I will never forget my first column. As the only freshman on the editorial staff in 2011, I set out with a lot to prove to any readers I had, but most of all, I had a lot to prove to myself.
Just as I was finding my voice amongst the cacophony of political commentary, witty anecdotes of more experienced columnists and trying to discover what this column would grow into. I was also finding my feet amongst the thousands of other students on campus. I remember how I sat down to my laptop and nervously typed my perspective on the British royal engagement — which, I am now embarrassed I ever penned 800 words on.
I found my passion for international relations and political science, and despite taking graduate-level courses and wading through thousands of pages of reading per week, that feeling of excitement has stuck. I ventured to Washington, D.C., and catalogued my experiences in this weekly column for the FreeP as an international student deciphering the mess that is governmental process. To my surprise, I fell deeply in love with the city and all it taught me. For the first time in my college career, I felt like I was finding my niche. I donned a blazer every morning and looked forward to whatever the city had in store for me next.
I left the cherry blossoms of Washington to begin my next adventure in Sydney, where I came close to conquering my fear of the open water. I looked out from a sunlit cliffside and breathed in the deep, slightly salty air. The independence that came years ago with college gave me a false sense of arrogance. As I continued to write my columns about news, I thought I had the world figured out. As long as I wrote eloquently, I was automatically privy to the nuances and complications that made up every single news story I chose.
The truth? I had no idea.
This will be my third and final attempt at a column in my undergraduate career. The Daily Free Press has been an integral part of my time here at Boston University. In between columns, I happened to ascend to managing editor of this newspaper last semester. Equipped with a solid grasp of the English language and one news story under my belt, I began the most grueling months of my life — class, FreeP, class work, sleep, repeat.
My body and my sanity deteriorated exponentially. But, like every dark tunnel, the other side inevitably comes. The people in that office with me night after night grew to mean a lot to me, because unlike those on the periphery, they know what it’s like to run on empty.
As hard and hopeless some of those hours were, I toughened up. In times of hardship, we become selfish and reckless, but my second-to-last semester at BU is one that forced me to take a step back and embrace who I was and who I wanted to be.
Since I’ve been away from my weekly space, tucked in the right side column of the Opinion section, I have continued to watch life unfold around me. I watch with sadness as pointless shootings bring misery into the lives of millions. I watch as fledgling governments in countries far from my window overlooking Nickerson Field, hold elections hoping corruption’s toxicity does not pollute the lives of voters. I watch as Stanislas Wawrinka beats tennis giant Rafael Nadal to win the Australian Open. In 12 previous matches between the two, Wawrinka had never won a set. I watch as a woman in Texas, declared brain-dead and 14 weeks pregnant, is taken off life support. Today, as part of the Syrian peace process, woman and children are finally permitted to leave the devastated city of Homs.
I have said hello and goodbye to this column twice before, and in the final chapter of my life here at BU, letting go of my weekly 800 words will not just be relinquishing a column of space on paper. It will be the closing of the most significant installment of my life thus far.
I was recently at Dellaria, a nail salon on Commonwealth Avenue. As the manicurist painted my nails, a young girl walked in and struck up conversation. She was a freshman, from Hong Kong, adjusting to life in Boston. She asked if, as a senior, I had any advice for her. I gave the usual response of being open, putting yourself out there and making the most of your four years.
What I should have said is this: Find friends who will give to you what you would give for them, and keep them close. Hold on to those who will force you to be your best self, whether you want to hear it or not. Push yourself for internships, accolades and academic success, but remember to have days to cherish yourself. Stay grounded. Never take anything for granted. I do not know what these last few months before the real world hold in store for me, but I look forward, unafraid.
Sofiya Mahdi is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org