Since I arrived in Atlanta three years ago, I have written my way out of the Emory bubble. I am talking about op-eds penned at 2 a.m. in a sudden burst of late night inspiration, short stories for fiction workshops that transport me to fictional lands and personal essays that force me to consider my place in the wider world around me. I journal about childhood memories that I want to hold close and rant in my notes app about whatever interpersonal situation is consuming me at the moment. Writing has forever been a form of escapism for me, and in college it has been a salvation from the gossip that hangs around Emory like damp air, bombarding our phones on Fizz and guiding our hushed conversations in the Dobbs Common Table. Putting pen to paper allows you to pour your thoughts out in the purest way possible, to tell a story about yourself, to connect with others over our common humanity. 

As a longtime Opinion section contributor and editor at The Emory Wheel, I have spent the last few months grappling with the self-importance of opinion journalism. Tensions on campus are incredibly high, and it feels like every opinion written contributes to the divisions that split our campus into fragments. Every written opinion seems to cause dissents and rebuttals, catalyzing a debate between two sides rather than facilitating civilized discussion. I have wondered if my role as an opinion managing editor has contributed to animosity on campus. However, free speech is under fire at colleges across the nation, and as I have observed, opinion journalism can be one of the only ways to have your voice amplified. As I think about my imminent retirement from the Wheel’s opinion section, I am considering both the importance of letting the world hear your opinion in the absence of protected free speech and the necessity of having compassion for others. 

Opinion journalism is not inherently harmful — but it can be when we write without compassion. A 2023 AP-NORC poll found that Americans fault the media for causing divisions in the nation, leading to heightened ideological polarization compared with previous decades. Written without caution, an inflammatory op-ed can lack the common humanity that I, and surely other readers, crave in personal perspectives. When we click on an article, we are in search of validation that someone else thinks like us, cares for us and sees us. Writing can be a bridge between parties in these increasingly-polarized times. It is on us, as writers and thinkers, to remember our shared humanity.

I think a lot about a speech by astronomer Carl Sagan called “Pale Blue Dot,” in which he marvels at a blurry blue smudge in a NASA photograph that represents our entire world. 

“Consider again that dot,” he said. “That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.”

He goes on to talk about the kings and peasants, mothers and fathers, creators and destroyers who have inhabited this blue dot. Yes, we are connected by a shared experience on this dot, but that experience is nothing without language and the words we use to express this companionship. We have the remarkable gift of language, which we can use to highlight divisions between us all: differentiate that some of us are kings and some of us are peasants, or some of us are saints and some of us are sinners. We can also use this gift to memorialize, remember and connect over our shared experience on the pale blue dot. 

When I think back to the writing that has mattered to me during my time in college, I think of pieces that prioritize compassion above righteousness. I think about an article by Saanvi Nayar, in which she discusses the magic of falling in love with life and childhood through the eyes of her little sister. I remember a speech by a young writer named Marina Keegan, in which she considers how there is no word for the opposite of loneliness, but college sums up that intangible feeling. I think about a New York Times Modern Love Column essay discussing the intricacies of Spotify stalking and the subliminal language we speak through music. These words — the article, the speech and the essay— unite us through our incredibly-niche experiences, effectively reminding us that despite the major political divisions that U.S. politics forces upon us, we are all cut from the same cloth. We are all little ants crawling around on the pale blue dot.

About the pale blue dot, Sagan said: “To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

Every single word we write can be a love letter to our existence on this ridiculous floating rock, which is probably careening toward nothingness at a speed inconceivable to us. The collection of op-eds you’re reading right now, and the special projects of past Wheel opinion editors, are testaments to the magic of our compassionate, futile existence. We are given finite time here and we might as well relish in it. Some people do that by creating computer programs that save the world. Some invent medical devices that revolutionize the field. Me? I’m going to stick with writing and hope that I can adequately express my devotion to the places that make up my pale blue dot — perhaps even making the world even slightly more loving and understanding. 

This piece is an ode to the Emory bubble, yes, but also the far bigger bubble in which we live, the snippet of space and time we have been so privileged to share together. Write when you feel community, companionship and love. That way, the feeling can transcend ideological differences, as well as time and geographical distance. 


 Sophia Peyser (25C) is from New York.


+ posts

Sophia Peyser (25C) is an environmental science and english + creative writing major from New York City. In addition to managing the Opinion and Editorial Board sections of the Wheel, she works as an intern at Science for Georgia and a radio DJ at WMRE. In her free time, she loves thrifting in remote corners of Atlanta and drinking lavender lattes at Victory Calamity + Coffee.