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End of the road

When I visited Duke as a high school junior, I picked up a copy of The Chronicle. I remember looking at the backpages, at the columnists, and thinking how cool it would be to have my own column. Having my own column in The Chronicle, a forum to broadcast my opinions all over campus, became my geeky dream.

Now, I’ve lived that dream for six years and have probably broadcast my opinion all over campus more times than anyone in this paper’s history. Perhaps not surprisingly (considering I’ve kept at it well past the point where any decent person would’ve quit and given someone else a chance), I can report that writing a newspaper column was even more fun than I had dreamed.

Of course, the best part of writing a column was its agreeable effect on my ego. People that I’ve never met know me. They recognize me at bars, in the stands at Cameron Indoor Stadium, on the wards at the hospital, in line registering for a 5K. Most of you have never been famous before. You may have read online that there are certain drawbacks to being famous, like the paparazzi. But, as someone who is kind of a big deal, I can tell you that being famous is only awesome and has no drawbacks. Despite my considerable fame, I have had no problems.

For example, the other day, I was outside a bar in Chapel Hill talking with some friends.

A guy walked up to me, smoking a cigarette.

“Holy s---!” he said. “You’re Alex Fanaroff. You write that column in The Chronicle. I want to go to medical school too, and your column is great.”

He looked at his cigarette. “I don’t usually smoke,” he added. “Only when I’m drinking.”

In all seriousness, I would’ve quit writing a long time ago if I thought that no one cared. And the fact that people did care, did write me emails, comment online and stop me around campus to talk about my columns, is what kept me going. It wouldn’t have been fun to throw my opinions and anecdotes out into the void. It was fun to think that I was starting conversations, making people think about things in new and different ways. I think I did that, at least for some people, some of the time.

I care very deeply about only a few topics: patient care and medical research, Duke Basketball, Duke University. I tried to only write about the things I cared deeply about, because if I couldn’t bring myself to care, I knew I couldn’t make others care. I tried to think critically about what could make them better without changing their essence. I tried to remember that any frustration and anger I felt came from the fact that I cared so much, and tried to make my opinions convey that fact.

I think I succeeded sometimes and that I failed sometimes, too.

But as I write my last farewell column (of at least four; I’ve lost count), and step away from the backpages for the last time, my only regret is that I can’t do this forever. Next year, I will no longer be a Duke student. Instead, I’ll be a Duke employee, an internal medicine intern. I won’t have the time to do more than a mediocre job.

So this is really and truly it. It’s finally over.

I’d like to thank my editors, who put up with my diva-like refusal to check the accuracy of statistics and facts and just corrected my numerous errors for me. I’d like to thank my friends for graciously allowing me to appropriate their opinions when I couldn’t come up with one of my own. I’d like to thank my family and fiancée for reading my columns when they remembered to.

And, of course, I’d like to thank you, my readers, not only for sticking with me to the end of this remarkably (even for me) self-indulgent column, but for sticking with me for six years. I could not have done it without you, and even if I could have, I wouldn’t have wanted to.

Alex Fanaroff is a fourth-year medical student. This is his final column.

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