What the hell do I know?
I ask myself this question each time I sit down to write an opinion column. My mind filters through the usual things: I’m 21 years old. I’m a junior English and theater major and writing wise? I’ve only ever gotten a single poem published, but that was somewhere in New Jersey … So, does that even count?
All in all, I don’t know anything yet. I’m an idiot, a doofus, a pompous Nebraskan high school graduate whose school mascot was a Smurf wearing a toga and a freakishly stylish blonde wig. I know one plus one equals two, but God forbid you ask me to divide two by one. I haven’t taken a math class since junior year in high school, and I’ve divided myself from it for a reason.
What’s more, I know nothing of the world. I can pretend to know what I’m talking about for you. I can be like Matt Damon before he meets Robin Williams in “Good Will Hunting.” I can recite a sonnet for you. Maybe even tell you a few fun facts about Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel, but I can’t yet begin to comprehend the inspiration behind these works of genius. I could even talk to you about the history of the United States or tell you how exactly elephants walk on their tippy toes, but more often than not; I’d just be reciting facts at you.
I study English and theater, so these are meant to be my specialties. I know what a three quarter thrust stage configuration looks like and have not only read “Hamlet” four or five times, but can take a stab at telling you about the symbolic significance lying behind the arras of his mind. But I can honestly tell you that I have no specific area of expertise. And that’s why whenever I go to set down an opinion column, I begin to have my own life-pondering soliloquy, asking myself what exactly I know.
This is the reason why you’ll never see me write a political column. Sure, you’ll see some articles that are about feminism and LGBTQ rights, but these are issues that I’m surrounded by everyday: I’m a woman and I have friends who I’d very much like to see walk down the aisle someday. But as for ISIS, immigration or how the United States should deal with the economy, those are subjects that, as an undergraduate, I could never tackle. I don’t know enough about foreign policy or math to even begin attacking these subjects. I would only be scratching the surface, even if I gave myself a whole week or month to research any of them.
For me, I’ll leave matters of the economy to people who have had years of experience dealing and thinking with that sort of thing. But I won’t deny my fellow Daily Nebraskan writers the opportunity to start.
My editor wrote a column talking about how the DN and the opinion section in general gets quite a bit of flack from our readership. We don’t always get our sources right, and we sometimes develop weak arguments. None of us are experts in anything. Writing is something we know and love, but everything else is a work in progress. And I feel like I need to defend us.
I’m not going to sugarcoat the DN. We’re not professionals, but we’re striving to be. We’re college students, just like you. If I were to look at you, a student studying to become a doctor, you don’t fully comprehend each and every single disease that’s out there, do you? If you’re an English major, can you develop your own completely original interpretation of Vanity Fair and write a 800-word article about it each week? No - not yet. That’s what you’re here for.
When you read our articles, it’s our form of experimenting and developing a knowledge of how newspapers and individual articles function. We may not fully comprehend every single angle of an issue, but we’re asking you to allow us to fail. Each year, when the vote to determine whether or not the DN will continue to get funding arises, I feel the same volt of nerves that you would get right before an exam. It’s the time where our work gets tested. Only if we fail, it’s the equivalent of a science student losing his or her lab, a theater major losing his or her stage or a football player losing Memorial Stadium.
I know that we’re not The New York Times or The Washington Post, but we are the DN. We might not always have the greatest work on display, but without it, we’ll never be able to get better.
Emily Kuklinski is a junior English and theatre major. You can follow her on Twitter @TheFunnyEmily or reach her at