Column: Dear column, I love you.


Photo credit: Az

As I begin the road to graduation, I’m reminded of the extraordinary experience I’ve had writing a feminist column. It has been a beautifully empowering process that I will be forever grateful for.

By Azel Al-Kadiri, Columnist

In the midst of a global pandemic, my anxious 16-year-old self was watching the world fall apart outside my window. Frustrated, bored and unsure of the future, I craved a new adventure and a new beginning. 

As spring sprung, I stumbled upon a schoolwide email with an intriguing subject line: “Columnist Application.”

I paused, then wondered, then smiled. 

At that moment, a moment I’ll never forget, everything was possible. The school newspaper spirits had instantly possessed me. This was my path; no, this was my destiny. Nothing could stand in my way now. As I began working on the application to become a columnist for The Oracle, I remember reaching the question at the end of the form, which asked, “What would the topic of your column be?”

Uh oh. What the heck was I going to write about? I panicked and called my dad. 

“Write what you know, Azel.” He chuckled over the phone at my obvious lack of planning. 

“Write what you know, write what you know, write what you know.” The words haunted me like some kind of prophecy. I didn’t know anything about anything. Who was I to write a column? Feeling insecure about my absence of knowledge and annoyed by my father’s word puzzle, I closed the tab of my future in the school newspaper. 

Maybe I would try playing soccer? (Unlikely).  

Later in the week, on “Zoom school,” I remember staring at the faces of my classmates, their smiles stuck in digital boxes. I longed for the campus of my all-girls school, an environment that bonds the hearts, minds and souls of the women in my community. 

“Write what you know, write what you know, write what you know.” 

Suddenly it hit me: “What I knew” didn’t have to be an obscure understanding of medicine or a niche passion that no one knew about. Indeed, what I “knew” was the lives, struggles and experiences of the women who raised and inspired me. The answer had been right in front of my eyes.

I re-opened the tab and declared my column’s topic: women’s issues and feminism.

I wrote my first column in August before my junior year. Well, “column” is a stretch, more like a shockingly bad essay that was offensive to journalism. It was a cruel punishment for my editors. Each month, I would stare at the blank Google doc like a riddle waiting to be solved. 

Over time, I began to tune into the heartbreaking struggles of my female friends, the court decisions that denied women the right to their own bodies and the empowering stories of women’s history. There was never a day, a week or a month with nothing to research and explore, as the topic of women was a flower with deep roots waiting to be discovered. 

Poetically, writing about the voices of women gave me one myself. I grew up a very shy and quiet girl who was often intimidated by my male classmates, afraid they would find me stupid and unintelligent. 

This column taught me that I had a voice, and most importantly, how to use it. 

Thank you to The Oracle. You’ve given me the kind of gift I will never stop opening. 

See you around, girls.