Recalling a Favorite Column

Remembering the value of empathy by recalling a favorite column

Recalling a Favorite Column

I first began writing in earnest in college. I ran a weekly media commentary column, and also wrote humorous essays for the college newspaper, both solo and with a great collaborator, one of the funniest people I’ve ever known. I won some of my first awards for writing during that time, and learned a lot about both the obvious and non-obvious aspects of what it can be like to write as an avocation.

One surprising aspect was that sometimes the weirdest ideas can get ahold of you, lead to a piece of writing you never expected, and really connect with people.

This happened with one of my favorite columns from my college days. What was so odd about it was that it said nothing and everything at once. And I felt the effects ripple across campus that day and weeks and months later — and even overseas, as one reader popped up unexpectedly in another country the following year, recognized me, and listed his favorite columns of mine, this among them. That was also an amazing lesson — when you connect with people through the page, it’s a real connection.

What was this little essay like? Here’s my attempt to recreate it’s general vibe and content in an abbreviated space:

You know, it’s always something. It’s always one thing or another. You wake up and things start happening you didn’t expect, or you forget something, or somebody else is having a bad day, or a good day, or whatever.

You just never know.

It’s always something. It’s understandable. We’re not perfect, we all have feet of clay, and the world seems to have a mind of its own. Time slips through our hands, efforts come to naught, smiles come unexpectedly, friends appear when needed — or not.

You just never know.

Will it happen today? Will it arrive? Will they show up? Can I make it? Do I have enough? Do I need something else?

You just never know.

On top of it all, it’s always something.

So, what to do? Muddle through as best we can, be that unexpected smile, be that friend that appears when needed. Maybe that’s all we can do.

Because it’s always something, and you just never know.

The original piece was better, even though it was longer, but you get the idea.

I remember sitting down to write this. I was feeling a lot of empathy for my friends and workmates on the college paper at the time. We were working really hard, putting in long hours, doing great stuff, but feeling that mid-year sag, wondering if it would all pay off. That was the source of inspiration for a voice and approach I didn’t expect when I turned on my little Mac and started typing.

The hard work did, ultimately, pay off. We were named one of the Top 10 college newspapers in the nation that year. Everyone was happy, and it was a great team effort. We celebrated. But a lot more had to happen before that occurred, and a lot more happened afterwards, both good and bad.

It’s always something, and you just never know.

Be that unexpected smile, be that friend who appears when needed.

Maybe that’s the best we can do most days. Because it’s always something.