Widgets Magazine


Alternative Living…Without the Naked: All I Have Left to Say

Yesterday evening, with a mug of tea in one hand and cookies in another, I asked my venerable friend Timmy, “What should my last column say?”

“Everybody writes in their last column about how it’s their last column,” Timmy said, with a duh look on his face. There was a pause, and then he turned abruptly back to his statistics problem set, his face wrinkling in pain.

I reflected upon Timmy’s wisdom. And as the honeyed sobs of his statistics hatred filled the room, I pondered the effects that Vol. 237 of The Daily, weekly deadlines and hours of writing had on my quarter.

Initially, I thought a column would be nice only because I had too much to say and few places to say it. As one of the most opinionated, talkative people I know, expressing myself through a new outlet and reaching out to anonymous readers seemed like quite an exciting opportunity. Column-writing would simply be a long, drawn-out process of conversation, where I could talk in large amounts, and those interested enough would respond.

One would imagine that with such an unequal amount of expression, I would be doing little of the learning. The contrary, in fact, was true. Sometimes I would start out wanting to express one philosophy, only to end a column realizing how different what I believed in was from what I thought I believed in. The act of writing clarified my stances on relationships between people, between humans and the environment and between myself and the peculiar, unexplainable knots in my life.

This made me think about the importance of communication, and the idea that expressing oneself does not simply translate to greater information for one’s audience. Oftentimes, the act of expressing clarifies so much for the person expressing it too–in occasionally cathartic and surprising ways.

I still recall, one not-so-faraway day in May, how I was trying to explain some personal choices to a friend. The situation had been typically unimportant: I was trying to elucidate why, contrary to the expectations of life in college, I had chosen not to partake in wild sexual misdemeanors with multiple partners every weekend at parties (or some variation of this image). In trying to articulate my position, I had had difficulty finding words. In my head was giant blob of emotion that howled “NOOO!” whenever I contemplated jumping into the wild side of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

I finally found reasons. I talked about how sexual gratification on a physical level was personally meaningless without a sense of trust or purpose. I talked about the context from which I emerged–a fairly conservative, repressed society. I explained how other people’s expectations of college did not pressure me enough to fulfill those expectations; I was happy finding my own flower-wearing-lazy-sloth-napping-all-day route. And best of all, putting my reasons into words enlightened not just my friend, but it enlightened me as well. I had transformed an emotional blob of “NOOO!” into a realization of my preferences and personality.

Learning from my own expression was, thus, the most rewarding part of my columnist journey. Certainly, there were other perks as well, notably fame. My pharmacist once looked at the name on my prescription and said, surprised, “Oh, I read your column!” Some of my friends mention articles they particularly enjoy each week, which always creates a clichéd warmth in my belly. On one particularly hilarious occasion, I was hit on at a party. The only reason? This nice acquaintance of mine asked that I write about him in The Daily. Well here you go, nice man. Here you go.

All in all, what an excellent adventure. I may not have squid-hunted and sea-fared through Vol. 237, but I came close. Writing about everything, from conversations and plastic bags to falling off hammocks on warm days, made me happy. It also made me learn in ways I never expected.

And so, in my last column about my last column, I only have one thing left to say: I am glad to have experienced a slice of alternative living…without the naked.

Last words? Share them with Sam at samtoh@stanford.edu.