Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry to say that this is the end of times…with me as Recess editor. There’s a lot of self-inflicted pressure and expectations for this editor’s note because it very well could be my last piece of published writing—ever! Plus, the final Recess editor’s notes in the past have been so heart-wrenching and actually meaningful that I could never compete (sorry, I wasn’t best friends with Robin Williams.) So instead, I’m going to write about something that’s the complete opposite of meaningful—un-meaningful, if you will—to the masses: my time here at Duke and at The Chronicle.
*insert instrumental of “Seasons of Love”*
How do I measure the years at The Chronicle/Duke? In staff boxes, in articles, in slightly off-color and mostly offensive emails, in empty Diet Coke cans, in the number of AP style violations #oxfordcommahate? How about none of the above because this is a God-awful bit that worked out better in my head, but not on paper.
What I’ll really take away from The Chronicle and Duke in general is how much it’s given me a sheltered, opportune environment that nurtured me and helped me figure out what I’m good at and what I’m supposed to do.
When I was in high school, I was at the top of my class, a varsity tennis player, volunteered for endless hours—and that was just the first page of my very cookie-cutter, try-hard resume. My reputation in high school was that I was this anti-social nerd who was good at school, borderline stand-offish and definitely destined to success—so much so, that my senior superlative was “most likely to cure cancer.” Ironically, now, because of who I am, most of my friends would probably call me “most likely to cause cancer.”
On paper, I was perfect, but in reality I was a Hindenburg—and not just because I always looked bloated in high school. All of my friends were fake and toxic and to make a long story short, they all abandoned me by the end of first semester senior year. My family life was tumultuous. Even with my “perfect” resume, most of the top colleges I had applied to, rejected me and as a result, my depression/anxiety double combo entangled every reaching nerve fiber in my body.
When I got off the waitlist to Duke, I took the opportunity as a last minute positive omen that wasn’t supposed to happen, but did for some reason. I snatched the opportunity to break free and sprinted the hell to Durham without hesitation. However, as I soon found out from the Duke 2018 page and O-Week, people who are accepted into this school have done extraordinary things, are extraordinary academics. They have done remarkable Earth-changing things in high school that I probably will never do in my lifetime. I knew my merits’ limitations, and there was no way I could possibly perpetuate this smart stereotype at an institution where everyone already is and more. But I soon realized that at Duke, nobody would care what I did or monitor who I was. And while some people came to struggle, grappling with this truth for years, I decided that life posed a rare opportunity to me: to redefine who I was on my own terms.
While it hasn’t been easy, and I could go on and on about my time here, an info session O-Week for The Chronicle changed my life forever. Writing and ultimately editing for Recess has given me the ability to challenge my mechanistic and methodical way of thinking with a more creative and curious approach. It’s allowed me to flirt with my love for popular culture with writing in a way that ultimately switched my career path from pre-med/biology to prospectively writing in television. But above all, The Chronicle empowered me to critique and condemn television and music in reviews, become more confident in my charmingly brash interviewing demeanor, sass the hell out of my current state of life in editorials and write with a (96.7%) fearless conviction—I’m still scared of crazy old white alumni who decide verbally attack my work and personal character in comment section <3. But in all seriousness, The Chronicle allowed me to grow a backbone and find my voice—and after being repressed for 18 years, it has a lot to say.
And while my new found friends at Duke were struggling to realize where they fit in our highly hierarchal and problematic social scene that’s highly based on comparing ourselves to each other, I gradually stopped caring because The Chronicle was a refuge for my creative mind.
Before I went to Duke, what my calculus teacher Mrs. Hanes said, lingered in the inner recesses of my brain – you don’t have to be the best, you just have to do good enough. It’s easy to measure your life compared to others and how perfect you think their lives are even though they’re totally scraping by with their own s**t, just like you. But while it’s easy to label my Chronicle experience as transformative, it’s just as easy for me to measure my Duke experience by the countless times my anxiety paralyzed me in my bed, sometimes because of an explicit reason and other times, for a less obvious one; or maybe the times when I’ve made one too many reckless and self-destructive decisions. But what would life be without struggles? Perfect doesn’t exist, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’ve learned to be more confident in my own talents and abilities. And that you have to derive whatever bit of happiness and purpose in life from the experiences and relationships that kindle your passions and healthy emotions.
I received the news about becoming Recess editor during a crossroads in my life when I decided to quit pursuing medicine and commit myself to my dream. Now, as my tenure as Recess editor comes to an end, I’m finally coming to terms with how influential Recess has made me a stronger, more confident person because of the people who challenged me and helped me grow. Here’s to you all.
Dillon Fernando is Trinity junior and Recess editor. With this final issue of his tenure, he officially passes this powerwash enema of a section called Recess over to his successor Will Atkinson, who surpasses him in every imaginable way: writing, editing and overall f**kability. I hate you, Will, for being so #blessed and prematurely changing your Twitter bio, but also, best of luck. I know you will take Recess farther than I could ever dream—but honestly, like, you don’t really do anything as editor anyways, so.
Dillon especially would like to thank the ghosts of Recess past who wake him up in a cold sweat when they spook him ~*boogity woogity*~ in his nightmares, including: E. Djinis, G. Parke, C. Ballentine, his entire masthead, his rag-tag team of problematic staff and contributors and especially, C. Kuesel for making this volume the most memorable, hilarious and innovative Recess that The Chronicle has seen in a very long time—your latest obsession?: how you’re bigly better than “Turmp”; how Nina Chabrey loves you; and how Janet Wu would be proud.