Molly Kaiser: Finding the right words

Media Credit: Courtesy of Tyara Estrada

Each year, graduating editors are given 30 final column inches – “30” was historically used to signify the end of a story – to reflect on their time at The Hatchet, published in the final issues of the year.

Some families have legacies of doctors and lawyers, scientists or centuries-old family-owned businesses, but in my family, how one uses words has always been most important.

My grandmother was a calligrapher who sought all-encompassing quotes to be painted, framed and gifted to people to make them feel special on important occasions. My mom has been a pioneer in her own right as a woman in the media industry, using words to build powerful promotional campaigns and craft stories of human resilience. My grandfather was a voracious reader and purveyor of all subjects and curiosities, and indulged me in my childhood boredom by passing notes at the dinner table. Words bring us together, build and maintain relationships and offer hope for the future.

In this way, it was only natural that I decided to join the newspaper upon my enrollment at GW. I was a shy kid and writing was the best way I knew how to express myself. But what came next is what surprised me – that The Hatchet would change my life. Within my first year as a reporter and staff member, I made some of my closest friends, learned journalistic fundamentals from my impressive peers and became part of a network of creative and driven individuals who work tirelessly to bring quality coverage to the GW community.

I want to reflect on my time at GW, and on The Hatchet, in the spirit of my grandmother – through a few simple quotes that embody my time here. Corny? Yes. Effective? Maybe.

These words have guided my thinking and outlook over the past few years:

Freshman Year: “Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw
My mom gifted me a mug with these words printed across the front before my senior year of high school. I’m sure I rolled my eyes and said a strained “thank you” as most teenagers would, but this wisdom has inspired me to try new things in college and beyond and to venture outside of my comfort zone. I think culturally, we’ve gotten too cozy with the idea that we need to follow the exact paths of our role models and icons, or that everything we’ve ever wanted to do has already been done before. Well, it hasn’t. And there’s a million and one ways to get to where you want to be, emotionally, physically and professionally. So even if it’s scary, don’t be afraid to blaze a path that hasn’t been chartered before. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you that this was going to be corny).

Sophomore Year: “To be great is to be misunderstood.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Reading Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self Reliance” in my sophomore year English class changed my life. In a lot of ways, I felt that I didn’t fit in at GW, and was unsure if I wanted to stay here for the remainder of my college career. But this piece of literature changed my perspective: what makes us great is what distinguishes us. Rather than looking to others for guidance, or feeling pressured to stick to the status quo, looking within and being unabashed in your individuality is the best way forward.

Junior Year: “Learn to do everything lightly even though you are feeling deeply. […] Throw away your baggage and move forward.” – Aldous Huxley
You get to a certain point in your shift from adolescence to young adulthood when you have to decide if you’re going to let your past dictate your life, or if you’re going allow yourself to slowly let it shed like snake skin and emerge as someone new. Quarantine was rough and gave a lot of us more time to think than we might’ve been comfortable with. I saw this quote on Instagram one day and it allowed me to reframe my thinking. Not everything has to be hard. Learning and honoring your past is one thing, but harping on it is another. Let yourself be free.

Senior Year: “The hardest step we must take is to blindly trust in who we are.” – Atticus
This is a quote painted by my Grandma and sits in a small frame on my desk that I glance at every morning. I’m still figuring this one out, to be honest. Graduating college really makes you question your place in the world. What is it that I actually like to do? What do I not like to do? Is my sole purpose to work? Where do I belong? Who am I? These are the questions that have been keeping me up at night as of late. I’ve learned that a lot of these questions need to be answered by letting go and just doing, and trusting that your choices for the future will all fall in line – somehow, someway.

Shoutouts to my nearest and dearest:

Sidney: When I first met you in passing at Hatchet culture meetings freshman year, something told me that I had to know you. Maybe I was just really into your chill girl Lululemon athleisure vibe, or maybe I have good instincts. All I know is that I am incredibly grateful that this organization brought me my best friend. You do everything with grace, composure and a calm-cool-collected-ness that was foreign to me until I met you. I admire your ability to invoke the best of those around you and how you bring a universal conviviality to every situation. Thank you for being patient with me in our work and in our friendship. No matter where the next chapter of life takes us, know that I will cherish all of the laughs, late nights, existential chats, Georgetown trips and cross-coastal adventures, always. <3

Tyara: You know those mental image captures you have of key moments in your life? I can still envision you walking across the street after we exchanged numbers to hang out after meeting on a Hatchet photo assignment freshman year. You are one of my first and longest friends at GW, and that has to mean something. You are one of the most creative people I’ve ever met, and your ability to make something artistic and unique out of any task assigned to you amazes me. You remind me of what’s possible and to challenge my inner voice telling me no. Some of my best (and goofiest) memories from college have been made by your side, and for that, I’m eternally grateful. Catch you in the 212.

Sarah Roach: The woman, the myth, the legend. Thank you for indulging my silly ideas (long live the quiz section?) and for empowering me to blaze my own path on The Hatchet. I aspire to be the kind of leader you are – kind, open-minded, patient and proactive, all while having a sense of humor. I’m still waiting for the day you go viral on TikTok.

Anna: My curly-haired queen! Where is the best-dressed award for BONW because you have my vote. I’m so grateful that I’ve gotten to work with you on the paper and vibe so hard as friends. I’ve loved watching how you’ve led the culture section with unmatched creativity and open-mindedness, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you.

Lindsay P: I am so grateful that you took a chance on me and hired me as contributing culture editor all those years ago. I owe all of the friends I’ve made, fun I’ve had and skills I’ve learned on The Hatchet to you. Your journalistic prowess and eye for food photography amazes and inspires me, and I can’t wait to see you soon.

Sarah Urtz: You are effortlessly cool. Every memory I have with you feels like it was an adventure. I’ll be on the first flight across the world when you become a kick-ass diplomat. Culture girl gang forever.

Mom: Whether you like to believe it or not, you are a badass. So much of who I am is you, and you have inspired so many of my professional passions and personal achievements. Thank you in advance for helping me move across multiple states for the second time in four years – have I mentioned I love you?

Grandma and Gramps: If you took an x-ray of my body, you would find two huge hunks of heart dedicated to all the love I have for you. If there was a World Series for grandparents, you would be the starting batters. Thank you for everything you’ve made possible for me and for always believing in me.

In conclusion, words matter. They define us. They bring us closer, connect us and change our perspectives. They might even bring you your best friends, define your passions and change your life. So choose them wisely.


The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.