Andrew Siddons: Reflections on reflection

This is a really difficult column to write. It’s not that I’m emotional because it’s the last thing I’ll ever write for The Hatchet.

It’s just that I’m already sick of reading retrospectives from my fellow seniors. The Hatchet has had a larger graduating class than it has in recent memory, and for each senior, that’s another 30 inches. Good thing I only get 20.

For the most part, columns like these are awfully self-serving and try too hard to be profound. Check out The New York Times’ “The Graduates” feature, and you’ll see what I mean.

Admittedly, I wrote a retrospective column at the end of last semester. I wasn’t really happy with it, but I was staring down a deadline. What was the point of it? To remind people of things they already know, and probably don’t want to think about? It was titled “Live it up for the last semester,” and if I hadn’t written it, I would have said, “Well, duh.”

So why did I sign up to be a columnist in the first place?

I went into the first columnists’ meeting with a bad hangover and no clue what I wanted to write about. Until that point I had only aspired to write a column called “Shut the f*ck up.” It would have been a scathing commentary on the obnoxious culture of cacophony at Gelman Library. Had I written it, it would have changed things, I swear. But the closest I’ve come was an April Fools’ Day spoof about anonymous gay sex in library bathroom stalls.

I wanted to write about funny things, harking back to the days when The Hatchet had a good humor columnist. But that wasn’t meant to be. It turns out I was better at analyzing campus issues and offering practical remedies on really technical stuff that would probably not mean a thing to you if you did not go to GW (or if you did go to GW).

Once I stopped aspiring to become GW’s Dave Barry, ideas weren’t hard to come by. I tried to offer reasonable ideas in an effort to make this campus a better place, and I hope it worked a little bit. GW is a campus with a lot of problems, and solutions exist for them. Am I the first person to figure this out? Hardly.

But you might not know that, if campus discourse is any indication. Here’s what I’ve learned about GW: people will mask apathy or laziness with complaints about an incompetent student government that nobody votes for anyway. Or else the blame will fall with an administration that stonewalls reform, even though very few people try working with it constructively. When students finally take up a cause like ousting University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg as the graduation speaker, it’s too little, too late: you’ve lain too idly by all along for it to mean anything.

Something happens here, all right. Rather than paying attention to what’s going on around them, people concern themselves with themselves. Our basketball fans are fair weather for the men and no weather for the women. And nothing is better than when people insult and disregard The Hatchet as garbage before even bothering to read through a copy.

Am I completely innocent? Hell no. Can I justify being preachy? Not while looking you in the eye.

But for all the times I think I might have picked the wrong school, I never transferred. I’m being disingenuous if I do nothing but hate on this school. I’ve lived in a decent neighborhood of a city I really enjoy. I can honestly say that my classes have made me a sharper thinker. Thanks to GW, I was able to conduct research abroad. Thanks to The Hatchet, I’ve been presented myriad opportunities to cover cool events.

Whether or not you’re a senior, you’re bound to be reflecting on the past year, and everyone is reaching different conclusions. Even if you haven’t yet found them, there are opportunities for everybody here. While I’m hesitant to write a prescription, I think the best thing to do is find a niche and exploit it.

So why did I sign on to this in the first place? Better question: why, in the year that campus activities should take a backseat to planning my future, did I write more than I ever had before? I think I had always wanted to stand up on a soapbox. I just chose to do it in print. If you’re listening, thanks.

-The writer, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

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