When I was younger, I was always known as someone with a “quiet voice.” I tended to be shy and let others speak for me, preferring to hang in the background and let my achievements shine through. However, this was not an attribute that I particularly liked about myself. I strove to break through those bounds and find other avenues to make my voice heard as I entered high school. I joined debate, the school newspaper and took on leadership roles to force myself out of my comfort zone and get used to public speaking.
Then, I came to Hopkins and continued to seek opportunities to do so. Among all these experiences, I don’t think I truly found my “voice” until I joined The News-Letter at Hopkins.
I’ve always preferred structure — something that has pulled me toward journalism and away from creative writing. I preferred to use my writing skills in service of others, to inform and educate rather than ruminate on my own emotions. I liked the rhythm of news writing, the formulaic structure of a story that allowed for different pieces to come together. But it wasn’t until I started this column that I began to experiment with my “voice” and start writing for myself instead.
When I started this column, I intended to use this space as an outlet for me to muddle through my messy emotions and experiences throughout quarantine. Back then, I longed to be on campus with my friends at Hopkins as I was left to lament the college experience that I was missing. But soon, I found solace by looking for the silver linings of the grim period created by the pandemic.
I captured the renewed spark of my fitness journey, the grievances of a nocturnal schedule and more random topics during my sophomore year. Over time, my column evolved to capture more moments of growth throughout my college career. It became a place for me to reflect on random experiences and inspired deeper bouts of reflection.
Writing this column never felt like an obligation to me but a calling and opportunity to immortalize my thoughts. Random musings throughout the day, spiraling thoughts during overwhelming times or painful emotions were jotted down in Google Docs and Notes, some turning into coherent columns to be published while others simply remained ideas, passing contemplations that marked versions of my mind at different stages in life.
However, as the end of another milestone draws near and the future unfolds, it seems that my emotions have been more focused and increasingly concentrated, building upon one another and reaching a crescendo throughout the past few months. Feelings of nostalgia and sentimentality have consumed me, overpowering my excitement and anticipation for the future. Every day I wake up, and I’m immediately hit with a wave of melancholy. And every day, I push those feelings aside and replace them with my stress for the tasks to accomplish that day.
Usually, when those emotions enter, I fill my time with responsibilities to avoid the spiral, or I turn my thoughts into something productive, like a piece for this column. It’s a balancing act: feeling the need to pen my feelings down but also running away from the sadness that accompanies reflection.
But over spring break, I went on a cruise with my friends. Spending a few carefree days at sea disconnected from the world between cruise stops gave me the much-needed time to write a little and start wading through the pools of my emotions that had been storming inside my head. Staring at the endless blue horizon with the varying shades as the only thing separating ocean and sky gave me a semblance of peace for a moment.
I take a deep breath and try, once again, to focus on the silver linings of this closing chapter in my life. Instead of feeling despair for the friends and memories I will be leaving behind at Hopkins, I focus on the immense gratitude I feel. Grateful to have made such special friendships along the way. Grateful to have had the stars align to go on so many trips this past semester and be on that cruise over spring break. Grateful for all the opportunities that Hopkins provided me with in preparation for the next journey in my career and life. Grateful for this corner of The News-Letter to explore new kinds of writing.
No longer am I that quiet girl who always had to be told to speak up. I now see how much I have grown through the numerous articles I’ve written, the opportunities I’ve worked for and secured, and the adventures and friendships I’ve cultivated here.
I’m thankful to have had this column to mark my growth throughout my time at Hopkins and to give that little girl the space to find her voice. Though journalism will no longer be at the forefront of my work for the time being — a reality that I have come to accept — I aim to bring my passion for writing along with me. Looking toward the horizon, I can only hope to find a new home for the voice inside my head in the next chapter of my life beyond college.
Michelle Limpe is a senior from the Philippines studying Chemistry and Public Health. She is a former Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor and News & Features Editor for The News-Letter.