A ‘thank you’ to The Temple News for my growth

A former writer and editor explains how The Essayist shaped his growth as a writer.


When I write a personal essay, it feels like I’m meeting myself through the words I put on the page.

The sea of white space on my Google Doc is like baptismal water, a rebirth into the new self I’ve come to know in these sentences. I’ve written essays about my struggles with religion and gender expression, meditations on my development as a poet and an educator and dedications to the people who’ve helped me grow into who I am today. 

With each final punctuation mark, I feel like a new person: as if I’m learning more about myself in these pages I write and working through my pain in the only way I can.

And I have The Temple News to thank for this.

I started at The Temple News during my first week on campus in January 2018, writing columns about drug policy and media representation. I appreciated this space to research social issues and write about my thoughts in a space for others to read. 

During each weekly opinion section meeting, though, I read my colleagues’ personal essays, deeply inspired by the bravery required to bare one’s most intimate experiences and feelings, everything from their writing journey to their growth as a student, on a platform thousands of their peers will read. 

I asked my editor if I could try to write an essay, although I didn’t know what it’d be about. Luckily, she said yes and gave me a flexible timeline to send her a draft when I was ready.

During lonely weekend nights at my Gratz Street apartment, I wrote — then erased, then rewrote, repeating about a thousand times — a personal essay about a moment important to me: the day I came out to my classmates as bisexual. 

I wrote about my senior year English class where we held a workshop on writing and revising college essays, and I creatively structured my essay as a free verse poem about coming to terms with my sexuality. 

I detailed the anxiety I felt sharing this side of myself with classmates who might not accept me, knowing I’d experience that same unnerving feeling again when I sent that essay to my editor and, eventually, to the student body.

What I didn’t expect was how I’d feel afterward: by reliving a difficult experience and immortalizing those emotions on paper, I was processing a complex moment of my life I hadn’t taken the time to fully reflect on. The result was an affirmation of my bravery in that moment, of my security in my sexuality and of my abilities as a writer.

I titled the essay “A prompt for self-exploration and awareness,” not yet knowing this title could apply to the dozens of personal essays I’d write for The Temple News during the next four years.

That essay became the catalyst for my career at The Temple News. I wrote so often during the next year and a half that I became the lead columnist, and soon enough I was Opinion Editor and eventually Chief Copy Editor, helping others share their stories. I found this just as rewarding as being the writer myself. 

Helping others take their personal experiences they haven’t told anyone and embody them in writing to visualize, process and share with the world were the most fulfilling moments during my time at The Temple News, and they’ve inspired me to incorporate personal essays and creative nonfiction into my work as a high school English teacher.

Posted above my desk at home is a collage of the different stories I’ve written for The Temple News, with that very first essay greeting me every time I walk out the door. It’s a reminder of where I started and how I’ve grown in the past four years, a testament to the bravery it takes to put myself on the page in my most vulnerable moments and the strength that comes from doing so. 

It’s the beginning of my baptism into the version of myself I am today: someone more adventurous, self-assured and proud of himself than he was four years ago. But above all else, it’s the physical manifestation of a student newspaper that shaped me into the writer, leader, educator and human being I am today.

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