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Thursday, May 16, 2024

My words are who I am

On searching for myself and finding I was there all along (with a little help from my friends)


Growing up, I was lucky enough to learn two languages in addition to English. I always loved learning new phrases and being able to communicate in new ways, but it took me until college to realize why this ability resonated with me so much. I didn’t know it at the time, but by being able to express myself in different languages, I was discovering parts of myself not present when I communicated in any other one. Each language comes with its own history, culture and nuances, and connecting with and utilizing these differences, I was creating identities in each linguistic world, separate from who I was while speaking anything else. 

Creating an identity was my top priority when I arrived at college — I was getting a new start, with new people, in a new place where I was a blank slate to decorate with the person I wanted to be. But unlike my linguistic identities, which arose without my intention (or knowledge), trying to reinvent who I was proved to be an impossible task. Enter The Aggie, where writing became a new language through which I found another version of myself I had yet to uncover.

Prior to joining this organization I now hold so dear, I was never particularly fond of writing; I did it well enough, but I usually dreaded having to write anything of much substance. But writing for the Arts desk wasn’t like other writing (yes, that phrasing is a nod to my and fellow Arts desk alum Ilya Shrayber’s joint article on Sally Rooney’s “Normal People,” one of my favorite contributions to The Aggie). Throughout my academic experience, I was always told what to write, and how, but on Arts, I was able to explore my interests, express my ideas and experiment with my words. Just like the languages I spoke, I saw another person appearing in my stories. Each article gave me the chance to share a part of myself through a topic I was passionate about, collectively forming the journalist and the writer I didn’t know I had in me. 

 it’s impossible to do what we do and be who we are without it.”

This new identity quickly went from an extracurricular to the most defining component of my college experience. After a few quarters on the Arts desk and having taken some linguistics courses I adored, I finally registered why my love of language and newfound love of writing felt so central to who I was: language is identity, and the many iterations I saw within myself were a product of the innately, uniquely human capacity of using language to communicate who we are to the world. Whether spoken, written or signed, it’s impossible to do what we do and be who we are without it.

Language itself and the joys of writing for Arts have clearly been influential to my identity, but the impact of The Aggie as an organization and a community have been equally as pivotal in my college experience. In my first year, as a writer, Arts desk meetings were the highlight of my week: Up to ten of us would gather on the couches in Lower Freeborn to discuss all things arts and culture, from pop culture to new exhibitions to social issues. The friends I made inspired my writing, my interests and my love of The Aggie as a whole, and are a big reason why I pursued a position on the Editorial Board. As I started dedicating more and more time to the newspaper, including being entrusted with the associate arts editor position, I realized how much more I wanted to do, and be, here. 

Despite my first year on the Editorial Board being over Zoom, I wouldn’t have traded the experience for the world. The nine of us, all new to Ed Board, went through it all together: from day-long Zoom meetings to never ending pickleball matches, I’ve never seen a team work so well, and I’m so proud of what we accomplished together. This year’s Ed Board was no different; we came together to discuss and deliberate on the most pressing issues of the moment, and supported each other through projects, ideas and the challenges of bringing this publication back to an in-person operation. Anjini and Margo, I will forever be in awe of how you ran this newspaper; it’s no small feat, and I am so proud of and grateful for you doing your jobs so well.

As important as the work we do here is, this organization wouldn’t be what it is without the friendships it creates. Meeting with this wonderful group of people, both this year and the year before, got me through the toughest days of the pandemic, pulled me out of a funk with a 100% success rate and brought me to tears with laughter more times than I can count. Each and every member of Ed Board I’ve had the pleasure of working with has made a direct impact on my life, and I feel so fortunate to have found a job I loved doing as much as I loved the people I did it with. 

While I’m giving shoutouts, a few more are owed: I may have never found this family without Caroline Rutten, who encouraged me to apply in the first place, and whose friendship, mentorship and unwavering support not only made me a better writer, but a better person. Liz Jacobson, the best editor the Arts desk ever saw, taught me what it takes to lead this special desk, and while I never felt I truly filled her shoes, having her as a role model was integral to any success I’ve had in this position. My pho girls, whether it was deciding which combination of broth and sauce tasted best or (not) doing work in the reading room, I am so appreciative of your ability to brighten my day without fail. And Farmhouse, you will always be my number ones for putting up with constant Aggie shenanigans and being the best friends (and girlfriend) I could ask for. 

Lastly, to all the wonderful writers I’ve had the pleasure of working with: thank you. You allowed me to learn as I went, handled more than a couple hiccups along the way and gave me the opportunity to develop my skills as an editor, something I now know I love to do. I can only wish I had half as much of an impact on you all.

Looking back, deliberately deciding who I wanted to be was never going to work, but what I now know is that the person I was looking for was always within me, I just hadn’t recognized — or yet found — the many ways I could express myself through the words that make us who we are. My journey with language, writing and creating identity through these forms of self expression is far from over, but I can safely say I’d be lost without what The Aggie has given me throughout my run at Davis. It has been an honor to lead the Arts and Culture desk for the past two years, and I can’t wait to see what Clara and the rest of the Editorial Board does next. I hope it gives you everything it gave me and more. 

Written by: Allie Bailey 

Allie Bailey is currently The California Aggie’s arts and culture editor, a position she has held for the past two years. She joined The Aggie as an arts staff writer in the fall of 2019 before taking on the role of associate arts editor in winter 2020. She joined the Editorial Board as arts and culture editor in July 2020. She is graduating with honors with a Bachelor of Science in computational cognitive science and a minor in linguistics.


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