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Endings and beginnings

staff note

I used to be an outgoing kid. Ask me five years ago, and I would have proudly identified myself as an ENFJ personality type. On my first day at my new school in fifth grade, I wore my best graphic tee, sat confidently at my table cluster and introduced myself to my new classmates. “I’m Sarah, I’m new here!” I began chatting with wide, eager eyes, desperate to make new friends and to reinvent myself. Although I was met with less-than comparable enthusiasm, I continued to assert myself in the group conversation. 

I have always been conscious of how others perceive me. As a kindergartener, I insisted on being friends with the group of girls that sported shiny blonde ponytails and nice dresses with matching bows. I knew I was different, but I was willing to give anything to be like them, even enduring their incessant bullying about my features, weight or personal style — which, to be fair, wasn’t even up to me at that point!

If I conjure up all of the hurtful things people have called me throughout my life, I find that I have internalized many of these attributes, and have allowed them, in some ways, to dictate my self-worth and social exchanges. Having been called every iteration of “fat” and “ugly” throughout my life, it has been hard to feel accepted, or to believe that anyone could truly find it in themselves to love me.

Yet, I found other ways to bolster my sense of self throughout high school. Namely, getting good grades, involving myself in my community through service work and political campaigns and taking on leadership positions — one of which led me to cross paths with a certain former Recess managing editor. I began to learn, slowly, that I could measure my self-worth through my accomplishments rather than through the judgements of my peers. 

Over the summer before my freshman year of college, I read the former managing editor’s piece, “Vignettes of a fat girl’s life,” in my first-ever copy of Recess’s send-home issue. The honesty and precision of her writing were of immediate salience. It was a piece that I needed to read at the time — a piece about coping with past hurts but finding ways to self-acceptance. I, too, wanted to write with such immediacy and veracity, to reach others as she had reached me. So, my first mission upon my arrival at Duke was to join Recess, and that’s exactly what I did. 

It seemed that the learning curve at Recess was somewhat steep. Sure, I had always been interested in popular culture to an extent, but it wasn’t something that I had an overt exposure to as a young teen. I couldn’t yet tell the difference between 16mm and 35mm film, was certainly no expert in David Lynch’s filmography and had only recently listened to “Heaven or Las Vegas” as a newly anointed WXDU DJ. 

For the first few months, Recess was an irritatingly esoteric space — I was equal parts vexed and fascinated. My perceived incompetence at the time was worrying. The confidence that I had worked so hard to regain was already waning as a student, and failing to deliver in the one extracurricular to which I had chosen to dedicate myself would have been an irredeemable blow. 

But my first piece for Recess was more-or-less sufficient, save for accidentally transcribing “visceral” as “venereal” (will I ever live it down?) in an interview with the former head of Duke Performances. And since, I have amassed quite the impressive (to me, at least) portfolio of both candid — if slightly cringey — personal pieces and not-so-hard-hitting arts reporting

Recess has been the avenue for finding the time to explore more of the things I have already loved, and has allowed me to engage in avenues that other Duke students do not often traverse. The meaning of Recess has become akin to acceptance — a community that has nurtured my personal growth as much as it has advanced my writing, and has offered me incredible opportunities (Sundance!) and friendships

If you ask me now, the E in ENFJ has most certainly become an I. But I am okay with that. I have no desire to take center-stage, and I am content with letting my writing or my work do most of the talking. As I step down as the Recess managing editor, I realize how far I have come since my freshman year. My self-worth is not dictated by how others perceive me. It is molded by the quality of my work, my passions and the great relationships I have come to build during my time here. I can only look forward to what more the future may hold. 

Sarah Derris is a Trinity sophomore and the outgoing Recess managing editor. She’d like to congratulate Nina, Miranda and Will, who will continue Recess’s reputation as the PREMIERE arts + culture publication on campus. She would also like to thank her lovely staff of writers and editors of V. 114, to whom Recess owes its success. Sarah would also like to express her appreciation to Nina for welcoming her to Recess with open arms, and looks forward to her editorship in the coming year. 

Lastly, Sarah would like to thank Christy for being endlessly understanding, a great source of production-night entertainment and, above all, a dedicated and hardworking editor. She thanks her and all of Recess for their friendship and support. 


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