In my 1 and 9/10th years here, I’ve written a lot of Argus articles. One hundred, to be exact, once this one goes to print. It may sound like a lot, but they added up as things tend to do: one at a time, about a couple every week, sometimes more, sometimes fewer.
The number one hundred is an arbitrary one, no different, really, than 89 or 73, which don’t get nearly as much attention. But because one hundred is a nice, even number—a straight line with two circles after it—reaching it seems like as good a time as any to reflect. More specifically, it’s a good time to reflect on depth and breadth.
The question of quality versus quantity has always tortured me. Should I make more friends, ones I’m not as close to, or strengthen the relationships I have with my existing ones? Should I read more books or re-read my old favorites until I understand each one deeply? Should I learn to bake 14 types of breads, or perfect my banana bread (trick question; it’s perfect already)? For a long time, I’ve resolved to opt for quality in all things. In fact, it’s a rule of mine: it’s better to do less and do it well than it is to do a bunch of things kind of badly.
When it came to The Argus, though, that rule went out the window. I wrote a lot of articles, so many articles, and although I did enjoy writing the vast majority of them, at the same time I seemed to forget why I was writing them: to shed new light on issues, to convey information, to ask questions, and then to prompt my readers to do the same. I didn’t write articles to get to one hundred, per se, but I did feel a perverse thrill at seeing my number climb. I churned out reviews of nut butters and wrote opinions that nobody read. Looking back on these one hundred articles, I have more than a few notes for my former self. The writing could be tightened in many places; I should have spoken to more and a wider variety of sources; sometimes my research was lacking; sometimes the organization was off. C’est la vie, right? Well, maybe ça doesn’t have to be la vie. If you’ll allow me to indulge for a second here, I’d like to take you on a short walk down my memory lane to a few places where I messed up a little bit.
I wrote an opinion article called “In Defense of Soul Friendship” about my friend whom I met at a commune-style semester school in northern California and her brilliant way of classifying people as “soul friends”: more than friends, less than (well, not “less than”) romantic partners. It was my first article, and I’m satisfied with how it came out for the most part, except for the part where I, for reasons that are still unclear to me, used my friend’s real name and failed to see a problem with that in the slightest. My friend read the article, and though she handled it like a champion, she was surprised that I had written about her and her friends, one of whom I described as a squawky, bespectacled pedant, no less, and didn’t change any names. Ack, ack, ack. It makes me nauseated to this day, in fact!
But my cringing was far from finished. I had hardly stopped flagellating myself when, in late September of my first year at Wesleyan, disaster struck yet again. I had planned to take a tour and slink around in the back, pretending to be a pre-frosh and taking notes for an article (the spin would be “what tour guides don’t tell you about real University life,” or something equally juvenile). To my horror, though, the 3 p.m. tour was completely empty, save for a chatty, ever-cheerful tour guide and…me. I immediately pretended to be a pre-frosh, spinning an elaborate web of lies over the course of the tour (I told him I was visiting the east coast for the first time from Nebraska—as I said, I panicked—to visit schools; I told him that I was interested in the hard sciences; I told him that I liked the architecture in the CFA) that culminated when my tour guide, intent despite my objections to show me a “real first year dorm room,” swung the door open to reveal a pair of roommates who had volunteered to show their double to passing tours and whom I knew peripherally. (I would italicize the last three words if The Argus permitted that.) As the roommates stared at me, undoubtedly wondering why in the world I, obviously a first year at the University, was taking a tour meant for prospective students, I tried in vain to spin my head around, like an owl, hoping that my hair would disguise me before they could blow my cover. That moment was easily the most stressful experience of my life.
The next few months paraded by. I interviewed a pair of traveling slackliners (my new friends Jesse Boyd and Kyle Newman, who almost forced me to try my hand at slacklining, which was easily the second most stressful moment of my life—I’m noticing a trend here); spoke to a gaggle of Canadians about being from above the border; wrote about my support for polygamy and was contacted—and corrected—by Tom, a Mormon from Michigan; wrote about conjoined twins and sparked a debate between George and Lambchop’s Mom; visited the University’s 3D printer with a proud physics professor; attended a forum about protesting a juvenile lockup facility; and visited a local tofu factory with co-writer Haenah Kwon, where, in my haste to examine some boiling seitan, I backed into a large tray of fresh, sweating tofu and nearly knocked it over.
Things turned around on April 17, 2014 (also known as the best day of my life), when Amy Chua (also known as the Tiger Mother) emailed me back. I had sent her an email (subject line: you’re my hero) that included a link to my article. She replied that she had already seen the article about her and, get this, liked it and proposed that we “stay in touch”! And that was the moment in which I, Jenny Fran Davis, officially peaked. It’s all been downhill from there.
Nonetheless, I’ll keep chugging along, but I hope at a much slower pace. Now that I’ve reached one hundred and have done what I set out to do one humid September day in my first year, when I had three quarters of a friend and couldn’t locate Court Street, I’m going to go back to my old ways and once again value quality over quantity. Getting to one hundred has helped me remember that it is always better to be thorough than it is to be hasty. Calamities make for good stories, but meticulousness makes for even better journalism.
Davis is a member of the Class of 2017.