Coming to a close

I started this column just after returning home from a month in Amsterdam, with the intent of bridging the campus with the community and giving voice to community issues from a student's perspective. Now, I'm no longer a student and my time as community member is coming to a close.

I moved to Ashland in 2004. I had just received a full academic scholarship and I was eager to tackle SOU. I moved in with the most wonderful Brazilian artist who sometimes wore Cleopatra eyeliner and had belly dancing gatherings and poetry salons in her backyard. I started taking theatre classes, but couldn't stay focused with so many other areas to choose from. I was especially inspired by writing and video production courses — somehow within four years I had changed my major three times, then once more after returning home from study abroad in London. I lacked the desire, balance and social skills to waitress so I took up a string of odd jobs, one, writing copy for new websites which kept me busy and almost always able to pay my bills.

This column has been a way for me to get to know the Ashland community and an excuse to explore topics pertinent to our residents. My first story was about school shootings and safety- I smashed into a panic attack after clicking "send." I read it at least ten times more and referenced Strunk and White's Elements of Style, frantically checking over grammar and punctuation again. My first few deadlines, I was an anxious mess, partly due to lack of feedback, but no news is good news, and I soon fell into a pretty comfortable routine. A few months later I wrote about SOU's Queer Resource Center, a topic a student suggested might be controversial. You can imagine my shock when that Saturday, my story was not on the back page. I left frantic messages on the Tidings voicemail, as the offices were closed. I called a journalist friend in Boston to ask if this was normal. "Don't worry about it," she said, "Don't take anything at the paper personal — even if they don't print it." It was the best advice anybody could have given me. The article did get printed, by the way, it was one of the glitches in the system.

For every story someone appreciated, there was someone else who hated it. For every suggestion someone made, there was an equal but opposite suggestion. I surely couldn't please everybody, when at first I wanted to. I freed myself when I realized I wasn't obligated. If I went by the comments left on the Tidings website, it seemed I couldn't please anybody. While the column brought out the best in people's comments, it also brought out the worst, and multiple times anonymous writers left ridiculous, inappropriate or heated comments on the Daily Tidings Web site. I was more and less relieved when I realized they felt like this about the other columnists too. The comments didn't bother me as much as the choice of those who wrote them, never signing their very forward and important messages.

Besides getting to know the community, the column has been a way for people in Ashland to get to know me. I often run into strangers who ask me seemingly personal questions, my favorite being: "How'd you get that job?" Or "You live here?" when they see me in the parking lot of my apartment building. I wasn't thrilled at random people knowing where I lived, after all, anybody could be an aggressive anonymous commenter. I've read many e-mails, and even received a few handwritten letters from folks who still have a touch of the old world, which were my favorite. I don't know why I put up with that horrible head shot for so long, but then nothing for this project was done for beauty's sake. I got a lot of comments on that too.

I find it's time for me to bring this column to a close just as my time in Ashland has drawn to a close. Thank you to the Tidings and to anyone who kept up with "Campus Notes."

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