By Nash Wills, Co-Editor
Whenever I accepted an offer to join the Das Tor team in early September of 2015, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. At the time, I figured something along the lines of: “I like to write. What the hell, why not?” I didn’t realize that, for instance, we actually had to create, write, and publish a full-length article every single week, rain or shine, finals or no finals; that there were weekly mandatory meetings that we had to attend; or that during the middle of finals week each semester I would have to set aside hours on end to compile the bi-annual highlights edition. What was I thinking?
I’ve written 52 articles since that day in September to now. 52. That’s a lot of time and energy—that’s a lot of writing. Basic arithmetic makes this article that you’re currently reading my 53rd. But to me it’s way more than just my 53rd article; it’s my last article. That’s right, dear readers, our time together, like all things, is coming to a close. Truth is, I can’t believe it and I don’t want to let it go…
That’s because somewhere along the line, during all of those headache-inducing times when I didn’t feel like composing anything, something happened, almost imperceptibly: I changed. What I mean to say is, while I didn’t originally realize all of those things I was in for that I mentioned earlier, there were a bunch of other more existential experiences that I didn’t understand would be coming my way, too.
For example, I didn’t know that I would actually become a real writer. In his book On Writing, Stephen King says: “If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” I didn’t pay a light bill per se, but you get the point, and I’ll take that as a compliment, Stephen. I also didn’t know that I would become a leader on the editorial staff where I would gain a ton of valuable management experience. Or that Das Tor would produce some of the greatest relationships I’ve ever been a part of. I couldn’t see that it would become a personal avenue for self-expression and creativity. But I still took the plunge, and more than anything else, I eventually came to understand and internalize that Das Tor was, is, and always will be bigger than myself. All of this makes it that much harder to bid my adieu.
During my tenure on the editorial staff, along with Jake Strickler and Lauren Herber, we always did our best to spread the story of Thunderbird—past, present, and future—to all that comprise this tight-knit community. We’ve endeavored to maintain those ideals that have made Das Tor an institution since 1969, and have strived to both build upon them and prepare the next generation of writers to do the same. And for what it’s worth, we’ve been able to achieve the highest consistent level of readership since the paper switched to the online version. I’d say that’s something to be proud of.
Before I say goodbye though, I want to do two things: offer my gratitude and leave you with a word of advice.
So thank you to all of my readers throughout my tenure as a writer. If it wasn’t for your compliments, suggestions, and willingness to take the time out of your days to read my column, well then none of it would have mattered in the first place. You gave me a gift that can only be given over a lengthy period of time—namely the conviction to express my opinions and the confidence to put my thoughts on paper. I hope you’ve enjoyed some of my work along the way and that you’ve learned a thing or two. I can honestly say that writing for you each week has been a pleasure that I will never forget.
And now for the advice: As a form of meditation, Buddhist monks will sometimes spend weeks working vigorously in complete silence to create beautifully intricate sand mandalas. Upon completion of the works of art, all of the sand is brushed together into a pile and poured into a river, and just like that, it’s all gone. I can’t help but draw an analogy between this incredible practice and how I am currently feeling about the end of my time here at Thunderbird.
Two years ago I packed my bags and came out to the desert for graduate school. With me I carried some goals and a blurry vision of where I wanted my investment to take me. I didn’t know anyone and had no idea what I was in for, but I knew that Rome wasn’t built in a day. So I worked hard, got involved, learned as much as I could, made friends, found mentors, met a beautiful and incredible woman, discovered a city, flew across the world for a few months, became a professional, took risks, re-discovered myself, and ultimately built a life that I love. And now, whether I’m ready or not, it’s time to move on. My beautifully intricate sand mandala, toiled over for months and months, now must be brushed over so a new chapter can begin.
But such is life. Chapter after chapter, page after page. I suppose it’s the natural way of things and to have it any other way wouldn’t be true living. In hindsight, if there is anything that my collective experiences as a part of Das Tor and Thunderbird as a whole have taught me, it’s this: Like the sand mandala, almost nothing in this life is constant. As you progress through it along your journey, wherever that may take you, most things will be temporary. Institutions, though, and the ideals that make up their foundations, can withstand the test of time. If during your quest you are fortunate enough to be a part of something great, make the most of it and do your best to uphold those traditions and ideals that are timeless.
Farewell, dear readers. It’s been one hell of a ride.
Feature photo courtesy of tibetanmonks.org