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Wong: Sincerely, me

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My favorite story to tell anxious underclassmen who are facing challenging midterms, summer internship hunts and Other Life Obstacles is how I was rejected from The Daily.

I always wanted to try writing for a newspaper but had zero experience. The application asked me to attach a “clip” or a sample of my own writing I had nothing on my brand new Macbook except my 20-page AP Lit paper on Toni Morrison’s “Beloved.” (In retrospect, I don’t blame the application reader for automatically chucking me into the “discard” pile.)

Still, I’ll never forget the feeling of lying in my bed and hearing shouts of “Welcome to The Daily!” travel from one end of Burbank’s first floor to the other. It hurt, until it didn’t.

If I hadn’t been rejected from The Daily, I would have never joined The Lomita Arts and Culture Blog in the spring. The Lomita became The Grind. I became a staff writer, then a Managing Editor, and this year, the Executive Editor for Volume 252.

Like that rejection experience, so much of what I’ve learned at Stanford exists outside of the classroom. The learning happens while I’m sitting on the floor of a friend’s room in Slav, walking from the med school campus to Stern, exploring San Francisco with SoCo friends, eating Treehouse pizza during a late production night at The Daily’s office, and even lying under my twin XL covers and trying not to cry when I wasn’t rolled out. All of these moments have been defined by authenticity.

Stanford lets me be my truest self. To clarify, I was never prevented from being myself, but I always felt afraid to be vulnerable. I hid my sharp edges and rough patches with a veneer of seeming perfection. I needed that Daily rejection to realize that no one is ever perfect.

Each rejection and failure I received over the years (and I received many) stung, but they forced me to carve new identities. Here was proof that I wasn’t perfect so what else was I? The possibilities were endless.

I could be caring, I realize, when I wrap upset friends in hugs or listen to a resident update me on their life. I could be witty, I notice, when I write the perfect pun for a teaser headline or crack a joke that makes my friends literally roll with laughter. I could be strong, I think, when I get through another jam-packed week of classes and projects while balancing a job and staffing. I could be a writer, a doctor, a student, a friend.

The moments that defined me and helped me shape this new, truer me aren’t extraordinary. I didn’t “find myself” when I listened to Oprah’s talk in MemChu or snapped a selfie with Al Gore (although those moments were pretty cool). I learned more about myself when I choked back tears on the phone with my mom after another devastatingly difficult exam. When my RA drove me to my professor’s memorial and squeezed my hand in support. When I danced my heart out with friends at a BAC gig. When I sat and marveled at the glow of Main Quad at sunset.

This metamorphosis would have been impossible without the support of the incredible friends I’ve made during my time here. Take away the sandstone, the fancy labs, the fountains, the glitz I didn’t need any of those to find my people.

I’m drawn to people who are unflinchingly honest with themselves. It’s a quality that dwindles, I realized, as we grow up the protective veneers are necessary to combat a life of networking and cocktail receptions and meetings. Yet I’ve found that Stanford has an exceedingly large proportion of people who are unafraid of being themselves, whether that means geeking out over old films or having spontaneous dance parties to Taylor Swift.

We all want authenticity, as the success and growth of The Grind demonstrates. We want to hear how other folks are struggling, surviving and thriving. We want to read about caterpillars, anxiety, the best places to get coffee and why our history matters. We want to hear the minutiae and the colloquial.

I hope I won’t forget the authentic moments that felt hyperreal, like standing on the edge of a boat rushing past the Bay Bridge, the lights of the city sparkling like so many stars in the sky and reflected in the sea. Surrounded by friends and laughter and music and love.

I hope I remember what it’s like to be 21 and my truest self, someone who is not just unafraid of, but craves, sincerity and rawness in every experience. I won’t ever forget Stanford, but I hope I never forget this.

Coming full circle, The Daily stopped turning away applicants the year after my rejection. We welcome everyone to be their most authentic self.

Samantha Wong '18 is the former Executive Editor of vol. 252 and former Managing Editor of The Grind. She is majoring in Human Biology with a minor in History. To reach her, please contact slwong 'at' stanford.edu.