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Lost and found and lost again

I believe in the inherent goodness of all people. We’re all born good—I mean, we have to be. It’s not like anyone has a genetic predisposition to be nasty or rude. Somewhere around my fifteenth birthday, I vowed that, no matter what, I wanted to be a good, kind person. Coming to Duke, I tried to keep this vow. I quickly learned I would never be the smartest, prettiest, funniest or most accomplished person in the room, but I could do my best to be genuinely kind.

As soon as I received my acceptance letter, I was ready to leave high school and completely immerse myself in the world of Duke. I pored through blogs, followed Duke-affiliated Instagram accounts and regularly kept up with The Chronicle. One day, I discovered Monday Monday. I vowed that, before I graduated, I would spend a semester writing as Duke’s anonymous satirical columnist.

Over the course of my freshman year, I nearly failed one course, withdrew from another, made what I thought would be the best friends of my life, gradually lost those friends, found my family, discovered a major I love and participated in far too many extracurriculars. Through all these ups and downs, I still struggled to find my footing—I spent so much time trying to be who Duke wanted me to be, that I didn’t know who I wanted to be.

I started my sophomore year with an overwhelming aura of uncertainty. Though my summer was relaxing, it was stagnant and I didn’t grow or change in the ways I thought would prepare me for the future. I spent the first semester straddling two identities: who I thought I was and who I wanted to be, neither of which really fit my schema of a Duke student. In doing this, I felt myself becoming an observer of my own life, rather than a participant.

Somewhere in this blur of a semester, I decided I would dedicate my Spring to doing things that I wanted to do, even if they didn’t necessarily relate to my major/intended career/literally anything else. Part of this decision was a renewal of my high school vow—I applied to be Monday Monday.

I spent the month between submitting my application and hearing back from The Chronicle frantically checking my email, hoping to finally actualize 18-year-old me’s pipe dream. I eventually heard back on Christmas Eve, and I couldn’t have asked for a better gift. The rest of my Winter Break consisted of enthusiastic brainstorming for my debut column, giddy preparation for what I thought would be the semester of my dreams.

After publishing my first column, I was hooked. I had finally found the perfect medium to vent the infinite frustrations I felt on Duke’s campus. Even better, I could be harshly critical and no one would know it was me. For the first month of Spring semester, Monday Monday became my number one source of dealing with the insurmountable stress that accompanies life at Duke—I think this is where everything started to go wrong.

After my Young Trustee column went live, one of my roommates (an avid Chronicle reader) texted me, asking if I read the week’s Monday Monday. She wanted to hear my take on it, calling the column “SO aggressive” and “disproportionately mean.” I was in shock. There are a lot of negative words I would (and do) use to describe myself, but “aggressive” and “mean” were not in that vernacular. Was I still a good person? In attempting to cope with my everyday life, did I somehow abandon the one character trait I truly valued?

As the semester progressed, I couldn’t sit down to write my column without feeling sick to my stomach. The only thing I could think about was that, once my identity was revealed, everyone would think I was a huge f****** b****. Everything I tried to write felt vaguely to moderately hypocritical—how could I make fun of first-years crying over sorority rush when I had done the same thing just last year? How could I provide a healthy critique on any behavior that I almost certainly had participated in or would eventually participate in during my collegiate career?

Eventually, this sense of dread consumed me entirely. I asked to have my column pushed back a week... and a week turned into a month, which turned into two months, and, suddenly, the semester ended. I had written a grand total of three columns, and I felt like a massive failure. I failed The Chronicle, my editors, and myself. I wasn’t sure which felt worst.

I wanted Monday Monday to be my way out of my problems. I treated it like a one-size-fits-all, Band-Aid solution to the myriad challenges I so desperately wanted to ignore. Rather than turning my stress into humor, I channeled it into vitriol and spite, losing sight of who I still think I could be.

Maybe I just wasn’t the right person for the job. My parents have always told me that I’m too sensitive. Nevertheless, I learned. I confronted my worst self, and I think I’m now better for it. I just hope you all got some laughs along the way.

My name is Grace Jeffrey, and I’ve been honored to be your Monday Monday.

Grace Jeffrey is Trinity sophomore, and she is immensely grateful to The Chronicle, now and always.

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