Feng-Bahns: I did right by my past self

Julia Feng-Bahns, Copy Editor

There’s a blurb on the front of the face wash I’ve been using since my first year here. It reads, “Purity is natural. we come into this world with all the right instincts … our conscience is clear, our hands are clean and the world at large is truly beautiful. It is at this time we feel most blessed.”

I feel like it might not be entirely just to pick a fight with my face wash bottle, but throughout my time here at Case Western Reserve University, I’ve found myself viewing this philosophy with more and more disdain. Surely, there is no shortage of plights in this world, and as we live and grow and find our way in it, we’re often forced to come to terms with at least some of its flaws. As a stranger told me in the elevator the other day, “familiarity breeds contempt.” And as bizarre as this was to hear from someone I’ve never met, it holds true in a sense: the more time we spend at CWRU and wherever life takes us, the more acutely aware we become of what we’d like to change, how it differs from our expectations and whether we might be faring better somewhere else.

But despite jokes under my breath about regretting my decision, despite long nights spent hunched over my notes sacrificing brain cells for an early-morning exam, despite shared objections to the dreary and unpredictable Cleveland weather, somehow it is now—close to midnight on The Observer’s last production night in the final week of my final semester—that I feel most blessed. Here, at a university that I applied to not because it was my idea but because it was my parents’, in a city I never thought I’d fall in love with, the world at large is more beautiful to me than it has ever been.

It’s a kind of beauty that, I think, comes from messiness, not purity. Much of what I once wished I could do over was a result of resigning myself to the chaos of this world, like when I never registered for a roommate for my first year and ended up with a single before being relocated to a different building soon after. And yet it was there, in a dormitory I spent hardly two months in, that I stumbled upon some of the most meaningful friendships I’ve had in my life. Amid all the stress and tears that I think are pretty universal to being a CWRU student, there’s something to be cherished in what this university gives us without intending to: bonds formed over a game of Egyptian Ratscrew in a first-year dorm kitchenette, snow angels brought to life in a parking lot past midnight—and just last week, some of the only words of genuine sentimentality I’ve ever gotten from my music advisor after my last performance in my keyboard ensemble class.

I’d like to think that it was this that I was looking for when, three years into my time at CWRU, I finally decided to act on a desire I’d long had to join The Observer as a copy editor. But in reality, I don’t think I could have anticipated how much of an impact it would have on me, and even now I doubt I understand nearly the full extent of it. There’s something in the links to sources that Sports Editor Puneet Bansal always provides to lessen the burden of fact-checking, the hugs Director of Digital Media Hannah Allen gives before she leaves and the brief calls that fellow Copy Editor Ritika Devarakonda offers me each time we part on the way back to our dorms to make sure I get home safe even though I’m certain I don’t live more than 50 feet away from her, that makes the time spent editing into the ungodly hours of the morning—dare I say—worth it. It’s hard not to be inspired by Executive Editor Shreyas Banerjee’s undying passion for this city, this university and the students that call it home, or by Opinion Editor Karuna Lakhiani’s willingness to speak on hard-to-digest topics in the editorial each week. Surrounded by people who believe fiercely in the importance of journalism, who dedicate themselves time and time again to giving a voice to the campus community, it’s hard not to be driven to love this place.

So even though my decision to apply here was hardly one of deliberation, and even though being a student here could not have been farther from easy, maybe there was some merit in resigning myself to the chaos of the world. Since coming here, I’ve given a lot of thought to what my past self would have wanted—what my dreams were and where I thought I fell short. And after years of discovering things to love and enjoy in the ideas I’ve encountered and the people I’ve met, I would say in my final days here that I did right by my past self—in choosing to attend CWRU, in letting myself go, bit by bit, around people I love and trust, and ultimately in joining The Observer. Perhaps my time here—in this world and at CWRU—has not cleared my conscience or cleaned my hands, but it has blessed me in all its convolutions and imperfections with unforgettable moments, lasting friendships and a voice. So I leave this place in tears, hoping the future can promise me more.