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DECEMBER 08, 2022

The end of the semester always comes with a certain level of pressure — finals, of course, but also the pressure of a new beginning. There seems to be an expectation that when you head into the next semester, you are a new person, or at least a different person. Whether that be in the form of updating your resume, declaring your major or simply having aged a year, a new semester always seems to be the time for a change.

As I head into the next semester, I find myself wondering how it is that I have changed over the past 15 weeks. While there have been so many valuable experiences, writing this column has definitely been one of the highlights.

As a pre-law student, I have always focused more on academic writing, and find that essays and papers come easily to me. Although I’m an English major, I never explored creative writing or any kind of writing outside of class assignments. I wished to be the sort of person who journals or scrapbooks, but I never commit to it for more than a few weeks. I have used writing to analyze and explore other people’s writing, but never have I used it to write something of my own.

I’ve read and reread other people’s words many times in order to understand their hidden meanings: The author chose this word to communicate a double meaning; the form of the poem reflects the upheaval of the nation at the time; the satire is communicated through the absurdity of the character’s size. Now that I am writing my own words, my own thoughts, I always wonder what hidden meanings can be found there. This is not to say that my work is as nuanced as anyone I have studied in an English class, but rather that hidden meanings emerge whether you intend them or not.

The classic high school student response to analyzing literature is: “Maybe the author just wanted the curtains to be blue! Maybe they don’t mean anything at all!” And while yes, perhaps the author did just like the color blue for the curtains, the fact that we can ascribe that color a meaning does show that there is more to the blue curtains than meets the eye. Similarly, I wonder if I have made choices in my writing that to me are simply “making the curtains blue,” but upon closer inspection actually reveal more.

I never read my columns once they are published because I’m always afraid of discovering an unintended meaning in my words that I didn’t notice when I first wrote it. What if I come across as selfish, or cocky when writing my columns? What if they aren’t relatable at all?

These kinds of thoughts are often what held me back from writing more creatively in the first place — I know how words can get dissected and examined, and how something even as minuscule as a comma can be the subject of a whole essay. It felt — and still does feel — like a lot of responsibility to put on one person. Yes, I just write columns for a Berkeley newspaper, but still. These words are printed, physically and digitally, for anyone to read at any given moment.

What if I look back on my college years and regret every word I have written?

While these are all fears of mine, writing all these articles has helped me in more ways than one. Maybe I will regret what I wrote during these few weeks in the future, but at least I have something tangible to remind me of what I was like. I look back at photos of me from even a few years ago and feel like that is a totally different person. But with no records other than photos and faint memories, it’s hard to understand what my headspace was like at the time. However minor this may be, at least my fall 2022 semester has been memorialized, ready for me to look back on in the future.

These columns have also helped me to write in new ways, to not just analyze but to think. When writing an English paper, the author has already done the thinking for you; you just have to be able to decipher their thoughts. Here, these thoughts are all completely my own. Not only do I have to think, but I have to form these thoughts into words. At first, this was a huge challenge, but now, I find myself writing with more fluidity than before.

There is something cathartic about being able to put your thoughts into words, to articulate them in such a way that someone else could read it and relate. I hope this is something that I have achieved with these eight short columns I have published this year.

As I head into next semester, I look back on this one with a newfound appreciation for trying new things. As cheesy as it sounds, once we get to college the pressure to be a well-rounded individual is lifted — there are no more admissions officers to impress anymore. While I have pegged myself as a serious, analytical pre-law student for many years, writing these columns have allowed me an opportunity to explore creativity. It is never too late to try something new.

Aviva Binder writes the Thursday column on hidden insecurities. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter.

DECEMBER 08, 2022