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Reminisces of a solitary walker

staff note

I will probably walk alone at graduation. Unlike some of my peers who have carefully built and sustained solid friend groups since meeting at pre-orientation programs or in their first-year dorms, I never managed to maintain the relationships I formed during my first year at Duke. My first semester was particularly difficult for me. I would often feel isolated and alone; everyone I spoke to seemed disinterested or already established in their arbitrarily organized social factions. At a time when everyone was seeking security, it seemed like very few people had any social vacancies, and I wondered how it was that I got left behind. Eventually, I did find some friends who were happy enough to invite me on outings or to join in on their first-year shenanigans, but after rush, our loosely fortified group quickly dismantled. 

People have walked in and out of my life over the last four years; some friends stuck around for a season, when we either shared a class together or an extracurricular, and quickly lost touch shortly after; some have consistently drifted in and out, both of us happy to spend time when we’re able to come together; others quickly lost interest after realizing I didn’t have much to offer professionally or socially. That’s a reality I am at ease with. After all, relationships take an exceptional amount of mutual time and effort to sustain, and not everyone can make the cut. Of course, I know now that in my early days as a college student, I was confused, insecure and looking for connections in the wrong places. But with time, I began to form bonds with others who have similarly not felt quite at ease in the social scene. In fact, some of my most enduring friendships began during my time as a writer for Recess. 

Over four years, I’ve been a staff writer, the local arts editor, managing editor and finally, the section’s editor this year. Overseeing the section hasn’t been easy: COVID restrictions, virtual meetings, remote production and overall fatigue created unforeseen difficulty with bonding as a section — which, as The Chronicle’s tightest knit section, is not ordinarily an issue. What I perceived as my neurotic Zoom persona produced a seemingly insurmountable emotional block between myself and my writers that it was at times difficult to motivate myself to lead the meetings at all.

I was almost certain that, because of general COVID burnout and tiresome Zoom meetings, most of our new staff writers would not stick around for long, and eventually no one would have the motivation to write. But to my surprise, as the semesters progressed, the writers who had joined Recess’s staff in the fall were still there — still coming to the meetings, still writing wonderful stories, insightful reviews and stunning profiles and still very much dedicated to the life of the section. When I think about the Recess staff this year — the talented writers and devoted editors — I feel a deep sense of pride and gratitude. Recess could not have endured without the conviction of the writers that make it, and this year, under the most unusual circumstances, Recess has not only survived, it has thrived. In fact, Recess is well-positioned to be the best it has ever been in the coming year. 

Although most of them will not walk at graduation on this particular occasion, I’ll always be grateful to the friends I have made at Recess over the years for their support, acceptance and for all they have taught me. I look forward to watching Recess blossom under its new leadership next year, as I finally make my way out into the world. I don’t imagine I will be writing much again for at least a while, but writing will always be a part of myself, and I look forward to picking it up again when I feel ready. The past year has been riddled with uncertainty, which, for me, will not end after graduation. I don’t have a job or a landing point yet, but I feel excited about my life post-grad: the future is pure potential. For now, I will probably walk alone at graduation. But I know, with big changes on the horizon, that I will not be alone as I start this next phase of my life. 

Sarah Derris is a Trinity senior and the outgoing Recess editor. She would like to thank her talented and dedicated Vol. 116 Recess staff, for making an otherwise bleak year bright and pleasant every Thursday. She would also like to extend her immense gratitude to her managing editor, Sydny, for her hard work, generosity and thoughtfulness in all that she does. She also sends her thanks to Matthew for his support and understanding this year. And finally, she would like to extend her warmest congratulations and well wishes to Tessa and Skyler, who will be overseeing the section together next year. Recess is in very capable hands!

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