I was 19 years old and sitting in Alexander Library on the College Avenue campus — pre-renovation — when I received an email that I had been chosen to become a columnist at The Daily Targum. I recall running outside to avoid being shushed and calling my parents to tell them the news. It was my first "journalism gig" and the beginning of everything I had ever wanted.
It has been more than two and a half years since that night, and I have spoken with you about many different things. I have covered topics that range from politics to pop culture. I have told stories about places and people that stretch from New Brunswick to Beijing. I have been published in this newspaper 35 times and yet, as I write this column, my last column, I feel unfinished.
Those of us walking across the graduation stage in weeks have had an experience unlike anyone else in history. We had a year and a half of normalcy, a year and a half of remote learning and a year of hybridity to keep up with a changing world.
We have pursued higher education during a life-altering pandemic, a civil justice movement, an insurrection, an alarmingly changing climate, the invention of life-saving vaccines in record times, an Afghanistan withdrawal and a war in Ukraine.
Many things have changed since the day I found out I was going to be writing articles for the Targum. I was blissfully unaware that in just a few months, Alexander Library would be shutting its doors for more than a year. The concept of remote learning was something that did not exist, and I had no idea of the person I was going to become.
How do we measure success in these complex times? When is it appropriate to wrap our arms around each other and scream that we did it? For some, it has been years of cutting corners. For others, it has been years of trying to make ends meet.
I used to believe that success did not lie in the accomplishments but rather in the efforts. I was a firm believer in the concept of no excuses. Hard work, for me, had always outweighed intelligence, and it was something that I believed could get you anywhere.
Today, I sit here and write to you that it is not about a specific kind of effort — it is about any effort at all. Clap your hands together and wrap your arms around each other if, in a few weeks, you walk across that graduation stage with the idea that you can and you will contribute positively to the world.
Be proud of yourself if you are willing to try. It is not an understatement that we have all been through so much. We have lived in a world with so much volatility, so much anger and fear, and yet, for many of us, we still see a world worth fighting for. A world that we want to fight for.
If you are reading this and you are graduating, do not measure your worthiness as a new adult integrating into society with your new job's base pay or your acceptance to graduate school. I challenge you to measure the successes within yourself.
These past few years we have mourned so many and lost so much. Even as the world progresses, that is not something any of us can leave behind. That is not something any of us can forget. It all made us who we are today. It made us the people walking across the graduation stage.
We have seen terrible things, but we have also contributed to the beauty of trying to make them right. Many of us can recall the sense of hope and pride when we received our first vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Some of us took to the streets in June 2020 to protest for a better and equal world.
Just this week, I drove past Buccleuch Park in New Brunswick where hundreds of people were making care packages to send to the people of Ukraine. We are the product of these events. What are we going to do next?
In my last column, I want to applaud all of you for your effort and also urge you not to give up. Do not, as you get older, throw your hands up in the air and give up on the concept of making this world a little bit better. Do not resign yourself to the idea that change is impossible, that what is coming is inevitable and that some people will never understand.
Think about what you have lived through. Think about how you got here. Think about that with hope, with effort, anything is possible. Do something worth doing.
Thank you for experiencing these last few years alongside me.
Laura Esposito is in the School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and political science. Her column, "Unapologetically," runs on alternate Tuesdays.
*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.
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