Some thoughts on my close brush with journalism: A barely abridged version

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December 1, 2011

When I first entered college back in 2007, I was supposedly a Creative Writing major.  Of course, this was at Antioch College in Ohio, a magical place where everyone created their own major, so I was unsure from the beginning how exactly my degree would read when everything was said and done.  I was surprised to even find myself at a private liberal arts college, as I had a lot more seemingly exciting things on my teenage plate at the time: an Against Me! T-shirt-sporting boyfriend (yep, that’s right everybody — I’m not a gold star), a fast-paced career at an antique mall in the small Ohioan town I lived in, and a mostly dreamy living situation with a massage therapist who would buy me cigarettes whenever I wanted (an ideal relationship in my 17-year-old-opinion).

I graduated high school early and had been taking classes at a community college, but was failing all three of them.  I knew I didn’t want to go to the nearby university where the majority of my high school classmates ended up, a horrifying place where frat boys and bleached blonde, skinny, fake-tanned, pony-tailed automatons roamed free.  My father’s life of managing a pizza franchise did not appeal to my already budding anti-authoritarian sensibilities whatsoever, and the only thing I knew about my young self was that I was purportedly “a good writer.”

My mother, a talented painter, and gardener, had forced me as a child to “turn in” a new story to her every week, something which I resented at the time but am now grateful for.  Her death during my freshman year of high school is something I have often felt catalyzed me towards my writer-ly path, as I began writing more than ever as an outlet for my overwhelming grief.

My first semester at Antioch, I took Queer Theory in conjunction with my writing workshops, and soon decided I was destined to become a queer theorist.  After Antioch’s tragic closure (a result of shady administrative decisions we saw a different version of at Mills last week), my trajectory was in flux again.  I opted to participate in a study abroad program in Women’s and Gender Studies to follow my new academic dreams, a decision which resulted in a shouting match with my father outside the new Stepford Wife-ian identical duplex neighborhood he had moved to — punctuated with his complete financial disavowal of my academics due to his religious beliefs, me shouting “Have fun talking to God while I’m standing right here!” and proceeding to drive away in tears.

After the trip, I moved back to the village of Yellow Springs to attend Nonstop, an almost-free school where classes were $100 each, created in the wake of the death of Antioch by those students and faculty brave enough to stay.  Nonstop also closed at the end of a tumultuous year.  I found myself forcibly ejected from the ivory tower yet again and totally at a loss of what to do next — but then one day an Antioch alum said the words “Mills College” to me.  I quickly realized that translated to “women’s college in the Bay Area” and transferred by the Fall semester.
Still occasionally faithful to my old Creative Writing leanings, I enrolled in Writing for Magazines — mostly under the premise of wanting to write for Bitch magazine.  Although I didn’t end up submitting to Bitch that semester, I did end up writing for The Campanil under the encouragement of my professor, Sarah Pollock.  Her point-blank looking me in the eyes one afternoon after class and saying “You are a journalist!  Now go out there and report!” transformed me.  You know, kind of like how a priest saying, “I now pronounce you man and wife,” or whatever does.  I’m glad I got declared a journalist instead.  Thanks, Sarah.

The next semester I found myself in Journalism II and Opinions Editor here at The Campanil.  Not quite editor of Bitch, but it was close enough. I didn’t really know what I was doing at first, and quickly learned that just being opinionated was not going to fill two pages every week.  Yes, getting that content took a lot of simultaneous schmoozing and rabble-rousing, trying to fan the outrage overheard at Founders into full-blown five-hundred-word columns.  Believe it or not, getting people to actually write stuff every week is hard, even at a private liberal arts college where we are allegedly swimming in political opinions and ideologies.  I am grateful for the many people who wrote for my section during my year-an-a-half reign, and continue to believe the Opinions section is beyond sacred:  a place where anybody can say what’s important and on their mind, shattering the bullshit idea that ‘real journalism’ is all that deserves to be published in the newspaper.

Sure, sometimes it was lonely being the only über-homo genderqueer vegan anarchist here in The Campanil office, but to say I have found anything less than camaraderie and a feeling of true home and belonging inside the walls of Rothwell 157 would be lying.  As those of you who know me understand, I spend a majority of my waking (and sleeping) Mills life here in the office and deeply value each of my co-workers, who I only half-jokingly refer to as ‘esteemed colleagues.’  Although at times I fantasized about starting some kind of underground ‘zine that would sidestep the arduous red tape journalism must typically abide by, I’m glad I stuck with The Campanil.

I shudder at the thought of having some non-Campanil-related Mills path.  Rain or shine, finals week or not, I knew where I would be every single Friday from noon ‘til whatever ungodly hour we were all forced to toil away — and I knew I would be stuck in this office with a group of people who I admire, and who are also my friends.

I also could not have finished college without the faraway support of my maternal grandparents, who have continued to love me despite still being confused about why I don’t shave my armpits and why I have such a strong affinity for fake moustaches.

Oh yeah, and obviously I’m going to miss the thrill of asking Question of the Week every week.  Duh.  What job in the working world could be half as exciting?

I am terrified to graduate and leave this place where I feel so comfortable and valued, and I have no idea what I am going to do next.  I am pretty sure it will have something to do with writing.  I am pretty sure it will have something to do with journalism.  Maybe it will even have something to do with Bitch magazine.  Who knows.  What I do know is that although the hundreds of hours I have sat at this desk often involved cursing and  pulling out my hair, there’s no way I would have rather spent them.

—Lauren Soldano


Some thoughts on my close brush with journalism: A barely abridged version was published on December 1, 2011 in Column, Opinions

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