Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
October 27, 2021

How college, and The News-Letter, pulled me away from my need for closure

By ARIELLA SHUA | May 1, 2021

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COURTESY OF ALANNA MARGULIES

Shua discusses how she has grown in her time with The News-Letter.

I love a good sense of symbolic closure.

Let me navigate characters and themes so that they start and end on the same beat. Move from point A to point B to point C to point B to point A again. Kind of a circular narrative, but with enough development that there’s some change to the status quo.

It pops up in my short stories, sometimes without my intention. A protagonist flies into a new setting on the first page and flies out on the last. A character is captured to kick off a tale, her partner meets the same fate a few thousand words later. Development happened, but the ending grew from the beginning.

I try to notice it in my life, too. Are there final moments around me that somehow mirror the moments from the beginning? Sometimes, there are. One of the best ones: When two classmates from Intro to Fiction and Poetry — my very first Writing Seminars class, from freshman fall — wound up in my Advanced Fiction Workshop during my senior fall. There they were, from beginning to end. How symbolic — and in a writing class, no less.

Life doesn’t usually mirror such a strong sense of closure. But since I’m a nostalgic senior, I’m trying to force my college experience to fit the mold.

I keep reflecting on my freshman year. I made a lot of decisions then that do fit the narrative. I joined the Quidditch team, performed stand-up comedy, lived with a fantastic roommate. All still true.

I also joined The News-Letter. And that’s where the narrative both fulfills itself and starts to crack.

Freshman year, I remember sitting in an uncomfortably large Gilman classroom during The News-Letter’s post-Student Involvement Fair meeting. All of the section editors briefly explained their sections.

I knew I would go for Opinions and was interested in Voices and Copy. But I best remember two people introducing themselves as Managing Editors. They said that they’re the ones who drive the golf cart around campus, delivering the papers every Thursday morning.

I knew then that I wanted that to be me.

Fast forward three and a half years later. I did end up working as a Copy Reader, then Leisure (then known as Your Weekend) Editor, then Opinions Editor. I’m wrapping up my time as Managing Editor now.

There are pieces that I’m really proud of writing. An op-ed about deciding to leave the Republican Party behind for good. An interview with the artist behind Papermoon Diner. An analysis of the trustworthiness of journalism. My personal favorite: a piece covering the closure of Eddie’s Market, the 58-year old grocery just steps away from my apartment.

There are pieces that I don’t love, too. Freshman year, I thought I struck gold when I started Internet Expeditions, a column answering the random questions that popped into my head while procrastinating homework. I tired of it pretty quickly but didn’t know how to say no to writing it every other week.

It took time, but I did learn how to say no when I had to. I also learned how to say yes to taking on new challenges. The News-Letter taught me both. I knew freshman fall that I wanted to be a Managing Editor in theory, but until I actually ran I didn’t know that I could really do it.

Reflecting on the contradictions and changes I’ve made, it’s hard to find symbolic closure in my News-Letter experience. And that’s okay. 

I would say I wouldn’t have it any other way, but that’s not true. I would have preferred the pandemic-free version. I really did want to drive around in the golf cart after my first full Wednesday night.

But there are moments that I want to preserve just as I remember them.

There were the HQ Trivia games, played at the start of my 9 p.m. copy-reading shift, that first made me feel at home in the Gatehouse. There’s the time that I ran into my old Editor-in-Chief while we were both covering the same Women’s March. There was the midnight laughing until I cried with the Editorial Board, spending 20 minutes trying to decide on a good title for that week’s piece. There were the moves from standing to sitting on the floor to leaning on the window sill to crouching on the air conditioner as I tried to get comfortable during long meetings.

There was the triumphant moment junior year when I finally got my quotes on the Gatehouse wall. There were the class Zoom conversations I’ve had with other editors, trying to hold our laughter in on camera. There are the Slack messages with my amazing Co-Managing Editor, who perfectly matches my chaotic-good energy. There’s the jump scare that I experience entering the Gatehouse these days, as a balloon of Edgar Allan Poe’s head lurks near the window.

Now it’s all come to an end, as all chapters of life have to. It hasn’t moved in my favorite circular fashion, from A to B to B to A again. It’s moved in zig-zags, from A to G to Z. From B1 to A1, in some ways.

As my News-Letter experience and my college experience come to an end, I haven’t had the clear moments of closure to neatly wrap the years together. But that’s okay. The moments I do have are enough.

It’s time to start a new narrative, and I’ll remember this one fondly.

Ariella Shua is a senior from Livingston, N.J. majoring in Writing Seminars. She is a former Managing Editor, Opinions Editor and Leisure Editor for The News-Letter.

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