Speak Now: A journalist’s calling and the time we had together


Published: 7/31/2022 11:25:13 PM

Sitting here at my desk, a month out from the day I leave for college, there is a part of me that wonders, how did I get here? It seems like yesterday I was a high school freshman, just starting out on the journey that would eventually end this year. If you went back to a couple of years ago and told me then that I’d decide to become a journalist, I probably would have looked at you funny. I liked to write, yeah, but I’d never even thought about writing about current events. My school didn’t even have a newspaper, and besides, wasn’t that the sort of thing I’d have to have already started?

Yet then in the fall of 2020, that all changed. This is a story I’ve told countless times; a story I love to tell because it’s the story of how I got here. My mom’s friend was a Trump supporter, and she asked me to write him a letter trying to convince him to vote for Biden in the 2020 presidential election. He sent my first letter back covered in markings, telling me everything I could do better. My self-esteem took a hit, but I decided to try again. That time, it got him thinking, and my mom said I should send a version of what I wrote to the newspaper. I sent it to the Greenfield Recorder and the Daily Hampshire Gazette, and the rest, I should say, is history.

And now I’m here, able to consider myself a bit of a niche local celebrity for this very column; the one the Recorder offered me after almost a year of reading my op-eds. I named it Speak Now, and yes, it was after the Taylor Swift album. But jokes aside, that’s what I decided to do in 2020, and it’s what I still do now. I had something to say; I have something to say, and I want to say it before it’s too late.

Today, I’m not speaking on any larger issue. I’m here just to thank all of you. I want to thank my mother, the reason I even started doing this at all and my biggest supporter through it all. I want to thank the rest of my family, and all their lovely friends who spread word of my articles far and wide. I want to thank my friends and my community, for welcoming my articles with open arms, and I want to thank those that criticized me, for getting me thinking about how I can do better. Journalism involves putting it all out there, and that involves making mistakes. The best we can do is take responsibility and move forward.

As I put checks on my college packing list and excitedly message the friends I will be meeting in person for the first time in just a month, I can’t help but look back and feel a little melancholy. This, after all, the community I was raised in. I have been here since I was a little kid, and now I’m finally leaving, going to Pennsylvania, a purple state where my work will take on a different meaning. Yes, if you haven’t guessed by now, this will be my last article for a while.

But this is not goodbye forever; it is more of a see you soon. What I want you to do today is think back to where you started; to where we all started together, two years ago in 2020. I want you to remember who you were then and then put whoever that was up with who you are now. See how much you’ve changed; how much you’ve grown. How much you’ve learned about the world around you, and how to make it better. While I can’t take credit for all of that change, I’d like to think me and my little column were responsible for some of it.

There are some who credit me as having been the one to make them better. That it was my presence that somehow made them get involved in social justice. But at the end of the day, I’m just a person. That propensity for dismantling the systems of injustice in this world was already within you all; I simply happened to be the catalyst that brought it out. So, as I say goodbye to you all for the moment, I want you to make a promise. Not to me, but to yourselves. To continue the work this column may have inspired you to do, or gotten you more involved in. Keep redistributing wealth. Keep educating yourselves. Keep striving to take responsibility for the past and move forward to make a better future.

I hope that what I am doing now will not be a passing trend. I hope to continue this work as far as it takes me, for it is through this column that I discovered what I want to do with the rest of my life. No matter what happens, I will value this space as one that nurtured me; one that saw me grow from an uncertain 16-year-old into the young adult I am today.

Though it was not my original intention, I am proud to call myself a journalist today. It is because of all of you that I have found my calling. I am excited to see where the future takes me, but know that I will always remember the time we had together.

Madeline Raymond writes a monthly column and lives in the hilltowns. 


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