Pause. I won’t presume to stop your life; that’s impossible. Life goes on whether we want it to or not. But take a moment to really be in this moment. Inhale. You. Are. Here. You’ve made it this far, and that is something of which you can be proud. The path may look different for many of us. Just as there is diversity in how we look, there, too, is a diversity in the journeys we take. Respect that. At the beginning of a new semester, much is asked from each and every one of us. Some of these things are routine: we are asked to help people move-in, to show them around; we are asked to smile for publicity photos, to shout chants of praise, or to put on an entire multicultural talent show. Others are more abstract: We’re asked to think about how we will go to college, and to consider who we are becoming. We are asked to declare majors and minors, and to decide on what career we will do for the rest of our lives, or at least until the recession rearranges those plans and we are forced like so many before us to redefine and rebuild ourselves all over again. It’s okay; this too shall pass. For now, focus on your breathing.
We are not paid for these services. We do them out of a love of community. We are expected to participate despite the very real fact that some of us are already wrestling with rekindled waves of anxiety even as we greet the fresh faces of the first years who are eager to embrace University life. We do this in spite of the struggles of recent weeks at home or elsewhere; the still fresh wounds of failed exams or disappointing class standings. Somehow, we persist. Now, expand your focus beyond your breathing. Begin to consider your surroundings: the surface upon which you sit, the nearby walls that compose the room where you reside, the hallway just outside the door... We are remarkably resilient. Despite this, or maybe because of it— pardon the generalization— I find that in projecting strength, we often presume that these obstacles must be surmounted alone. Wrong.
Still breathing steadily ruminate on your broader environment: your residence hall, the campus, the medical center, Nashville… Think about how all the ever-changing threads are interwoven to form the beautiful fabric we know as life. I was told recently to think of mindfulness as a seemingly contradictory passive-focus. But I think it is the perfect lens through which we can truly view our community as a living, indescribable phenomenon. Cherish it. Nourish it. While, by some miracle, you manage to complete all of those duties you are tasked with, don’t forget that you are a part of a whole. Ask for help when you need it. You are never alone. Your history is one of countless generations overcoming astonishing odds. It is a dual narrative of adversity and victory. We know life’s beauty by its tragedy, but no one gets through this life alone. At the end of it all, Vanderbilt is just a school. But it also serves as a microcosm of the kinds of challenges you will face when you leave these sprawling lawns.
Last year, I used this letter to introduce New Dawn to the Vanderbilt community. We were all very pleased by the warm reception we subsequently received. This year, we offer ourselves to you once more, only now we have something to give back. We hope that in this issue, and in all those to follow you find a topic, an article, a poem, or a mere sentence that speaks to you. If you have to be told something is good; it simply proves that it is not. Quality is an intrinsic trait. It’s something, I believe, you can just sense. Good art, whether it be a piece of writing or a contemplative painting, just is and in being speaks volumes. My personal wish, then, is that you find something of merit as you browse our website. But more than this, we as an editorial team hopes that in these digital publications you can find a sense of harmony. I use this word purposefully. I want to emphasize the vibrant diversity that New Dawn seeks to highlight in all that we do. To borrow a French term, our publication’s true goal is to bolster a “d’esprit de corps” on campus— meaning we aim to cultivate a sense of togetherness, brought on by a shared collective identity— in common tongue: solidarity. We are a black publication, but that doesn’t mean we share one voice. Our voices are numerous. Our opinions are many. Our talents, ambitions, words and passions are infinite. We invite you to join us on this journey yet again.
Cortez Johnson on behalf of The Editors-in-Chief
Edited by Ashli Alexander