I’ve written maybe 100 versions of this column in my head.
I started even before Thanksgiving, back when I was still Senior Sports Editor and things made sense. I’d leave the office on one of those tough nights when nothing went right, when it felt like I had the most frustrating job in the world, and lay in the dark of my apartment at two or three in the morning and think about spring. I’d think about this column — who would qualify on the list of people I wanted to thank? What kinds of stories and memories would make the cut in my 20-inch love letter to DPOSTM?
In December, after our elections, I thought about this column even on good days. I’d stand in the shower writing sentences I knew I wasn’t brave enough to publish, and debated which rant or tirade was important enough to justify publishing. Maybe I’d make it political and yell breathlessly about how the Democrats were handling the primary (not well!). Maybe I’d rant about the problems with how the media defined its role — about how balance isn’t the same as fairness. Maybe I’d just print an excerpt from the 17,000-word letter I wrote to my successors telling them everything I wrongly and arrogantly thought they needed to know to prepare them for my job.
By spring break, I’d regained some optimism. Maybe I’d just express some lesson I learned from the past four years of watching Penn sports. Something quippy like “We don’t do it for the fans, but damn it’d be nice to have some,” or “The most important thing you can do is care.” After a particularly long shower, I considered actually writing down a draft. No, I decided, I don’t know how things will change in the next two months that will warrant a change in the column — maybe, by some miracle, Penn could win a game in The Ivy Tournament.
We never came back from spring break.
This column is not about the coronavirus. Not really. I don’t want to waste too much time listing all the things I wanted to do in my last two months of college, or complain too loudly (in public at least) about the fact that I won’t ever get a chance to do them. I won’t tell you how much I was looking forward to playing intramural soccer for the first time since freshman year, for example. Or that I’m paying rent on an empty apartment that I desperately wish I still occupied. I know my colleagues will cover that theme enough for me.
Over the past few days, I’ve revisited all of these mental drafts I composed and then forgot as I dried off. Maybe I’d reach within myself and pull out a glimmer of hope so my friends and family will read it and know that everything will be okay — so I can convince myself that I still believe that. I’d write about the future: how excited I am about Georgetown, how I can’t wait to make a difference in my remote internship, how I gained some new perspective that made me realize how much I loved the family I’m now confined with. That’d be a bullshit column though, wouldn’t it? I already knew that I loved my family — and that they’d annoy my very soul if I were to move back in indefinitely. I already knew that I loved and would miss my friends, it just happened a couple of months before I was ready to accept it. And if there’s a lesson to be learned in all this, I haven’t found it.
But I can tell you how I feel. This morning, I read an essay about Wile E. Coyote, on a fantastic website that no longer exists. As the bacon I made for breakfast started to burn, I found the nugget I needed. The pain we’re feeling — sorry, the pain that I feel, and only sometimes, when I let myself think about it for too long — is less due to the explosion of the ACME rocket or the ginormous boulder that has flattened me, but the humiliation that I had been so naively wrong about the rules by which the world works. Like Wile E. Coyote, the pain wasn’t in the impact, but in the realization that it shattered everything I thought I knew about the world — that boulders don’t always obey gravity, actually, and that future plans can vaporize in an instant. Soon (the moment has probably already passed), it will be time to dust myself off and try to catch the roadrunner again, only this time with a bigger rocket.
The problem with writing columns in the shower is that the water gets cold before you can end them.
THEODOROS PAPAZEKOS is a College senior from Pittsburgh studying Political Science. He served as Senior Sports Editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian on the 135th Board. Previously, he was a Sports Editor on the 134th Board.
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