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Thursday, June 13, 2024
The Observer

I am a writer

I am not a writer.

That’s what I told my friend when she tried to convince me to be a columnist.

That’s what I told myself when I tried to convince myself I shouldn’t be a columnist.

Obviously it didn’t stick.

So welcome, dear reader, to my origin story. It happened last week, and involved George Orwell, a phone call, two revelations (I suspect divine intervention) and a smidge of time travel.

It was the first Saturday of the semester and my roommate was out of town. My day was open-ended and I was in that odd stage of looking forward to homework, so I picked up George Orwell’s “1984” and settled down with a blanket on the futon. “1984” is no sunshine and rainbows. I kept finding unhappy parallels to our current reality. 

My phone buzzed with an incoming call from my mom, so I stuck my pencil in my book and answered. We talked about family plans, she asked about my first week (it’s good to be back with friends) and what I was up to that weekend (nothing much, still in pajamas). She then reminded me, in the way that mothers do, about my New Year’s resolution (which isn’t a New Year’s resolution because those break too easily), which was to no longer stay in my room, to challenge myself and match my actions to my intentions instead of letting them just sit on the shelf and look pretty.

She was right, of course, so I hauled myself out of my comfy idleness. I remembered the feeling of wanting to change my habits. And I actually did something about it. Reader, whatever small thing in your life you keep brushing off, I implore you to do it: You will feel so alive.

Then it was Sunday. A friend tried to convince me to join the Observer as a Viewpoint columnist. I was intrigued, which surprised me because my previous encounter with reporting had dissuaded an interest in journalism. I was hesitant. I’d never considered it before, never wanted to and never thought it was something I would do. I’m a reader, not a writer.

But suddenly, I wanted to.

In the movie voice-over version of this, it would freeze-frame and words would stamp the screen: REVELATION #1.

I wanted to? I never even wanted to be a writer! I didn’t like when people asked if I was going to be a writer or author (I read a lot). I probably disliked it because it was such a common question. Either way, that insistence is being challenged. I wanted to challenge myself, didn’t I?

It’s what I did freshman year at Saint Mary’s, at least. Little first-year me decided to take an introductory acting course to conquer stage fright.

The first day of that class, each stranger had to stand in front of everyone and declare, “I am an actor.” Regardless of experience and skill, that was the difficult first step we had to take. All we had to do was say those four trivial words, to ourselves and to each other. It was definitive. We chose it, we declared it and then we were actors.

This might be leading, but guess what I realized after that memory bubbled up as I stared at my columnist application. All I had to do was swap nouns.

Freeze frame. REVELATION #2.

I am a writer.

I sent my application to the Observer.

George Orwell wasn’t finished with me yet at the end of the week. In class on Friday, we talked about Winston’s close encounter with freedom as he mindlessly, then frantically began writing in his not-illegal illegal journal. The act of having and recording your own thoughts is a big no-no for Big Brother. Remember I mentioned those unhappy parallels? This is one thing I am thrilled not to be able to connect to my own life: the ability to freely think and record and share my thoughts, which is the essence of the position to which I had just applied. My confidence was bolstered.

It’s Saturday again.

I’ve been accepted as a columnist for the Observer.

And I’m still sitting in my room.

This time however, I’m not reading “1984” and I’m not still in my pajamas. I am a writer, and I am writing a column for anyone to read.

Well, I am now, but when I sat down, all coherent thoughts left early for spring break, so I decided to time travel back to my haphazard high school thoughts to find inspiration.

The notebook itself is a phenomenally worn, leather-bound stack of thick paper that you’d find shoved in a secret compartment of a Victorian mansion. You know the kind, with the thin leather strap wound around to keep it shut?

The best thing about it was it had begged to be covered in ink, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this column. I flipped through thoughts of my younger self and found a list of dreams. Things like skydiving, a road trip with friends and going to college were included. My gaze wandered down the page, and I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. In the corner, I had written:

“Be a writer?”

Well, what do you know? 

So now, dear reader, I implore you to pay attention to your thoughts and write them down, because however trivial they may seem at the time, I promise, they matter.

Madeline Law is a Saint Mary’s junior from Petoskey, Michigan. She studies English Literature and Communication Studies with a minor in Theater. She hails from Petoskey, Michigan, and if you can find her, she’ll either be adding books to scattered “to read” lists or re-reading old favorites. Reach her at, send book suggestions.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.