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October 9, 2016 | by  | in Opinion |
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I Wrote for Salient for Four Years for Dick and Free Speech

For four years I’ve seeped, both overtly and non-sequitur-ly, my life into the pages of Salient. I’ve written about getting diarrhoea, faking an orgasm just for myself, the one night stand that I am still in love with, my Grandmother fleeing communist China, and confusing brunch with bleach. Along with eating fruit and watching Project Runway, this makes Salient one of the very few long term commitments I have stuck with. But why? Why have I been so loyal to the floundering field of student media all these years? Does anyone even read Salient anymore?

Our time together began in 2012 when I was struck by two things. First, how thin the paper was compared to Critic, and second, how cute the editors were. Soon I was picking up copies each week just to look at their photo accompanying the editorial. Eventually I submitted crude collaged cartoons to them and, when they accepted a few, my heart fluttered. Yes, I have always been this romantically pathetic.

In 2013 I graduated to Visual Arts editor, despite my complete lack of artistic experience. I wrote embarrassing try-hard phrases like art is “an unfussy form of happiness.” The first pieces I wrote make me cringe now, but back then it was exciting to have a weekly page in print that was overseen by myself. It felt like a baby step towards something, even though I still don’t know what that something is.

Similarly to the way misguided couples take a break thinking that it will save a relationship that will never work, in 2014 I took a break from the magazine. After flicking through the first copy of the year I didn’t read a single one afterwards. I still don’t know why exactly (let’s be honest, I probably just didn’t find the editors cute).

In 2015 we kissed and made up. Things quickly became serious. I returned to my Visual Arts post, continuing my well informed critique of all things art with advice like “put tortoises in the pick n mix” and even interviewed an undiscovered local artist—myself. Despite completely poo-pooing the integrity of the ever-so-sacred Visual Arts section, I got bumped up to Feature Writer.

For the first time in my life I was being paid for spewing out sentences! Crazy! It would become the year I “found my voice” per se, as in I started making a lot more dumb jokes and became a lot more self-indulgent. I ate nothing but baby food and used Tinder as a laxative. I uncovered the bond between dudebros and freemasons, and the secrets of finding love in Wellington—something which Cupid has punished me for ever since. I hope you’re all grateful.

And finally this year. I reached what I considered the apex of magazine positions—a regular columnist. With Single Sad Postgrad I romanticised myself as a sexless, bespectacled, Asian student version of Carrie Bradshaw. With hard hitting pieces like “Crying Underneath A Giant Gollum” and “Boys (I Never Dated) But Am Definitely Over”, I was able to cover all the important issues I couldn’t before.

But with my Master’s thesis terrifyingly due in a few months, this very piece marks the end of my time with Salient. And even though seeing people turn straight to the Sudoku makes it feel like I am talking to myself, at least I have really enjoyed talking to myself.

I still have no idea how many people read what I write and if it extends beyond the friends whose throats I shove it down. What I do know is that, no matter how small it may be in the wider sense of the world, it has still felt good to consistently express myself over the years. To gratuitously remind you of my Grandmother who fled communist China, this is a privilege I’m constantly aware of. Even today free speech is not universal. It’s something I appreciate and don’t take for granted, even if not immediately obvious in a piece called “Everybody Loves Dick”.

Yet it’s only recently in history, and still only in select societies, where a woman of colour can write about dick so openly in a publication without serious backlash. Hence my commitment to student media. Even though it may often seem very boring (just between us, sometimes I just skip to my own writing and forget to read the rest), it remains one of the freest forms of free speech. No way would Stuff or even The Spinoff (trust me, I’ve tried asking) let me write at length about Survivor or my bowel movements.

So farewell Salient and thank you for having me. May your editors continue to be cute. Thank you for letting me write about dick and for the one time it led me directly to actual dick. One dick in four years is pretty good, right?

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