There is always a moment that we can look back on and say, “this is the moment it all changed for me”. As cliché as that sounds, and as much as I hate to be more of a cliché than I already am, it’s true.
That moment came for me just as I was finishing my freshman year at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Sitting in my jail cell dorm room, wondering if this was really all college had to offer me—Frat party keggers, narrow-minded people, and the incessant smell of cow manure—I realized I was unhappy.
What was I to do? I was surrounded by people I loved and who loved me, sure. But no one understood my obsessions with Jane Austen or my need to write my feelings rather than express them vocally.
So I left. And it was the best decision I could have made.
Coming to Elmhurst College was an accident, joining The Leader, however, was not. I knew that I needed to be with people who enjoyed the same things that I did: writing, English, and gossiping about celebrity nonsense.
For fear of boring you and over complicating a simple message, I just want to say thank you.
Thank you to the people of The Leader that made me fall in love with writing with a journalist’s eye (Roxee, that shout-out is directed at you).
Thank you to Dr. Ron for encouraging me to come out and write for The Leader in the beginning; I don’t know how to thank you enough.
Thank you to everyone who made my time with The Leader not only a learning experience but also fun.
But mostly, thank you for making me question my own beliefs and my own strength to stand behind the truth, even if I’m afraid to make waves.
But this causes me to question my own bravery.
Why are we afraid to make an impact? To ruffle some feathers?
Our generation should be eternally grateful to grow up in a society—albeit far from perfect—where we can fight for what we believe in. And we must do so: fight for our happiness and the happiness of others.
Do I dare disturb the universe? Do you?
My parents shivered under the umbrella of shrapnel, shielding their eyes from the blasts. Grenade shillings shattered in the air and pierced the concrete walls of Sarajevo’s war-torn buildings. Roofs were on fire, dead men and women strewn across the outdoor marketplace amongst the apples and rice they were selling. Blazes. Screams. Gunshots. A one-way ticket to Chicago. A sole suitcase packed with both of their belongings. A new place to call home.
My roots are planted firmly in this land of blood and sacrifice. My parents, Bosnian refugees who escaped the genocide scarred and traumatized, created a life for me that they could have never imagined for themselves. Born in the bustling city of Chicago and raised in a quiet Western suburb, I never longed for anything. I did not know what it meant to live “without,” and my parents did everything to make sure I succeeded in school.
My mom would constantly cry. I remember her crying over the bad grades I got, over the amazing comments my teachers left on my papers, over the pictures of me in my high school graduation cap and gown. When I was younger, I thought her tears were wasted. “What was she crying about, anyway?”
I resented her tears. I was always a good student, but I was never involved in extracurricular activities or clubs. She cried about that, too. It felt like I would never be able to make her happy. I told myself she didn’t know what school was like. After all, she had only finished the fifth grade. It was easy to cry about something when you didn’t know how hard it was.
It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized she wasn’t crying her own tears. All of those years, she was crying the tears of generations of our disenfranchised ancestors. Of women who were beaten if they were caught with books. Of great-grandmothers who studied in secret, only to be whipped and married off when their “indecencies” were discovered. My mom was crying because she had finally raised the first generation of our family who was openly intelligent, successful, and educated.
My time at Elmhurst College is not just my story. It is my family’s success story. It is my nation’s success story. Being an English major was never easy, but despite feeling lost at times, I found myself amongst the chaos. Like my parents before me, I found my way home.
That is why I chose to use my voice at The Leader. As a feature writer, I write for others. I write to tell stories other people want to tell. I often find myself speechless when I complete a story; there is something godly about writing another person’s experiences down and presenting them with the finished product. It’s like the power of creation is completely your own and you can change the world with one swipe of your pen.