Before I started writing for Odyssey, I held a lot of judgments against it. I would always see those "Open Letter To My Ex/Best Friend/Mom/Sister/Etc." articles on my Facebook news feed and roll my eyes at the cliche topics and unoriginal clickbait headlines. I also had a personal vendetta against all the Odyssey posts I saw that seemed to be trying to report on actual news. I thought, a college student from Middleofnowhere University in Nebraska thinks they have the capacity to write a fully-fleshed article about our country's political climate? I'm sure.
So, right now you're probably thinking, "bro, if you hated it so much, why did you join?"
Well, Internet stranger, I'm glad you asked.
I've always enjoyed writing, but I could never seem to stick to it. I would start dozens of short stories, but never finish them. I would try to make myself write every day, even if it was just a daily reflection, but all I was left with was a collection of half-used journals.
I had a few friends who had written for Odyssey, and they had nothing but good things to say about it. You could write about whatever you wanted, you only have to submit one article a week, and if you were lucky enough, you could even get paid for articles that went "viral." Eventually, I started to understand the appeal of writing for the wannabe-news platform.
After considering for awhile, I joined Odyssey. I figured it would be an easy extracurricular to throw on my resume, and that maybe having a weekly deadline would be the push I needed to start taking my writing more seriously.
I can tell you now that I was right about half of that statement. Having a weekly deadline keeps me on top of my writing and has helped my creativity to flourish. It hasn't, however, been anywhere near easy. It's difficult to think creatively all the time and to force yourself to organize all your jumbled thoughts into coherent pieces of writing. These past seven-or-so months have pushed me to open my mind, expand my comfort zone, and explore all the facets writing and literature have to offer.
In my time here, I have come to love Odyssey and everything it stands for. My premonitions about the site weren't incorrect -- Odyssey is not a news source, and writing for it isn't "real" journalism. But it doesn't need to be, and it's never claimed to be. Odyssey is simply a place where everyone has a voice.
Whether that voice is used to make funny listicles about The Office, or to call for the protection of transgender students (both of which I have done in my time here), the objective is the same: to be heard.
Our editors don't reject articles they disagree with or try to police what we can and can't write about. Each week, every Odyssey creator has the opportunity to write about their own thoughts, opinions, and interests. They have the chance to use their voice and open up conversations. And that is what Odyssey is to me: a safe place for expression and discussion.
I never regret my choice to write for Odyssey. I know there are people who hold the same judgments that I had before joining, but I think the important distinction to make is that Odyssey creators are well-aware that writing for a college blogging site doesn't make us journalists. We are nothing more than a group of creative thinkers and passionate writers who want the chance to hear others and to be heard.