Farewell column: Make memories, not to-do lists

Opinion by Ashley Westhem
Feb. 1, 2016, 11:59 p.m.

My role as editor-in-chief has taught me that you are nothing without your staff. I learned that when problems need to be solved, listening and taking a step back is the hardest thing to do as a leader, but it is also the most important.

My role as editor-in-chief taught me that you are nothing without your friends. I learned that when it’s 2 a.m., the paper still isn’t done for the night and I still have to find time to be a student that night before my 9 a.m. class, it was the support of my closest friends who would make me believe that I could power through my work on nothing but coffee and a power nap.

Most editorial farewells are written as a reflection on the state of Stanford University or on the state of The Stanford Daily. In my final column as Editor-in-Chief, however, I want to reflect on the state of Stanford students and impart to you some of the lessons I’ve learned in this role.

My role as editor-in-chief taught me that you are nothing without your health and happiness. I learned that I am a human being, not a human doing.

Today is the first day in three years that I will not hold an editorial position at The Stanford Daily; this week will be the first since the start of my junior year — a year and a half ago! — that I will not spend every night from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. in The Daily’s office. My time at The Daily has revealed my true friends, my true self, and that perseverance can lead to self-discovery — you can push yourself that hard.

Most of you in your Stanford careers will find out just how much you can handle. Congratulations, you are a human doing. With my final months left at Stanford, I want to see what it’s like to live on this campus as a human being. I want to be fully present and immersed in the communities and relationships that I have surrounded myself with since my freshman year. I don’t want to be too busy to be there for a friend, or too busy to work out or too stressed to even stop for a minute and breathe.

Stanford is a wonderful place that offers so many opportunities to occupy every second of our days. My freshman year, I remember panicking the first few weeks because I had free time in between classes that was not filled! But then, I got swooped up by the sports section of The Daily. I had found my “thing.” Now, as a senior, I wonder what my “thing” will be post-Stanford. Lawyer? Environmentalist? Entrepreneur? Sports broadcaster?

I’ve learned over the past six months that there’s no right way to live your life (but if you find a road map laying around with “Ashley’s Life Plan” stamped on it, please tell me). We just have to do what makes us happy, proud and confident in ourselves. If you are doing something that achieves that, then you are living a great life by my standards. Twenty years from now, you will look back on your Stanford career and I bet that you will remember that late-night conversation you had with your friend in the open kitchen eating Skinny Pop or that time you sang along to Justin Bieber’s early hits with your boyfriend at 2 a.m. over any reading or p-set that might have been left unfinished while eating said Skinny Pop and belting with the Biebs.

So, for seniors who are trying to make the most of their time left on the Stanford Country Club, Stanford Bubble, Camp Stanford, etc., and for the underclassmen trying to do it all before they’re the seniors and “it’s too late” (it’s never too late), remember to take care of yourselves — if you aren’t putting yourself first, then who is? And if you’ve found someone or a group of someones who remind you to do just that and boost you up, then hold on tight. Try to prioritize your happiness and health over everything — or at least when you haven’t already used up all your late days and already asked for an extension on that paper — and see how good it makes you feel in the long run.

We may be Stanford students and we may be expected to cure diseases, fight for injustice, change the world, solve world hunger, run multi-billion-dollar companies and have our lives all in order by our 10-year reunion, but we’re not perfect. Some of us might have it all figured out as undergrads, but the majority of us are still figuring it out, and won’t reach one of those achievements until we’ve tried out some other pursuits, failed a bit, meandered a lot through our road map and ultimately lived. We don’t have to have to have all the answers. Just keep living and laughing and propelling yourself towards your passions — you may find what you didn’t even know you were looking for.

Love you, love your work.

Thanks for reading The Daily,

Ashley Westhem
President and Editor in Chief, Volume CCXLVIII

Contact Ashley Westhem at awesthem ‘at’ stanford.edu


Ashley Westhem was Editor in Chief of Vol. 248 after serving as Executive Editor and Managing Editor of Sports. She is the voice of Stanford women’s basketball for KZSU as well as The Daily’s beat writer for the team and aids in KZSU’s coverage of football. She graduated in 2016 and is currently a Communications masters student. Ashley is from Lake Tahoe, California.

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