Two years ago, I started writing for this platform. I had been accepted to a school not far from my father's new job and signed a lease about 1,200 miles away from home in a town I didn't even know existed.
I joined in an effort to network and familiarize myself with fellow students, considering I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. I was raised in the suburbs, used to moderately sized townships and going to school in the city. Naturally, I looked for friendship anywhere I could find it in a new place that requires regular traffic stops for crossing chickens.
Two degree plan changes and a panic attack later, I settled in and soon found myself a year deep into writing for Odyssey. With nearly 50 articles under my belt, I had a lot of positive feedback from my viewers — feedback that was totally worth the hours spent creating — but the essence was wearing off.
Much of our original team had jumped ship (graduation, lifestyle choice, etc.), and those who remained were recovering from a plethora of unexpected changes brought on by HQ and our own Executive Board.
I felt burnt out and completely strapped for new ideas. I didn't want to write GIF-centered lists about college life or an open letter to my best friend, yet I had no interest in current events, poetry or creative fiction.
Odyssey felt like a huge eye roll that no one was taking seriously, and the last thing I wanted was to feel like I was writing for BuzzFeed.
I decided to throw in the towel.
After constructing a heartfelt message to the group, I shared what I thought would be my last article and left the team. I felt oddly free.
In just three semesters, I had made boatload of acquaintances, friends, and "frenemies," all of whom I considered a valuable part of the network. I knew I wasn't going to get along with everyone, but I did have so much respect for my team's ability to handle diversity and controversial conversations.
It got me thinking about what I was leaving behind — the opportunity to publish whatever I want, whenever I want with little censorship and a team whose members provided excellent input on article topics and all had one thing in common (if absolutely nothing else): a passion for creating.
I decided to return.
I can't really explain how it felt to come back after a much needed break, other than a blissful sigh. Even if I wasn't close with my team members or had no interest in writing about any of the trending topics, it still felt inexplicably good to be back.
A few months after rejoining, I became a member of my team's Executive Board. Having a say in how the team is structured, presented and published has definitely provided a new perspective on Odyssey. Of course I have my personal opinions about policies and the way things are run, but overall I'm glad I was around to see my team regroup and make a comeback.
Often times, I'm asked why I stress about or put so much effort into something that isn't even paying me. Sometimes, I ask myself the same thing.
Then I think about all the appreciative messages I've received, noting that I helped someone through a hard time or just provided a laugh through my work. I think about my team jotting down the tips I share at our meetings so they can work to improve their own.
I think about the dozens of articles I repackage each month — how uniquely each pair of eyes sees the world and how varying perspectives are conveyed through their individual writing styles. I watch my team share and compliment each others' articles and provide each other with constructive criticism.
I think about all the skills Odyssey has given me the opportunity to strengthen before I navigate life after college, and I start to understand more each day why it's so hard for graduates to say goodbye to the team after they walk.
Frustrations aside, I've taken this platform for granted. Regardless of criticism of Odyssey's brand (including my own), how could I not have respect for something that's had such an impact on my life? I often wonder what my life would have been like without it — who would my first friends have been after my transfer? How would I have networked? What else would I have gotten involved with if not this?
I'll never know the answers, nor will I know when I part ways with Odyssey for absolute sure, but I do know that I did the right thing by reconsidering my leave.