COLUMN: With endings, comes gratitude

There is less than a month until graduation, and I feel suspended between excited anticipation and inevitable hesitance. Articulating what these past three years have meant for me personally is a task surely encumbered by trite expressions and saccharine sentiment. However, I hope to reflect on the good, focusing on the gratitude that has sustained me in these final weeks and quiets any anxiety about the future.

Processing the countless hours spent preparing for graduation day, I return to the day I received my acceptance letter. At the beginning of my senior year of high school, the thought of applying to USC was inconceivable. Growing up in Southern California, I knew USC as the school you attended if you played football, or if you were a legacy who grew up chanting, “Fight on!”

Despite my Bruin upbringing, something compelled me to apply in early January at the 11th hour. I did not know then that I would be overcome with excitement when I received my acceptance letter in the mail. After visiting campus and meeting professors and students, I realized that my prejudices against the Trojans were unfounded.

Today, I am as grateful as ever that I said “yes” to this school. I think about the small lessons I have learned about my own pride and idealism. When I started my freshman year, people warned me about all the pages of reading and that, in college, you have to learn to “skim.” Despite my efforts to prove I could read every page, I quickly learned the art of skimming. I remember taking 20 units in my first spring semester, eager to show that I could take on a heavier course load, balance extracurriculars and get all As. Sure I got the grades, but I realized unnecessarily pushing myself for no defined reason was not worth my health and sanity.

I think about all the opportunities this school has afforded me. I have traveled from Washington, D.C. to Oxford, England for research, meeting lifelong friends and mentors along the way. I have had the chance to sit in classrooms with professors and peers who have challenged my assumptions and exposed me to perspectives of which I was previously ignorant. I have received criticism and praise that were equally invaluable.

I would be remiss, most of all, to fail to mention what the Daily Trojan has meant to me. The Daily Trojan reignited the passion for journalism I thought I abandoned after high school. Here, I have found my voice not only as a writer but also an advocate. The opinion pages have given me a platform to both understand myself, especially as a woman who cares deeply about social and political issues, and enter into a conversation with the community around me.

To every person who inspired one of my columns, thank you. To anyone who has ever read one of my columns, and sent an affirming text message or left an encouraging comment on Facebook, thank you. To the members of the Daily Trojan staff who work tirelessly and genuinely love this paper, thank you. To my friends and family who listen to me when I’m not getting my thoughts out on the page, thank you.

Despite my love of words, there are times when they do not suffice. Parting with the column that has given shape to the person I am and the school that has provided me with every opportunity is one of those times. Although I know I will continue to write, this last column indeed marks an end and a very special goodbye.

Bailee Ahern is a senior majoring in political science and international relations. Her column, “Vis-à-Vis,” ran every other Monday.