A very serious article on a very serious topic with a very serious image


Elizabeth Rose Szpytek

A very serious photo befitting of this very serious article

“How about Senioritis?” Mary Long, newspaper adviser and teacher extraordinaire said to me.

“Oh come on, I would make that about depression,” I replied without skipping a beat. Long leaned back in her chair and made an exasperated noise.

Earlier in the week, she had challenged me to write a fun, lighthearted column—something not usually in my wheelhouse. What I had come up with was a criticism on the way people view community college which, for most, would be easy to keep fairly light, but for me, immediately devolved to talking about classism and calculating how many ladybugs you could buy with the savings from tuition.

Her face perked up. She was onto something. We had been brainstorming nonstop for the better part of a half hour, idea after idea shot down from both sides. I had suggested writing about the “hidden heterosexual agenda,” but Long didn’t think readers would find that as funny as I did.

She had put forward writing about how I’m like a 47 year old woman in an 18 year old’s body, but I knew that would become about Social Pragmatism, which isn’t as, you know, fun.

We had been through every topic imaginable: fashion, gym class, gym class fashion, Garfield, social media usage, things I liked as a kid, my toxic relationship with Dr Pepper—you name it, I could take the fun out of it.

We sat in silence, trying to think of a topic I couldn’t ruin. I paced back and forth.

“What if,” she spoke slowly and carefully, her thoughts still coming together, “you wrote about how you have trouble writing about non-serious topics?”

I thought for a moment and broke into a grin. It would work—at least I hope that it would. But after a few seconds, my pessimistic side took over: it would be like every other topic I had tried before.

Last week, I had tried writing about how much I loved the bangs I recently got, but a few paragraphs in, it transformed into a piece about the objectification of women under capitalism and beauty standards.

Clearly, I’m a blast at parties.

I have something Long describes as “Elizabeth syndrome.” It’s kind of like other illnesses, except literally not at all. When I sit down to write on a specific topic, I end up coming up with five more related ones within the first page.

And these aren’t fun, easy topics, these are things like “How has the ruling class used the American Dream as propaganda in order to maintain the myth of social mobility and justify violating basic human rights?”

I’m not certain, but for some reason I have an inkling that an article on that might not be a hit with my fellow teenz.

For pretty much this entire school year, Long has been trying to get me to write something more fun, and every time I’ve failed. That’s not to say I’m a super serious person—in fact often times I should really be more serious and adult, I’m looking at you, 2.6 GPA—but if I’m spending the time to write, I feel so pulled towards saying something profound.

But life can be light, life can be fun. Sometimes we don’t need to talk about the lack of a narrative structure in our existence or the brainwashing of the American people or the nefarious nature of corporate philanthropy.

Being forced to write 500 plus words without taking myself too seriously has been my largest crucible—and that includes my time as a POW in ‘Nam, the time I had my brain pulled out through my nose and Precalculus 300. It may have taken me 89 years to finally finish this, my magnum opus, but I finally feel free. The curse has been lifted, and I can finally go back to writing about workers’ rights and lesbianism.