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Wail of the Voice Credit: Lauren Agresti , Jenny Hu

When I first signed myself up to write columns, I thought I would be writing about campus topics — maybe some local concerns and the occasional internet phenomenon. For a while in the fall, I did exactly that. In fact, you can go back and find a hilariously impersonal and detached article I wrote about the importance of personal branding.

I don’t regret deciding to write my own column. I learned a lot from interviewing professors and students, I explored topics I never really cared about and I figured out how to have an opinion on just about anything. There are currently plenty of fantastic columnists writing for The Daily Pennsylvanian who continue to comment on issues in culture, politics and academia, and they do a much better job than I could have hoped to.

For me, it was lonely out there. I got positive feedback, but I wasn’t really reaching anyone. My column felt like another paper I had to write every week, except more people were reading it, so it had to be vaguely interesting. The critical eyes of my peers was, surprisingly, a lot scarier than the specter of a bad grade.

So I decided to do something crazy. I wrote a column about body image. But not women’s body image and not Penn students’ body image — my body image. It felt uncomfortable and embarrassing and narcissistic. Who cares what I think about my body, and why am I writing about it? I guess I just went with my gut.

The response was unbelievable. My inbox exploded, and my friends and family were shocked. They asked how I could be so willing to put myself out there. I didn’t know what to tell them at first — it felt right, so I did it.

As I continued to write columns on even more terrifyingly intimate topics — prescription drug addiction, dropping out of Greek life and online dating — a reason for the madness began to crystallize.

Writing opinion — in the traditional sense — is kind of like standing on stage, giving a speech and offering your informed, reasoned thoughts to the enraptured crowd. Some people have this down to a science. I don’t. It makes me feel awkward.

Writing personal essays is more like diving into the crowd, grabbing people out of their seats and making them dance with you. This is where I feel at home. So yes, in a way, it’s been selfish. I’ve edged my toes off the stage waiting to jump and launched myself into a few belly flops, expecting you to be patient with me all the while.

Before I leave, then, I really have to thank all of you — not just for reading, but for being the crowd that caught me and then danced with me all year long. You’ve emailed me and taken me to coffee. You’ve introduced yourselves in high rise lounges and elevators and generously offered your thoughts and opinions.

You have come up to me on the street and high-fived me, even though I had no idea who you were. You’ve left your comments and found me in all of the places I live on the internet to let me know that you care about what I have to say. All of this is still baffling and humbling to me in a way that words could never adequately express.

If I can share one more personal insight before I go, it would be this one: Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is the greatest way I’ve found to feed your mind, develop your talents and embrace each and every day. You don’t have to do what I do and broadcast your life to the entire Penn community, and you don’t have to share anything of yourself that feels best kept safe inside.

Just walk to the edge of the stage, look out into the crowd and give them just a peek at how human you really are. Congratulations — now the whole world wants to dance.

Lauren Agresti is a College senior from Fulton, Md., and is majoring in Political Science. Her column, “Piece of Mind,” has appeared in The Daily Pennsylvanian for the past year. Starting next fall, Lauren will be attending Georgetown Law. Her email address is

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