Dear Jo: This is where I leave you

Hello, friends, it’s been a while.

I am writing to you today to tell you our time together has come to a close.

A year ago, I sat in a brightly lit Mac computer lab, listening to Dr. Geidner, a sharp JEM professor with wire-rim frames, speak of a new kind of journalism. It was crowd sourced, a call and response between narrator and community that felt real. Social media journalism, as it was called: a new frontier.

In my time as a writer for student media, I had yet to see a niche I felt was sorely needed: an advice columnist. With collegiate mental health and confusion at an all time high, I believed we needed someone’s voice to pierce through the technobabble and bring peace to the masses.

In case you can’t tell, my boundless ambition has been my downfall. But in the words of one of my role models, I thought “Why not me?” and charged into the role. I modeled my style after Heather Havrilesky, a columnist you should read a million times more than me, and set to work. I filmed a promo. I created fliers. I advertised myself on every form of social media until nausea ensued.

And it seemed to work, at first. In entirety, I received four responses. And I wrote a response to each of them, except one asking where to go on campus (the answer: where you feel you belong).

By my delusions of grandeur, this was no success. But then again, I remember a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson a friend shared with me earlier this year:

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate the beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch Or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!”

By Emerson’s definition, this year I have succeeded. If just one person’s heart and burdens have felt lighter because of the things I’ve written, then I have done my duty, and it is enough to continue.

And, perhaps, this has been my lesson for 2018. That the world cannot be changed in grand, sweeping gestures, but in the kindness and understanding we extend to one another each and every day. That is the difference between hope as a belief and hope as action. And this lesson is what I wanted to share with you, one last time.

It’s the coldest and darkest time of the year, and as you close this chapter, I hope you look back. Not with regret, but with pride at how far you’ve come. Each tiny shred of hope you’ve carried this year is just a slice of the masterpiece you are creating, even when it doesn’t feel that way.

You are almost there. But the journey has been worthwhile, and I hope you’ve found love among each step along the way. If you haven’t, I promise it’s there: and you’ll find it in the coming year — like a candle in the dark.

My submission box will remain open for you, and you can find any future writing on cupofjoanna.com

Sincerely,

Jo