In her book “All About Love: New Visions,” bell hooks writes, “Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving.” Nothing rings more true from my college experience. The Class of 2024 entered Emory University during a time of widespread uncertainty. With COVID-19 preventative measures in place, we began our undergraduate careers seeing one another on screens, introducing ourselves through masks and sitting six feet apart outside. As with many of my peers, I spent a significant portion of my first year alone in my dorm room. During this period, I reflected on what I wanted out of my college experience: the qualities in the people I wanted to surround myself with, the goals I hoped to achieve and the affect I wanted to have on my community. 

By the time I entered my second year, my college life was filled with blossoming friendships, walks on the nearby nature trails and a close-knit academic community. I ran with Oxford College’s cross country team in the early morning and spent hours reading in the Quadrangle hammocks. From psychology to philosophy, I took full advantage of Oxford’s liberal arts experience. Conversations with my friends at the Oxford Dining Hall, familiarly called Lil’s, or at local café Bread and Butter Bakery frequently evolved into long-winded philosophical debates. Within the safety of this college environment, I explored my interests and came to better understand myself. 

Courtesy of Jack Rutherford

Although my first and second years at Oxford were drastically different, I do not believe I could have fully appreciated the joy of being in a community without this first year of isolation. I learned to make time for ice cream runs during late nights in the library, to say “yes” to spontaneous road trips and to take full advantage of opportunities to become more engaged with people across Emory’s campuses. Most importantly, I learned how to become a better friend, leader and community member. 

This became incredibly important when I was elected co-editor-in-chief of The Emory Wheel last February. Over my year of leading this college newsroom, I derived a great sense of accomplishment from working with a talented staff of writers, photographers and editors to serve the Emory community with accurate and insightful reporting. While my weeks were consumed by ethical dilemmas and long print production nights that stretched into the early hours of the morning, the community I formed within this newsroom and my genuine wish to see the broader Emory community thrive made these moments of stress worthwhile. These relationships taught me how to lead with compassion, empathy and courage.

Now, at the end of my time at Emory, I am grateful for the time I spent alone during my first year on campus. Without it, I am not sure I would have the appreciation that I do for this broader college community, the Wheel or my close friendships. As I move beyond this university, I plan to continue seeking out relationships like the ones I found on this campus that prioritize love, trust and a desire to create positive change in the world. I believe that when we truly come to know ourselves, we can care for one another better. 

Sarah Davis (24C) is from Austin, Texas. She served as editor-in-chief of The Emory Wheel. She is pursuing a career in journalism.

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Sarah Davis (22Ox, 24C) is a co-Editor-in-Chief of the Wheel. Previously, she interned with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Covington News and Austin Monthly Magazine. In her free time, you can find her exploring new running trails and coffee shops around the city.