I never thought I would write for a newspaper, but I always thought it was cool. I was always jealous of people who had the ability to amplify their voices through a news outlet. Columnists are meant to educate, persuade but also succeed in the digital world, which is measured by how angry they can make people in the column section. Whoever is abhorrent enough to actually comment on an article deserves to be annoyed. Sometimes, it seems the opinion author’s work is no longer needed, since online views are garnered best by controversy, and maybe novelty, if you’re lucky.

I began my writing venture by following this format. My least intellectual and most emotion-based article, “Binghamton is not part of upstate New York,” has been the most recommended and commented article I’ve written thus far. Its popularity stemmed from just attacking the identity of “downstaters.” It’s so easy to attack someone or something, but it’s difficult to articulate a viewpoint. While my earlier columns were attack-based, I began changing my approach with my later articles. I aimed to educate people about healthier ways to live as well as to explore how we are deceived by traditionalists. I hope I succeeded in showing everyone how dangerous it is to consume meat and dairy, and the backward perception of alcohol as benign and psychedelics as dangerous. If not, hopefully animal-eaters will change their ways once their health declines later in life.

College, for me, was a great time of growth and learning, although most of this learning came through my own ventures outside of the classroom. I read a variety of books, which largely informed my columns here. I’d have to do a bit of outside research during the writing process, which furthered my learning. By educating myself, I tried to educate others about taboo topics, like eating animals, drugs and the normalization of drinking ethanol. I wanted to remind people of the importance of reading in a world where everything has an on-screen adaptation. In my first two years at Binghamton University, I never thought about becoming vegan or eating a plant-based diet, but then I also never stopped to consider the violence I was imparting on myself, other lives and the planet. I even learned to teach yoga. Even though I wasn’t the most flexible person in class, I always had the most fun. And I even managed to sneak in a full marathon during my undergraduate career.

With my time at BU coming to an end, I began rough-drafting my farewell column over the summer, but it obviously could not take into account recent events. I suppose the timing of the pandemic is fitting, striking before graduation and summer. The mishandling of the pandemic further proves the older generations’ lack of caring toward our future, as I’ve written about — you can see my recent column for an expose on their failures. I always wonder how this epidemic will be remembered in history and how it will play out. Will humans ever socialize in big groups again? Will there be a mass extinction event of humans? Will life ever return to normal? Will insane conservatives (looking at you, Georgia and Florida) overthrow the government with their propaganda about the coronavirus being “fake?” Will we be the lost generation, bound to financial insecurity and deep distrust of large gatherings?

Through my college quest for knowledge, I learned one main thing — mindset is crucial. I truly believe the only thing holding us back is our mind. It is difficult to reframe this pandemic and overall abandonment in a positive way. Maybe this will make us more resilient. Maybe the climate crisis, antibiotic resistance and our Western diet diseases will inspire innovation to save us from doom that our predecessors were too selfish to prevent. Are the problems facing our generation the result of a lack of free will to rebel from tradition or the inevitable consequences of the human condition? I want to say the former, because if it is the latter, we won’t be able to change our future.

Most importantly, through my columns, I hope I inspired at least one person to change their mindset to rebel against tradition in order to exercise their own free will.

Nicholas Walker is a senior majoring in biomedical engineering.