Today, it’s hard to remember the moments when I felt directionless on this campus.
Perhaps it was when I first walked down Locust as a thousand flyers were pushed into my face, or during my first econ lecture when I decided not to become an econ major, or during sophomore year when I lost freshman hall friends whom I now only see from time to time at Smokes.
Today, in contrast, I sit amongst friends and family, some of who have traveled thousands of miles to be here with me. I’m about to graduate and move to New York to work at a magazine company. I even have a sublet lined up until August. Right now, I feel far from directionless.
In a farewell column, however, readers require reflection, so here is my attempt. Four years ago, I had no idea how I was going to make a difference on this campus — I only knew that I would try. I had no idea whom I would meet — I only knew that I would learn from them. I had no idea I would love Penn — I only knew that I would embrace every second here.
And I certainly didn’t know I would join The Daily Pennsylvanian’s board of editors and managers — I only knew, once I was elected, that it would change my life for good.
I joined the DP to become a news reporter. As the editor-in-chief and news editor of my high school paper (an overused phrase at freshman DP staff meetings, believe me), I loved reporting. I planned to eventually become a foreign correspondent for The New York Times or a features writer for a glamorous Conde Nast magazine.
I had a pretty clear direction.
But then, I changed it.
Or, perhaps more accurately, life changed it for me. During my freshman year, I began designing advertisements for the DP and was quickly elected ad design manager. This position is traditionally located on The Business Side (think: The Dark Side of the journalism world).
Although I didn’t yet abandon reporting, I fell in love with the job — so much so that a year later I was elected as business manager to oversee the business department. I continued to report stories from time to time, still feeling that talked-about rush when I saw my name in print and pixels.
At some point during my time as business manager, however, I realized I was continuing to cling to reporting simply because it was what I originally came to the DP to do. But being a reporter wasn’t where the DP needed me most, nor was it my primary passion anymore.
More so, I enjoyed telling stories through my designs and marketing campaigns. I enjoyed interviewing advertisers about their struggles during the economic recession and how we — the DP — could work with them to meet their advertising needs.
Even upon being elected executive editor, I actively wondered what I would discover about myself, the organization and the Penn community during that upcoming year. Thanks to the support of fellow editors, managers and staff, I changed my direction for the better.
I now plan to pursue a career on the business side of the magazine industry. I’m going to figure out this whole money situation. How are magazines and other media organizations going to make revenue? How will they monetize digital media? On what platforms will readers be consuming media tomorrow and 10 years from today?
I am entering an industry that is a bit directionless right now. And I’ve never been more excited to dive right in.
Many of us spend our time in college with an end goal: land the awesome job, bulk up the perfect resume, get straight As and network, network, network. We play that classic Penn game of “catch-up,” but I can honestly say, I’m not sure what exactly I was chasing this whole time.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there doesn’t have to be one clear direction. In fact, sometimes, it’s okay to crave the directionless (Hello, media industry! My name is Dana Tom).
Today, enjoy the security of friends and family. Enjoy that first job and first apartment. If you’re moving to New York, enjoy the Penn network for a little while longer.
But when life starts to change direction, embrace it. Don’t be afraid to walk directionless for a while. You never know what flyer you’ll come across, what people you’ll meet and what change you’ll inspire.
Dana Tom is a College senior, communications major and cinema studies and French minor from Menlo Park, Calif. She is a former executive editor, business manager and ad design manager of The Daily Pennsylvanian. After graduation, she is moving to New York to work at Forbes Magazine in sales and marketing.Comments powered by Disqus
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