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Goodbye, Taylor

Ramblings on my years as an undergraduate

By Luke A. Wildman | Opinions Editor

Photograph by Mindy Wildman

Photograph by Mindy Wildman

Isn’t this a crazy time of year? Yikes. Flowers bloom along sidewalks, daily thunderstorms scour our campus, due dates loom over us . . . and I’m about to graduate.

Wait. How did I even get here?

Fair warning: this article will probably be a little introspective, a little rambling and a lot melodramatic. Because that’s how my senior year has been. And that’s the general pattern of my four years as an undergrad.

I’ve had wonderful years and dreadful years. Good choices and poor ones. Moments I’m proud of and moments I wish went differently. All shaped me, but some were pretty darn painful.

Here’s something I learned from being the editor of your Opinions section: people are just as diverse as life. Even at a tiny college tucked between Indiana cornfields, I’m staggered by the vivid, verbose, vaudevillian personalities. You have so much wisdom: so many backgrounds and stories. You’ve grieved, you’ve laughed, you’ve colored my world with shades of human experience. Thank you. I love you guys.

So that’s my first lesson: find human stories. When I isolate myself, become arrogant and elitist, or hide from messes, my lifeblood stagnates. That’s always true, even though people can be frightening as hell.

This was an interesting year to edit the Opinions section. 2016 saw one of the most polarizing American elections in decades—and it polarized our campus as well as our nation. During that time, I sometimes failed to listen to others’ views. When I did, though, I re-learned that everyone has motives. Some people voted for Trump because their loved ones serve in our military, and they’re afraid Hillary would’ve weakened the Armed Forces and put people at risk. I can understand that.

Others voted for Hillary because they view Trump as a threat to their fundamental rights and safety, and to the rights and safety of their families. That’s not so different from the first group’s reasons, is it? Funny how that works. People are always people—but they’re never just people.

That’s my second lesson: don’t villainize others. Important conversations are exhausting, but I can’t succumb to a tribalistic mentality. This isn’t about the Right or the Left. It’s about humans: the ways we hope, the ways we fear. It’s about empathy over rage. When I label someone as a racist conservative or a witch-hunting, politically correct liberal, I choke important conversations before they begin.

Some hills are worth dying on, but first I must find them. Conversations help with that.

Thanks to everyone who contributed articles to my section this year. Many of you worked really hard and put up with my disorganization—you know who you are. You made yourselves vulnerable. You shared little chunks of your soul with our community. You stretched my worldview, and I now breathe deeper because of you, even when the breathing hurts. You are incredible.

That’s another lesson: vulnerability. I must listen and share. Why do I cringe whenever I express my feelings? Emotions aren’t weakness; they’re sincerity. And sincere intentions do count for something, even if they aren’t enough on their own. I will always believe that. That is a hill I will die on.

As I write this, I gaze from the window of a library study room—one of the windows that faces Rupp, at ground level. Gray clouds loom over a campus of red-brick buildings. I see spreading green lawns and wind-tossed trees that catch the breeze like sailing ships. Our campus is beautiful, friends. How do I ignore that? Sometimes it’s because I’m hurrying to class five minutes late, unshowered and barely awake. Hey, don’t judge me—you’ve had those days.

I wish I’d daydreamed outside more. Walked through the woods without agonizing over homework. Lay on the prayer deck and stargazed with friends.

I doubt I’ll remember the hours of Netflix.

I’d better wrap this up. Thanks for the memories, everyone. Thanks for your laughter and your lessons.

I’ll remember you in the way you remember a true, simple story. Bittersweet but perfect.

— Luke.

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