REDDIN: Goodbye or not goodbye, that is the question

The only thing harder than deciding whether or not to write an end-of-the-year goodbye column is figuring out how to open an end-of-the-year goodbye column.

Oh, I guess that’ll work.

After I got hired as Marquee editor last year, I spent a lot of time thinking about the columns I’d write once the school year picked up. There were a few I knew I wanted to write going in, like my call to attend “The Laramie Project” and my incredibly conceited 21st birthday pat-on-the-back.

But the one I’d managed to put off thinking about was this one. The last column.

I specifically ignored it because I didn’t know what to do with it. I’m not graduating, so a sappy goodbye didn’t seem appropriate. But while I didn’t know exactly where I’d end up next year on-staff, I knew I probably wasn’t going to stay with the column for a second year, and just writing a final column without acknowledging that fact seemed just as strange.

So I turned to my predecessors in the opinionated arts, the Viewpoints and Marquee columnists of yesteryear, to see what route they took. I’d have checked up on Sports too, but let’s be honest: It’s the week before finals, and I had to draw the line somewhere.

I started with my closest analog, last year’s Marquee editor/columnist Molly Gamble. She wrote a goodbye column last year, but it was a lonely goodbye, with her three Viewpoints contemporaries neglecting to do the same.

Looking to more recent writers doesn’t suggest a goodbye column is in vogue now either. Paco Nava stepped down without fanfare, although he did write a retrospective column the week before, and Aloysia Power wrote a column about leaving Marquette that somehow wasn’t quite a goodbye.

2009, though, was a good year for goodbyes. Two columnists wrote honest-to-goodness farewell columns, and Jim McLaughlin, the only other Tribber I know to make the jump from editorial commentary to editorial chieftainship in recent years, wrote a column where he said he wasn’t going to get sappy, and then did at the end anyway.

I thought about going further back, to columnists I didn’t know, or even daring to venture into sports opinion territory, but that didn’t seem likely to benefit me much. There was no definitive answer in sight; I was going to have to just take what I’d learned from those who came before and figure out what to do on my own.

And then this thought flashed through my mind: “Hey, that’s sort of a cool life lesson you might want to keep in mind, kiddo.”

Yes, I do think in complete sentences and refer to myself in condescending third-person. Don’t judge.

I may not be leaving Marquette yet, but when I do, I’ll have to make my own way in life, and since I have no idea how the hell to do that yet, I may as well keep an eye on those who look like they do.

But it’s just as important to remember I can’t always rely on the footsteps ahead  to point me in the right direction — we may not be going to the same place.

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably noticed two things: I’ve managed to get you to read a Marquee column that has nothing to do with arts and entertainment — which I take as a personal success — and I still haven’t really said whether this is going to be a goodbye column or not.

Well, I’ve thought about it, and I’ve decided that it is. Just not for me. I’ll be back, but this year’s seniors won’t, and they’ll be sorely missed. I’ve told more than a few that I’d be happy if they failed a class and stuck around to help out next year.

That wouldn’t be fair to them though, and it wouldn’t be fair to me either. I’ve learned a lot from my predecessors, and now it’s time for me to take my first steps solo.

And since I feel guilty leaving you without any artsy advice for the summer, read a book or two. Just don’t wear out those eyes over the summer — you’ll need them to read next year’s award-winning Marquette Tribune.