Last week Ross named me editor-elect of Recess, so now it’s a “thing.” It was a bit startling to see “Michaela” bare and un-bylined and left for all the readers I don’t know to sound out (no, it’s neither “Mickel-a” nor “Michella”). I’ve become accustomed to seeing my name attached to a diversity of Chron articles, but I’ve never been quoted within one. When I was asked to comment on something about the Marketplace during my first year here, I vehemently declined, fearing my words would be tangled up in those of my insufferable dining companion who liked to disparage women leaders and talk incessantly about his private high school. Those days, I just wanted to talk to someone else who’d seen the movie Once and knew “ADF” stood for the American Dance Festival.
But back to my name. Forgive me if the metaphor is overbearing, but seeing the proper noun reminded me that I am both part of and director of my own narrative. Over the past few weeks, I’ve realized how thrilled I am to helm Recess; it’s some crystallization of attending too many (but still not enough) artistic and musical events and talking to graduating seniors about their regrets and passions (and resolving to do things—like make art—rather than regret not doing them), all in the midst of spontaneous happenings that continue to confirm my commitment to this publication and the arts at Duke.
Like earlier this week, when, while awaiting an interview call, I plopped down outside the Gothic Reading Room. An orchestral piece began wafting into the lobby—which, I might remind you, has recently been outfitted with two large murals. In simply diverting my attention away from my laptop, phone and planner, five “Blue Devil Days Arts Information Session” signs came into my field of vision. I watched various figures—the unpretentiously self-assured, This American Life swagger of Documentary Studies faculty, the hurried lunge of a tripod-toting AMI prof—fall into step with p-frosh/parent duos who seemed wired to the extreme, either from too much coffee at the early-morning academic department rodeo or the ephemeral thrill of donning The Most Stylish and Presentable Outfit Ever. Regardless, seeing these pairs conversing with arts faculty and students gave me excited chills. I saw myself in that same place, three years ago, wearing wide-leg linen pants and Birkenstocks, clinging to some newfound confidence in the Duke student I already thought I was. “Becoming” wasn’t part of my image. I was an English and Dance major who’d soon hang out in Central Campus’ new arts buildings and soak up endless arts funding and befriend students equally interested in deepening Duke’s artistic potential.
Now about to embark on my senior year at Duke (while the current Recess editors—a group of lovable culture, film and music bros who’ve made this publication outstanding and probably won’t hate me for being sarcastically reductive in their characterization [because they’d do the same for me]—move upward and outward), I’m able to stand confidently on my own because I’m so fueled by you, because all of you are part of a cultural flowering that struggles daily against apathy and stereotype or a monocultural “Duke” that doesn’t (at least from my findings) actually exist. It’s you who this publication works to support, respect and investigate in your efforts to redefine creativity when countless forces try to pin it down or preclude artistic exploration outside a familiar discipline. And, reciprocally, it’s you who I call upon to contribute, journalistically, in any form you can. The Chronicle is, for better or for worse (and let’s stick with the better, shall we?), the face and voice of this university, reflecting your passions, concerns and movements to claim space. In the context of the arts, putting faces to this activity is crucial—it empowers both your peers and this university. And if Duke must be eternally branded, why not make it something genuinely reflective of the talented, curious, preposterously passionate and nuanced students here? Anyway, enough with the inflated adjectives—though I mean every one of them. Next year, as I assume the role of Recess editor, think of me as “with you”—and yes, I mean both in terms of the Avril Lavigne song and Ginsberg’s repeated invocation (if Monday, Monday appropriated it last semester, I can, too):
I’m with you in the Bridges House, where the white siding and breezy vibes seem transplanted, save for the Southern documentary collections, from one of those New England schools I almost went to,
I’m with you in the once-inaccessible Smith Warehouse where you dip into watercolors and fashion new media into existence,
I’m with you in the Ark, that behemoth beauty of a structure where I’ve rolled over and taped my toe too many times, and where I’ve seen, during the summer, MFA dance performances that have shifted my conception of what’s possible,
I’m with you at the Carrack and Manbites and Hopscotch and the Regulator; I’m with you in Biddle and Schaefer and the Coffeehouse and scattered art galleries. I’m with you as you petition Duke for more and more space because, like me, you are struggling but hungry to make art, make art, make art.
And before I devolve too heavily into allusion, YouTube Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova winning the Oscar for best song. I think they’ve captured my gist.