What makes a Chronicle column good? Every two weeks, I stare at the blank Word document on my screen the night before it is due and wonder what I should write about. I don’t want to rehash opinions that others have already expressed. It’s not my place to give you idealistic advice. I feel that the University’s newspaper isn’t the forum to complain about my problems. I’m hardly wise and my political opinions read academic. I’ve got so many things to say but I can justify a reason not to say any one of them.
I was faced with a similar position in high school. It’s bizarre to think that just two years ago I was standing in front of an auditorium packed with my high school peers, speaking during one of the most memorable five minutes of my life. I was my high school’s valedictorian and it was my turn to speak. Years of hard work had paid off and I wanted my speech to matter. I mean, you only graduate from high school once. I wanted to be different, but don’t we all?
When I told my friend that I was going to be writing my Chronicle column this week about my valedictorian speech, the first thing he did was tell me he already didn’t like it. “Too pretentious,” he said. I feel my speech was anything but.
My graduation speech was about my graduation speech. I talked about what I wanted to write about. The problems I faced were trying to avoid being trite while evoking both nostalgia and humor, looking forward while looking backward. Having an open page is intimidating. There is so much I wanted to say, so much I wanted to do, but I struggled to find the words. Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Acknowledging my own inadequacies, I took the audience through my thought process. I didn’t want to say the things everybody expected me to say. I hadn’t wanted to trudge through memories forced onto my peers, preach insight from the pulpit of the moment, or divulge the intimate aspects of my life’s journey. I wanted to be different, to be me, but I faced the dilemma that in not doing things that had been done before I was unable to speak about anything that I was content with.
Listening to a video recording on Facebook of my 18 year old self say these things, I am struck by how hard it is to take one’s own advice. Even now, I try to share ideas that haven’t been expressed before.
My hesitancy to be the same as everyone else, as anyone else, comes from a misunderstanding of what it means to communicate. I want to convey original ideas, to leave my own stamp on what I do, and more often than not this causes me to not share the things that I want to simply because others agree and feel the same away.
This desire to be different was pervasive in my mindset during my graduation speech and it persists even now. I’m left in want of a message that can be impactful and hasn’t been shared before. Yet, in a way, I feel that perhaps it isn’t necessarily the substance or the innovative nature of the idea that gives it merit or that makes people interested.
The only way to communicate with people that will leave them feeling substantially engaged is to speak to them with sincerity. Being honest with myself and honest with my audience is how I speak from the heart.
In a word, I think the thing that makes a Chronicle column good is sincerity. Regardless of whether or not other people share the same opinion, regardless of whether or not the message reverberates through campus and shapes debate, regardless of whether or not it has been said before, we all want to feel connected to the author. The way to do this is to convey ideas that come from the heart. If the emotion and passion are there, then the originality will follow. There’s something genuine, something human, about laying down our soul on paper. To be sincere, to be vulnerable, to be mortal is how we imbue lines on a piece of paper with something relatable.
Today, to be sincere, I write my Chronicle column about my Chronicle column, just like two years ago I wrote my graduation speech about my graduation speech.
Tyler Fredricks is a Trinity sophomore. His column runs every other Wednesday.