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Sarah Beckley / Courtesy of

When I was first admitted to Spectator as a sweaty, hopeful first year, I did not imagine myself shuffling through the cold in late fall two years later, crying into a lasagne.

“Do you think you’ll lose to nobody?” my parents jokingly asked me frequently that fall, as I ran unopposed for the Arts and Entertainment editor position. The day I baked the lasagne, which was for my section’s annual potluck Thanksgiving, my editor stopped by my dorm to let me know that losing to myself was most certainly a possibility. She alluded to vague whispers that A&E would be better off under the leadership of my spectral nemesis nobody, who unlike me had not poured her heart into nearly five semesters at Spec—and who I very much doubted could bake a lasagne.

Faced with my own inadequacy, I shuffled through the dark to the Spec office alone, letting my tears fall into my freshly-baked pasta dish. The moment I walked through the doors, I straightened up, smiled, set my offering on the communal table, and watched as my fellow staffers ate my tears. My time at Spec was a lot like that for me: overdramatic, centered on the community, and an experiment in just how far I could be pushed and still show up with a smile.

I did not lose the race for editor, but I would lose to myself, over and over again, during my time in the role.

My favorite song has long been Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” I’m petite, and I have danced as a hobby since I was two-and-a-half years old. It used to be easy for me to imagine the song was about me. Elton doesn’t actually say much about the girl in the song, but there’s something mysterious and beautiful about her. She counts headlights on the highway, so we know she’s going places. She has a pirate smile, so she must know something we don’t. She feels, as the music seamlessly glides from one bar to the next, like she floats.

When I became the A&E editor, I had to quit my dance performance group, as it served as a conflict of interest. I no longer danced, but that wasn’t what took me out of my song. I could no longer float. I had to face the reality of who I was, and that reality often involved me curled into a ball in the farthest, darkest corner of Riverside Church, crying because I couldn’t meet a deadline or didn’t feel I was smart enough or good enough at my job.

That reality involved me learning how to say that I did not have the energy for something; that I needed a break; that I was sorry, but I couldn’t do just one more thing. That reality involved me becoming enraged with people I felt doubted me when what really bothered me was how much I had come to doubt myself.

I had to accept that I am not the capable-of-anything girl of my fantasies sauntering through an Elton John song. What I am, though, is someone who is capable of really being there for other people.

I will be the first to tell you that nobody works at Spectator for purely altruistic reasons. Nobody takes on working the hours of a full-time job at night and being a full-time student by day purely for the good of others or the paper. Helping others feels good, yes, but helping my staffers improve their writing and improving my community also made me feel better about all the ways I found I could not improve myself. I found strength in knowing that I could be kind. I could be positive even when I didn’t feel positive. I could create love in a space that sometimes caused me not to love myself.

I will always love Spectator. I will always love it because one year after my lasagne meltdown, I hosted my own A&E Thanksgiving as editor. I bought color-coordinated decorations. I cleaned and set up the office all by myself. I made a different pasta dish, this year tear-free. I looked around what had become a much larger table from the year before, and I saw people who believed in themselves, who believed in me, and who took time out of their days to be with one another. I have no choice but to love Spectator for giving me that. I have no choice but to love Spectator for showing me what I could give myself.

I am not tiny. I am not a dancer. But I am learning to love the person who exists in spite of those things, in spite of herself.

Acknowledgments:

Gia, Isa, Sarah Robertson, Sam, Fonda, and Alejandra: First, and forever, thank you for being my friends. I love each of you so much. Thank you for creating some of my very best memories. Thank you for going above and beyond as deputy editors. You took A&E from something that could be great and turned it into something that is great. I quite literally could not have done it without you.

Abby Rooney: Thank you for being everything I dreamed of when I dreamed of a better future for A&E. You are incredibly talented, incredibly hard-working, and above all, incredibly kind. I am so proud of everything you have already accomplished, but I am even prouder of the leader and the person that you are. I can’t wait to keep watching you grow.

Sophie Kossakowski: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There would be no A&E without you. Thank you for giving us more than you had. Thank you for giving me all that you did. You said there would come a day that I would be so happy all the hurt wouldn’t matter anymore. Thanks to you, I got to spend many of those days with A&E.

Sophie Smyke and Lizzie Green: Thank you for exemplifying the vital role of committed, talented staff writers. And thank you for being tons of fun always, on and off the job. Your loyalty as both A&E members and friends is so meaningful to me.

A&E 143: Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for being the best and goofiest at ice breakers. Thank you for working hard, being unafraid to have big ideas and go in new directions, and being honest with me when things got difficult. Thank you for showing up to Spec parties and always making your dedication to your community and one another clear. You wrote beautiful stories, but your love for this community will always be my favorite thing about you.

A&E 144: You have exceeded all my expectations. You made me so proud of what I was leaving behind and that is such a special gift. Thank you.

Rahil: Thank you for coming outside to talk to me the day I had a meltdown in the rain in the middle of a busy production night. You didn’t have to do that. Thank you for the time, energy, and genuine care you invested in A&E. You didn’t have to do that, either. Both mean more to me than you know.

Sarah Braka: Meeting you my last year on Spec was one of the luckiest things to happen to me in my time here. You reminded me what real passion for this organization looks like. Your drive, brilliance, and genuine desire for copy to reach its full potential pushed me to be a better leader. I am so grateful for that and for the hours I’ve spent laughing with you over YouTube videos and Tinder profiles.

Julian: Thank you for all the 2 a.m. Appletree runs and everything that came with them. Next time you’re lost in Italy, I hope you’ll think of me.

Chris: I grew a lot in a very short time, and then over a very long time, because of you. I’m grateful for that.

My lovely suitemates: Sophie Billinge, Mira, Grace, Kat, Nomy, and Billie (honorarily): Thank you for putting up with my nocturnal schedule, for listening to my long rants about insular politics, for being understanding and patient, and most of all, for always supporting me and showing me that there is life outside of Spec and that that life is beautiful.

My family: Thank you for calling Spec a cult but supporting my cult indoctrination every step of the way. I love you.

Enjoy leafing through our 10th issue!

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Senior Column 2020
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