Commentary: Thank you, Voices section


Photo credit: Graphic Illustration by Molly Solowitz

This illustration shows me thanking the Voices section. After two years of being the Voices Editor, I am more than grateful that I had this opportunity.

After my first day of joining The Oracle staff, I remember asking my mom to go see a doctor because I clearly had a sweating problem. From the cold air in the Publication Lab to the laptops, notepads and lively discussions, I couldn’t help but feel out of place. I saw how easily everyone raised their hands. I saw how perfectly-worded comments about societal structure, newsworthiness and our roles as journalists filled the room. Intellectual questions bounced off the walls. Insightful reporting coated everyone’s computer screens. Incredible inquiries were practically built into the tables and chairs of the classroom.

Then, there was me. If you know me now, it seems like the last possible words to describe me would be “shy” or “apprehensive,” but in journalism class, that’s exactly what I was.

My sophomore year was when I was nearing the edge of my self-deprecation phase. I doubted everything that came out of my mouth. And my first reaction to anything I said was rooted in criticism. I couldn’t shake the feeling that despite all of my academic accomplishments and strides, underneath it all, I was unworthy. Self-deprecation consumes you, and it doesn’t go away without a persistent fight. At any age, especially at 15, it gets exhausting to not have confidence.

It gets exhausting to hate yourself.

Time passed like it always does, and 2020 rolled around. I could finally write news briefs and understand journalistic writing, contributing to conversations in class. Yet I still didn’t take any risks. I never ventured into subjects or styles of writing I was uncomfortable with. Although I had some AP Style skills under my belt, there was another fundamental thing I lacked: a voice. I don’t just mean a stylistic tone or funny edge — I mean a distinct one. I wanted a voice that carried power, reverberating off of every surface and going straight into people’s ears. I wanted a voice unique enough that my teachers, mentors or peers could print out 1 million pieces of writing and immediately recognize mine.

As much as sophomore me wished I could simply tap my heels together or blow out a candle and then poof, I would have refined writing skills, that wasn’t reality. I knew I would never reach my goals if I didn’t take action.

I told my lack of self-assurance to shut up for one article. This wasn’t going to be any article though, it had to be in the Voices section. I wrote my first opinion piece Feb. 9, 2020: “Op-Ed: WWIII Tik Tok memes promote stereotypes, trivialize U.S.-Iran relations.” Then another: “Op-Ed: Why didn’t anyone talk about local anti-Semitic vandalism?” And another: “Op-Ed: Holocaust education should be mandatory in schools.” Surprise, another: “Op-Ed: I am tired of my people being the punchline.” Do you see a pattern?

But, it only took that first op-ed for me to know what role I wanted to be in for the remainder of my high school journalism career: Voices Editor.

The day I actually got the position was, no joke, one of the best days of my life. I felt adrenaline surge through my veins as I opened my inbox. “Congratulations” was the first word in the email. Honestly, I don’t think I even read the rest of that email. It was in the middle of quarantine when time became distorted, people were discombobulated and everyone was disconnected, but I felt this overwhelming sense of kinship. It was the first time I looked around, even if it was on a Zoom screen, and thought I, Chloe Fidler, belonged.

I started to truly love the Voices section after I became the editor for it. The whimsies pieces about food, gifts and advice. The op-eds about identity, mental health and being a high schooler. The commentary pieces about music, hair and mindfulness. And, of course, my extraordinary columnists who break boundaries through storytelling, discuss meaningful concepts and continue to make my heart full every day.

I can say with confidence that I have truly found my own voice. The type that echoes loudly in rooms. The type that translates onto the page. The type that other people recognize. Being the Voices Editor did more than just challenge me, it pushed me to challenge others. I now help other students’ voices come to fruition and do my best to amplify them.

I am lucky to have read so many different stories. I am honored that I have been trusted to edit people’s work, pushing them to be honest, open and vulnerable. I am proud of who I’ve become and the huge role the Voices section has played in my own writing and life journey.

I want to confirm that I do not have a sweating problem, and I no longer feel inadequate or nervous when I walk into journalism class.

Trust me when I say that the air in the Publication Lab doesn’t feel so cold anymore.

Thank you, Voices section.