Could’ve been worse

farewell column

One of my favorite pastimes is to think about what my life might look like had I made different decisions. Kind of like in “The Butterfly Effect,” but with much lower stakes.

What if I didn’t go to Duke and chose another school? What if I spent my spring break back at home? What if I had made different friends during my freshman year?

Some of those decision points are obvious, involving things that are central to my life today. But the most interesting thought experiments deal with those small, subconscious decisions that may unexpectedly change your life’s trajectory:

What if I had set my morning alarm a little earlier? What if I didn’t go to that party over the weekend? What if I had eaten pasta that day instead of a burger?

One of those tiny decisions came my freshman year as I strolled around the club fair. With my hands full of flyers and whatever bribes people were handing out that day, I headed back to my moldy Giles dorm room. But as I looked around at the commotion, I said, “Screw it, why not?”, and I went for another spin of the tables.

It was then that I stumbled across The Chronicle’s booth, where I took a flyer without a second thought.

I had never really thought about the field of journalism or had any desire to write for a newspaper. It was just one of those things that happened. Had I not circled back that day, maybe I still would have ended up at The Chronicle. Maybe I wouldn’t. But I’m very glad I did.

Nothing has shaped my life more than that one random decision to circle back and pick up that flyer. It’s taken me to courthouses and the state legislature, and given me the opportunity to meet world leaders. It’s taken me to cheesy Duke events that I would never have gone to, and given me face time with the students, faculty and staff that power this university. Most importantly, it’s taken me countless times to our beloved 301 Flowers office, where some of my most treasured memories are goofing around with whoever happened to be there with me. 

From those countless late nights goofing around in the office to the opportunity to meet world leaders, nothing has shaped my life more than that one random decision to circle back and pick up that flyer. 

It’s fun to think back about what my life would look like today had I just gone back to my dorm room. Who knows — maybe my life would have been better.

Or maybe this whole idea of thinking through alternate timelines is futile. Isn’t everything just a giant, predetermined chemical reaction between atoms that follow a set of rules? Do we really have free will?

Usually, these columns share some deep introspective reflections or finish with some grand outlook on the future of journalism. But I’ll save that for when I graduate next year, where I’ll write something more well-put and use words with a higher syllable count.

As I look back on my time as managing editor, I see so many ways I could have done better. Maybe I should have dug a little deeper or wrote a few more stories. Maybe I should’ve trained people a little better or showed up a little earlier. But as my thought experiments (and “The Butterfly Effect”) have taught me, prescribing things I could’ve done differently is really just rolling the dice again with the possibility of worse outcomes. So I’m satisfied with how things have turned out.

My journey with The Chronicle isn’t over yet as I transition into a role overseeing elections and centennial coverage next year, but the hardest challenges are behind me now. I’ll end with this ancient Chinese proverb that I searched up just for this column:

“千里之行,始於足下.” — 老子

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” — Laozi

Most would interpret this as telling people to take that risk, to take that first step toward success. But I view it more descriptively. You’ll never know which one step will take you down that journey of a thousand miles. I never would have thought that I would be in this position today. But if I’ve learned anything in the past few years, it’s that most things are out of your control — enjoy where life takes you!

Jazper Lu is a Trinity junior and served as managing editor of The Chronicle’s 119th volume. He would first like to thank all members of uppermast, lowermast and staff for keeping the machine that is The Chronicle well-oiled, and for bringing 301 Flowers to life. He also wants to thank his predecessor, Katie Tan, for showing him the ropes and his successor, Michael Austin, for his willingness to step up to the challenges that he will soon face. He would also like to express his excitement for what Abby Spiller, Austin, Zoe Kolenovsky and the rest of The Chronicle’s 120th volume will be able to do over the next year. He would also like to give his required thanks to Chrissy Murray for looking over The Chronicle as generations of Duke students file in and out and call this paper home. Last but not least, he would like to thank Audrey Wang for righting the ship and sticking it out with him through all the ups and downs of the year.

Jazper Lu profile
Jazper Lu | Managing Editor

Jazper Lu is a Trinity junior and managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


Share and discuss “Could’ve been worse” on social media.