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Column: The beauty of losing control

Photo via Haley Johnson.

When I was asked to be the next Editor-in-Chief last February, I was absolutely paralyzed by the question.

I sat across the table from the then – Managing Editor and Editor-in-Chief – probably the most dedicated, punctual, Google Calendar-scheduling, room-commanding individuals I’ve ever met, aside from professors.

I watched these two work tirelessly, balance meetings with administration, recruit at job fairs, conduct hours of countless interviews, pull overnighters with graphic designers and wake up at 6 a.m. every time someone slept through distribution. They somehow did all this and more without breaking a business casual dress code. Seriously, I can count on one hand the number of times I saw Tony Xu in a T-shirt.

Squeezing my hands into tight little fists at that table, I was grappling with a question of my own: How in the hell am I going to do that?

So, I took a deep breath, a pen, a notebook, and I started planning.

In psychology, the term “locus of control” describes the extent to which we, as humans, feel we can control our outcomes. Having an external locus of control is to believe we are powerless to our environments, our situations. By contrast, having an internal locus of control is to believe we hold inside ourselves the ability to impact our circumstances.

Since entering Bradley, I lived my life with a firm belief in my internal locus of control — that my efforts would culminate in an established pattern of success. For example, If I studied five hours for my stats exam, I’d get an A. If I chose to join Greek life, I’d socialize more. If I research and prepare for my interviews, I’ll land the internship. My mind was a well-oiled machine of input and output functions.

This all changed in March of 2020.

As university emails, event cancelations and internship terminations flooded my B-mail, I was left scrambling for my locus of control. This feeling wasn’t exclusive to me though; it was felt across the globe.

For months, I felt as though everything we put into our life before the pandemic was lost to external circumstances — birthdays, holidays, jobs, the college experience. I felt entirely powerless.

The ideas and training I prepared for back in February in order to lead The Scout became almost entirely irrelevant in our sudden shift to digital publications. The office we’d come to know as a place of laughter, obnoxiousness, helpfulness, sleeplessness — but ultimately togetherness — suddenly had a capacity limit of four.

I’ll be honest; I was not optimistic about this year, despite the tone I knew I had to take in leadership. I kept comparing our Zoom calls to former nights around the table in the office and felt resentful about this contrast.

When cases rose on campus in September and the university announced restrictions were to remain after the all-student quarantine, two very important realizations surfaced to me.

First, I needed to stop waiting for “normal.” Second, I was missing out on a lot by doing so.

It was through months of anguish and waiting for the world to return to normal that I realized I was neglecting the present by harboring the past. There was a certain beauty in letting go of my sense of control, in forgetting about the way things are supposed to be and the way life should be lived.

Sometimes we stayed on the Zoom calls just to joke around, despite it being 1 a.m. We played virtual Jeopardy and Mad Libs. We laugh-cried at each others’ April Fool’s Day stories. I experienced these moments for what they were instead of what they would have been, and I found so much happiness there.

As I write this column, I am in isolation for COVID-19; you could say it’s certainly a way to pay homage to our COVID-19 edition. Right now, I battle the same sense of powerlessness I experienced when this all began. Despite this circumstance, I am able to remind myself that while I cannot always control the outcomes, I can still be present. I can be thankful for an editorial team that shows up outside my window with posters and gifts in a way that is unique to this year. Time is too precious to lose in comparisons.

To Angeline, my favorite little planner: Know that my experience was much different from Tony’s and yours will be much different from mine. No matter where it takes you, remember to enjoy it.

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