction from my reality for a little while. I thought it would be a mindless two hours.

Instead, I found myself really emotional while watching it.

As Sierra struggled to fit in, I found myself remembering how I felt coming into high school and then again while coming into college. I don't really make friends easily, and while I haven't really been bullied since freshman year of high school, Sierra's struggles with being bullied and picked on for how she looks and acts really hit home. Even being far removed from my own experiences, the feelings all came rushing back to me.

Her sole friend at the beginning of the movie is Dan. He accepts her how she is and does the typical best friend things. Yes, he makes jokes at her expense (as many friends do), but he also supports her in all things. She tries out for the boy's track team, and Dan joins her. He doesn't let her wallow in self-pity.

Just as real friends though, he can't do everything. As she loses herself in the middle of the film, Dan distances himself. She doesn't accept his help, and he's hurt by her actions. I'd be lying if I hadn't done that to multiple friends. I didn't have many friends before high school (and even in high school), and I often hurt them without really thinking.

I understand her lack of self-confidence (it's something I still struggle with.) I understand comparing yourself to cheerleaders. I understand looking at myself in the mirror and not seeing what people wanted to see.

It isn't a fun feeling. In the movie, Sierra's feelings push her to attack one of her new friends because she believes that this friend is getting what Sierra wants. While I don't think I've done what Sierra did, I've definitely lashed out when my friends "got" a guy I liked or got a role that I wanted in a musical.

Right near the end, Sierra writes a song called Sunflower. If you haven't heard it, google it. I almost started crying while I listened to it in the movie. I have often felt like a sunflower in a world that wants roses.

This movie isn't perfect. In fact, there is an extremely problematic plotline where she pretends to be deaf to avoid talking to Jamey, her crush. Not cool. But in the grand scheme of rom-coms, this was one of the few where I didn't care what happened between Sierra and Jamey. I cared how Sierra thought about herself. I cared about if she and her friends made up.

I'm still struggling with some of the feelings Sierra struggles with, so I think part of the reason I liked this movie so much is that it ends with her fighting through her problems and trying to find the beauty in being Sierra and not Veronica.

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