By Ian Ezinga
I shall begin by admitting that my column, Rolling Rock Ramblings, was a wonderfully self-indulgent space where I may have done a disservice to my role as the opinion’s editor by regularly writing pieces that did not necessarily contain a strong opinion. I evaded potential critics by shielding myself under the insistence that whatever might follow was in fact a rambling. Accordingly, I was given freedom to churn out disconnected thoughts and feelings in the form of wandering tangents, provide answers to my own questions, and produce entirely warranted yet not altogether substantiated criticism and skepticism of people in power and the institutions they pilot. I must confess that I used my own position of power to publish pieces that may have done little more than consecrate my own thoughts and encourage myself to pursue my passion at least once a week.
With the truth off my chest, it has been my passion for writing that has always been at the heart of my involvement with the Vanguard. When I first met with former Editor-in-Chief, Quiara Vasquez, I offered myself to the service of the paper in any way that could be helpful. I was given a handful of small news assignments which I eventually managed to steer toward my interest in politics; becoming the unofficial Brooklyn College student politics correspondent. But once I was in the fold, I continued to bug Quiara to spend less time on the news beat and be given more opportunities to write things that got me a little more excited. This harassment campaign culminated in my interview with distinguished professor of English, Ben Lerner.
A personal inspiration of mine, I feel safe in the confines of a farewell address to admit that while Lerner did have a new book out and was certainly a deserving character to be profiled by the student newspaper, I pursued the interview towards mostly self-serving ends. Perhaps it was because of these roots laced in my own ego that the experience ended up becoming one of the most humbling of my undergraduate career. The interview went well, but out of an anxiety that not everything was being recorded, I double-checked my phone and must have accidentally ended the voice memo halfway through our hour-long conversation. Then, in another cruel twist of fate—that was actually more just a prison of my own design—I proved myself nearly incapable of writing anything meaningful about what we talked about. So concerned I was with maximizing the value of the experience that I couldn’t slow down and appreciate the value for what it actually was.
My piece was thoroughly criticized by Quiara and a few of my more gentle-handed friends. I still have the printed draft that Quiara handed to me, thoroughly coated in red ink, which expertly dissected every one of the piece’s shortcomings. My favorite line written in summation of the piece’s inadequacy was, “This is the sort of drollness that impresses professors because it shows you know the jargon and are thus part of “the tribe” but it falls sooo flat for a general audience. You just spent an hour talking to a MacArthur genius; take your brain out of your own butt and put that give and take onto the page.” Needless to say, revisions were made, the piece was published, but I still don’t think I could stomach reading it today because of how hamstrung the piece was by my incessant desire to do something significant with it.
But despite whatever personal turmoil the experience entailed for me, a product of our conversations still looms in my head. It arose when discussing one of the book’s central themes and Lerner extended an invitation to “inhabit the present without irony.” A decidedly pertinent invitation for my generation and certainly for those that will follow. I remain grateful for having the conversation, especially at an impressionable age and at a time in my life that was so greatly shaded by questions of authenticity, sincerity, and how to find the truth in the midst of it all.
So then I must thank the Brooklyn College Vanguard for allowing me to explore these questions with an ample amount of freedom and support. I must thank my former editors, Quiara and Ryan, the current editors, John and Gabi, as well as several of my close friends. Without their insight, feedback, and, perhaps most important of all, leniency, I wouldn’t be able to reflect on my experience at the Vanguard with as large of a smile that currently rests on my face. I must also thank the readers of the paper, few of whom would be safe to assume dedicated their precious minutes to reading all of my ramblings, but nonetheless represent what I find so beautiful about writing. As much as I have admitted to doing things out of my own self-aggrandizement, I have come around to viewing writing as a conversation. And while it would be too much to wonder if I had any meaningful impact on how people thought about current events or structures of power, it remains my undying, though perhaps forlorn, hope that a single sentence I have written has had a positive impact on someone’s life.
The time has come for me to bid the sweetest of farewells to a special paper found in a remarkably special place. I wish the best of luck to future writers and hope that the paper reaps a plentiful harvest for all the good that it has sown in my life and the lives of many others.