Stepping down from the soapbox

Zoya Waliany

I am opinionated. And I love telling other people these opinions. And even further, I love to shock people with my opinions. If I happen to spark dialogue and evoke others’ passions in this process, then I’m even happier. Thus, working as a columnist for The Daily Texan this year, the ultimate soapbox for shoving my opinions in other people’s faces, was one of my favorite college experiences.

I have always loved writing, but somewhere between typing countless papers for classes and my Plan II thesis — don’t even ask — I had forgotten that love. Working as an opinion columnist, however, reminded me of how much I enjoy expressing myself on paper.

During my time at UT, or as I like to call it, the ol’ indoctrination mill, I cultivated many of my personal beliefs and learned new things about myself. Writing for the Texan allowed me to strengthen these beliefs. I also hope that during my time as an opinion columnist, I was able to serve as a voice for the underrepresented students. The things people do at this school are amazing and deserve to be known.

Believe it or not, one of the most important things I learned as a writer while working for the Texan was to understand and respect all sides of an argument. This important lesson came to me in the wee hours of the night as I sat writing my column and envisioning hoards of angry business students or frat brothers coming to take me down after a bad reaction to an overly-biased argument. I always strove to make my point intelligently while remaining open-minded to the other side, an important life lesson I will keep with me after leaving the 40 Acres.

Yet I did manage to get daring with some of my columns. I even managed to make a subtle joke about Rick Santorum’s surge from behind. I just made it again.

To Viv: None of this would have happened had you not encouraged me to apply to be a columnist, something I hadn’t even fathomed before this summer. I will always cherish our picture with Barack Obama and those awkward freshman year lunches. You’ve been an amazing editor-in-chief.

To Shabab: You were an incredible editor, and I probably owe all of this to you. Seeing an email from you telling me you thought my column looked great on the page or telling me not to feel bad about not knowing Occupy UT existed always made my day. If you need a fallback job, look into being a life coach — you’d be great. Thank you so much for all your help. Thank you to Sam as well for our time together. You were a lot more lenient with my topic choices than Shabab was, and I loved that. Good luck to you both next year.

To my ever-supportive friends: Thank you for taking the time to read my columns, and thank you for listening to me try to formulate arguments or come up with ideas every week. I liked when you left me positive and encouraging comments under pseudonyms, but I loved when you left irreverent, angry and accusatory comments to make me seem a more controversial and provocative writer.

To UT Alum, the constant commenter on the Texan’s opinion columns: Shockingly, you made this experience all the more enjoyable. You predictably left comments on many of my rather liberal columns debunking me and everything I stand for, and I loved it. If I managed to get you riled up, I knew I did something right. I’m not entirely sure where you get all of your free time to haunt The Daily Texan editorial section, but I’m glad you did.

To the University: You were great to me. And even during those times when you weren’t great to me, like when I had a bird poop on my head on three separate occasions or when I had to sleep on the ground of Reliant while studying for a test, I still loved you. I was happy to represent you while writing for the Texan, and I’ll continue to represent you when trash-talking OU in the future.

Hook ‘em and Hillary for president 2016.

Waliany, a Plan II and government senior, worked as a columnist in the fall and spring.