Before I dive into this Viewpoint, I want to acknowledge the state of the world in which I am writing. First and foremost, I wish to underscore the vital importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, and have linked resources for education and action here. Second, I hope to highlight the heroics of our nation’s journalists, who risk their health and safety to keep us all informed.
After four years at Carleton, I thought I’d have a more profound lede. But there it is, and here I am: exhausted after my last day of undergraduate classes.
I’ll bet that every Carleton student has experienced a similar feeling of exhaustion. Our classes move at lightning speed and our terms go by in a flash. Students operate in a near constant state of sleep deprivation and over-caffeination. The whole thing is exhilarating, but exhausting. And then, just like that, the term is over.
For a lot of us Carls, fatigue is an inconvenience: something to endure while sprinting to the finish line, rather than slowing down to examine. But, in true American Studies fashion, I want to think about what this feeling of tiredness means. What is its significance to my larger Carleton experience?
After my first term at Carleton, I was exhausted. Those ten weeks had been an academic whirlwind unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I was ready for some much-needed R&R, and it showed. I had bags under my eyes and stress breakouts galore. And yet, when I reunited with my family, they didn’t see the lack of sleep or the stress of finishing that A&I paper. In fact, my family said that for the first time in years, I looked alive.
And for the first time in years, I felt alive. High school had worn me down. I viewed myself the way that my school viewed me: as a liability, rather than an asset. I had gotten used to feeling not enough. It weighed me down, and turned me hollow. Eventually, that reserve of empty space became the site of my fresh start.
I spent my first year at Carleton getting my bearings, making friends and adjusting to life away from home. I learned from my peers, observing how they spoke about themselves and others. I admired their zest for life; it encouraged me to tap into my own. I pushed myself to take courses outside of my wheelhouse and built connections with professors who inspired me. I filled my days with friends, homework, and fun, and rediscovered the joys of learning. Every night, I flopped onto my Twin XL bed completely and utterly exhausted but, more often than not, with a smile on my face. I was depleting my energy while doing things I enjoyed, and in that process, I was becoming whole again.
When I returned to campus sophomore year, I felt ready to tackle Carleton as myself. The first thing I did that term was join The Carletonian, and I never looked back. I threw myself into the newspaper, first as a contributing writer, then as a Managing Editor, and then, by my junior winter, as an Editor-in-Chief.
The Carletonian is at the heart of my Carleton experience. Working at the newspaper pushed me to the edges of myself, and helped me to challenge the self-doubts that I carry. As an Editor-in-Chief, I learned to recognize myself as a leader –– something I had never thought possible. I thoroughly exhausted myself over my two terms as Editor-in-Chief, but I grew more than I could have ever imagined. I look back on that time with a lot of pride, and I know I will continue to do so for years to come.
I will remember Carleton as the site of my busiest days, latest nights, and most treasured memories. I will remember the bleary-eyed dance breaks with my best friends to 2000s hits; the late nights in the Libe and the early morning KRLX shows; the sunny spring days spent lounging on the Bald Spot; the windows-down, music-loud drives around Northfield; the feeling of belonging while walking around campus; and the blissful sense of accomplishment at the end of every term.
I didn’t just grow up at Carleton. I grew into myself. And that process was as tiring as it was rewarding. But I know, with full confidence, that I made the most of my 3.66 years on Carleton’s campus. And now, I’m ready for the next chapter.