One of the core lessons I have learned from writing for The Daily Pennsylvanian is that people are drawn to stories that resonate with them. I would like to share my evolution as a storyteller at Penn and encourage you to tell stories in whatever way feels authentic to you.
Each of us has a narrative that is core to our identity that we frame for others to understand. However, we try to condense our narratives into bite-sized chunks so it can be easy for others to understand who you are.
Here’s a little research-based exercise to demonstrate this: When you ask yourself the question “Who am I?” what are the first five words that come to mind? I’ll give you a moment to think of them or write them down somewhere.
Thinking back to my first-year self when I took this survey in my social psychology class, the label “actor” would have come to mind. I loved performing on stage in high school, so I prioritized getting involved in Penn’s Theatre Arts Council.
In fall 2018, I was cast in Quadramics’ production of “Peter and the Starcatcher,” a Peter Pan prequel about the pains of growing up. I found the production team welcoming and the upper-level students inspiring. After this production, I felt confident that I would continue my involvement in theatre for my remaining time at Penn.
During my first three semesters at Penn, I did not write for The Daily Pennsylvanian because I was busy with classes, theatre, and other extracurriculars.
I remember how I used to read the opinion pages of The Daily Pennsylvanian while eating lunch in Hill Dining Hall. I admired the columnists who shared their bold perspectives for the community to read and discuss. I would sometimes email columnists when I enjoyed their piece. (I can speak from experience: Columnists appreciate constructive feedback!)
While I liked reading opinion columns, I did not envision that I would write one. I reasoned that I had neither strong opinions nor a distinctive voice to share with the community yet.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and in-person theatre screeched to a halt, my role as a storyteller shifted. I evolved from a performer to a writer.
In April 2020, I wrote my first guest column for The Daily Pennsylvanian about the benefits of the in-person campus experience. During an isolating and uncertain time, writing a column was a purposeful avenue of storytelling that I could mold and share with others.
In August 2020, I had fun researching and writing my second guest column comparing and contrasting the 1918 flu epidemic’s impact on Penn to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the virtual fall 2020 Student Activities Fair, one of my friends in the DP asked if I wanted to join The Daily Pennsylvanian. At the time, I decided I was too busy leading a theatre company, so I declined.
It was not until May 2021, the summer before my final year at Penn, that I joined the DP as a regular opinion columnist.
If you have a written piece to share, I highly recommend that you submit a guest column to the DP’s opinion section, Word on the Street personal narratives to 34th Street, or other student publications. It can be a one-off gig, or it can evolve into a recurrent writing opportunity. As a guest submissioner, you have the freedom to choose how often you want to write.
Creative storytelling extends beyond writing for a publication. There are also numerous campus resource centers that can help you start your project, including (but not limited to): Kelly Writers House, Platt Student Performing Arts House, and the fine arts program.
As I sign off my last column as a Penn undergraduate, I would like to thank you for reading “Cloobeck’s Call.” I’m grateful to my editors and illustrators/photographers for enhancing the textual and visual experience of my columns. Finally, thank you to the DP opinion section for being a thoughtful and unique community to discuss ideas with.
Writing this column has been a highlight of my Penn experience, and it has inspired me to continue writing after I graduate.
Performing and writing have taught me that we all have stories to tell. I hope you will share yours.
JADEN CLOOBECK is a College fourth year from Laguna Beach, Calif. studying psychology. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.