Kesin: A reflection

Things are a little different this year

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Ana Pietrewicz / Daily Collegian

By Lulu Kesin, Sports Editor

A blue straw sat in an empty cup, with a single drop of coffee still in it as I sat awkwardly on my desk chair. I looked up at my friend.

“Do you want to read this before I send it?”

Her reaction was genuine. I know it was. But my ability to believe her compliments and understand how much she liked what I wrote, lacking. It was a mixed bag. I wasn’t just sending in a game story or a preview, instead my name came before anything else and instead of hiding my voice, my opinion in my writing, it was the entire point of the story. At the same time, I sort of loved what I wrote.

I woke up early on that Wednesday. For no logical reason, I signed up to get my COVID-19 test at 7 a.m. instead of later in the day. I walked from Baker Hall to the Mullins Center with my headphones in, distracting myself and ignoring my jitters with whatever Frank Ocean song I wanted to hear that morning. The routine was somewhat normal by that point. Put the swab in the nose, throw away the wrapper, put it in the plastic tube in the bin and away you go, hoping that you don’t receive a call from University Health Services after.

It was freezing so my hands remained in my pockets, but my lack of patience took my phone right back out. A blue notification appeared; my navy high top Converse stopped in my tracks.

“It’s out,” I thought.

I opened Twitter and the first thing I saw was the headline: “Kesin: What ‘women in sports’ means to me.” I hurried back to the fourth floor, sat with my Worcester Dining Hall grab-and-go pancakes and I texted Joey Aliberti. Like always, I asked him what to tweet about my story. How should I word it? What caption won’t give too much away?

Translation: Whatever someone tells me will be better than anything I could come up with.

It was routine at that point to ask other writers’ advice on what to tweet. I hated tweeting; I didn’t want to mess it up. So, Joey and I decided that morning to go short and sweet.

“This one is a bit more personal. Happy National Girls and Women in Sports Day from me to you.”

In life, you question your peak. You reflect and you wonder the best of times. The time when life felt too good it didn’t feel real. Or when you lay in bed at night and imagine perfect scenarios in your head. Those moments you dream about. Literally and figuratively.

Yeah, those moments.

On Wednesday morning, Feb. 3, 2021, I turned off my Zoom camera in class for the first time. My tears filled my glasses and dripped on my shirt. I was anxious, but the best kind. I felt an overwhelming sense of an indescribable feeling. Was it the love on Twitter? No, not that superficial. Yeah, retweets are cool, but it was more than that.

“Eye opener.” “Talented young writer.” “Definitely worth the read.” “So proud.”

These words were in reaction to what I wrote. My words, my thoughts had an influence. It wasn’t a dance move I did to draw laughter. It wasn’t a compliment I gave to someone that resulted in a smile. It was words that I felt were necessary for the world to hear that people responded to. They moved people. It made a difference.

I’ve always doubted every word that comes out of my mouth. Questioned my ideas. Never trusted my own answers.

I was still a new writer when I wrote that column last year. If you were to tell me then that I would be the next sports editor of the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, I wouldn’t believe you.

Every Monday, I stand in front of the most brilliant group of collegiate sports writers. I hear them as much as they hear me. The foundation of my column was built upon the fact I was the only woman in the section for six months.

Now? There are a hell of a lot more of me.

Proud doesn’t describe the feeling that I get seeing women step into the office every Monday.

Joy doesn’t come close to displaying the serotonin I get from seeing bylines from Sophie Weller and Kayla Gregoire on the hockey beat every week, taking on coverage for the reigning National Champions without missing a mark.

Impressed doesn’t feel accurate enough to describe how hard Corinne Arel and Shanti Furtado are working each week, pitching new stories, pushing the boundaries of what the section can write.

I can’t begin to express how much I appreciate the women who come to the office every week, engaging in the meetings, reaching out about ideas and giving their time to the section even when their schedules don’t allow bylines to publish regularly. Bri Repetto and Julia Indursky, thank you.

Grateful doesn’t do the feeling justice when I think about the opportunity to lead and manage of a section of eager, brilliant and thoughtful writers.

I have non-sports Collegian writers creating conversations about the empowerment of female athletes with me daily. For the first time since arriving at college, I feel seen in my experiences as a former athlete and I thank you, Ella Adams, for having those raw conversations with me regularly. Ana Pietrewicz and McKenna Premus lead a paper that allows me to explore what this section can do and contribute to the abilities of the section. Without their support, things would be a lot different.

The women’s ice hockey beat is back. UMass female athletes are winning games against ranked teams in field hockey, dominating their conference in basketball and coming home with Atlantic 10 championships regularly in lacrosse. And the Massachusetts Daily Collegian has been there to cover every second of it.

But if you were to tell me on that same day last year that I have found a way to trust my words, believe my thoughts and crave expressing them publicly privately, in small or large groups?

Well, I would have questioned that a bit more.

I don’t view last year as my peak. It’s far from the best thing I’ve ever written. As I reflect now, a year later, I recognize what that piece did for me in terms of the future. Not what it did for me in terms of that one day, in the past. The ability to accurately express my emotions and my thoughts is something I don’t take for granted. It was always something that made me feel weaker. If I explained how something made me feel, I was dramatic. If I got too deep, I was weird.

Through journalism and that article, I learned to use that strength for the better; feeling bigger because of it, rather than small.

Over the last year, I was forced to accept that my words meant something to people. My advice is influential to some degree and my thoughts and actions impact others. I didn’t start believing that from the second I was hired or even when that column came out. Jobs, awards and compliments, in my opinion, don’t define a person.

It isn’t about searching for a peak in life. Don’t base memories on the best moments. The lowest of lows can sometimes mean more than the highest of highs. Crave and seek moments that change you in a never-ending way. Make learning moments have no end.

This past year, I learned to chase moments that pushed me to be a better journalist and a better version of myself.

No process is seamless. My job is easier and possible because I have four assistant editors who allow me to be human every single moment. To Colin McCarthy, Joey, Kevin Schuster and Freddy Hanna, your support, work ethic, talent, dedication and humanity define this section.

Last year I looked at the bigger picture of women in sports. I still do every single day. But what I also learned is that I don’t have to wait until I “make it big,” to impact the sports world. We as women in this industry break barriers every day. Our individual effort is vital. Understanding the power and agency we hold in our life at this very moment is crucial.

We still all have the responsibility to do more and do better. I know we can. Don’t crave moments that have a limit. Chase moments that push your growth to no end.

Happy National Girls’ and Women in Sports Day from me to you.

Lulu Kesin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Lulukesin.