It’s weird to think about now, but someday we’ll look back at the writing that we did during this pandemic, at the photos we took and the banana bread we baked, as a kind of living memory. And I want mine to be authentic. So let it be known that this week, I ate a copious amount of pizza bagels, listened to Rumours on repeat (never a good sign) and generally felt sorry for myself.
I don’t particularly want to write this. But if I write a sunnier column, I’ll look back and know that this wasn’t an accurate representation of the end of senior year. This spring has been a time of crushing disappointments: senior year cut short, the death of my grandmother, no graduation. And, on May 1, I found out I was also unemployed post-grad. The summer internship I’d been banking on wasn’t happening due to coronavirus.
So, things suck right now, for me and for everyone. I’m lucky that things don’t suck worse, lucky that these are the worst of my losses. But I still feel them, and I think all of us seniors do want some closure.
But maybe closure’s a myth. And even though recency bias means that this time might be what I associate with college for a while, I’m trying to work on that. Because college, like anything, is a process.
And I’m also feeling better. What got me feeling better was thinking about my time at Street and the DP, remembering when I stole the aux cord at Street formal to play the Succession theme song, or the triumph of sending an issue to print just before deadline. It was remembering late nights and frantic Slack messages, all the editorial and personal crises that happened for me, for us, in that windowless space.
It’s tempting to look at time at Penn as a blip, a wrinkle in time before charging into the “real world.” But the time in-between, the liminal space of actually living, is real and valuable.
As my good friend Miley Cyrus once crooned, “it’s the climb.” And I learned that at the DP. So rather than seeing my uncertainty about graduation, about post-COVID-life, even, as the summative part of my Penn experience, I’m trying to look at the process. And the DP is the place at Penn that most values and in fact emphasizes process. Penn is a results-oriented place, and I’m a results-oriented person. But my time at the DP and Street helped me un-learn that.
Every production night was a process: a series of choices and edits and check-marks and text messages with Matt or Burke from Delaware Printing Company. Every story was a process, from pitching to writing to editing to promotion. Every day involved some sort of process, whether it was figuring out how to respond to an angry email or how to structure our next special issue.
Even me getting to Street, to writing, was a process. It took me a while to realize I didn’t want to study business, to study what I loved instead of what I thought I should want to do, and to funnel my ambition into something that felt like it really mattered to me.
Street gave me friends and mentors and a place to call home. It also gave me the experience of vomiting in the office bathroom when I got a stomach flu during last spring’s Dining Guide, and the sleep schedule of a nocturnal rodent on West Coast time. And I’ll remember all of that.
Those processes—good, bad, and ugly alike—couldn’t have happened anywhere else. And neither could the hardest realization of my college life: that having a plan isn’t the same thing as having a process. And having a process is better. I know this because of the people at Street and the DP, who are willing to work hard, to work fast, and to work together. And I know this because this place gave me the support to start the process of uncovering who I was, and hopefully, who I’ll become.
To the denizens of the Street office and the Blue Room and elsewhere, keep eating sheet cakes, even if they aren’t from FroGro anymore, even if you have to eat them over Zoom calls rather than over print proofs. I’m not a sports person, but I hear their advice is to “trust the process.” So that’s my advice to the next generation of Street misfits and DP dwellers. It’s the climb, kids. And it’s the best climb there is.
ANNABELLE WILLIAMS is a College senior from Chester Springs, Pa. studying English. She served as 34th Street Editor-in-Chief on the 135th Board of The Daily Pennsylvanian. Previously, she was 34th Street Assignments Editor on the 134th Board of the DP, a Street Highbrow Editor, Tech Beat Reporter, and Copy Editor.
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