This week started just like many others do. Sunday was filled with relaxation and procrastination. Monday was typically dreadful. Tuesday rolls around with little hope of the weekend in sight and the standard barrage of tasks and assignments doing all they can to hold one back from basking in the change in weather that assails in like a miraculous deluge this time of year. A large portion of the commencement weeks of the past two years have, for me, included a factor uncommon among most students. This week, like the others, began with me searching for a column topic. The stakes are a little higher though, since this is my final regular-issue column. So, I’ve decided to bore you one last time by illustrating the “Life and Times” of a columnist.
When any given person picks up an issue of The Carroll News, the colorful or shocking headlines typically grab the attention of the reader. The performances of our sports teams are rousing, the economic news, compelling and the behavior of the world’s leaders, titillating. The Op/Ed section closes the issue with the writings of some of the editors of the paper.
Some readers might laugh at our thoughts. Others, cry. The mildly offensive, yet humorously-intended words of The Bayer Necessities has been known to bring people to arms. A fresh perspective to the section can be found in the upper left corner of page 18 in “Our View” from an editor of one of the neighboring sections. Then there is me, who you’ve obviously found, in Nick’s Knack. Among other things, I’ve become known as that kid with the mustache in his picture, who writes things only professors can/choose to read and/or understand: a questionable assessment.
The life of the columnist begins with the clever name pun that will become the over-arching name of one’s personal body of work. This is usually a collaborative effort of the entire staff and doesn’t usually reflect the theme or style of the author’s work whatsoever. In Cooney Meets World, Dan Cooney writes about much more than his formative years influenced by the ‘90s sitcom “Boy Meets World.” To date, no one has discovered if I have any knacks at all, excluding those likened to the tendencies of Ambien or delirium.
Being given the privilege of getting a column space is quite the exciting thing. The writer has to fill 600 to 700 words with whatever they want. Everyone wants to be revelatory or funny or both. When given my debut in an “Our View” column, I had a hundred ideas rolling through my head, a hundred topics about which to write, and doing so would change the world. The end of this column will give me 39 titles to my name, totaling 28,274 words. I ran out of ideas a long time ago. I’ve gotten less funny than I was in the beginning. My seven loyal readers have pointed out that my general topics are few in number, typically going conformity, nature, society, Native Americans, nature, The System, nature, repeat. It seems I try to cover my lack of creativity with extreme length, which will be turned in no earlier than 9 p.m. on deadline night (sorry guys).
In professional publications, the columnists typically take a topic from current events, analyze the situation and give their personal commentary. This style can be seen in our World News and Business and Finance sections. The Op/Ed columns are surely a different breed, deviating from this standard procedure and commenting on nearly every topic imaginable. Some might say this devalues what we write. On the contrary I find this fact to give more value to our oeuvre.
Anyone can look anywhere to find somebody praising Mitt Romney “solving” the economic situation or telling Americans to step up and get back on top in the world education ranks. While we’ve occasionally written on these topics, we usually hit a little closer to home, though not obviously.
Column topics come from the world around us and the things we experience. A conversation with a friend, a break up, a bad performance in school or on the playing field of athletics, or observing our fellow humans as we roam the streets can, at least for me, inspire a myriad of mildly philosophical revelations, not always having continuity. I’ve also named my coffee press “The Idea Factory.”
Writing columns has helped me realize that the things around us, no matter the immediate genesis, tend to follow similar trends of humanity. Though we might think that we have diverse and flexible minds, capable of opening up and absorbing or adopting anything, when one sits down and puts the pieces together 39 times, that person might realize they stick to a certain way of thinking and being.
The Op/Ed columns of The Carroll News might not add to the bucket of commentaries on “important” topics the world faces, like those in The New York Times. Rather, they reflect the Life and Times of every one of us, the things we experience and the ways we live, exhibiting how our generation processes it all. Not as a whole, but as individuals of a greater consciousness.