BRAUER: Translating a love story

Emma+Brauer+sports+the+Marquette+Wire+sweatshirt+she+got+as+a+first-year+student.

Photo by Emma Brauer

Emma Brauer sports the Marquette Wire sweatshirt she got as a first-year student.

Being tasked with writing a senior column feels almost cruel, like I’m formalizing a farewell. Conveying how I feel seems dishonest, as I’m unsure my heart can capably render my emotions into a coherent language without a lot being lost in translation. I’m at an impasse.

I’ve been in a gridlock with my words before — most recently while writing a cover letter for a copy editing internship I really wanted. How could I astutely explain my passion for copy editing without losing the love in translation?

I went to our student media director, Mark Zoromski, to troubleshoot, and his guidance still rings in my ears — in the best way.

“Just tell a story,” he said. “You’re a storyteller, so tell a story.”

And now, I’m staring at the impossibility of writing a senior column and thinking, “Why don’t I just tell a story?”

So, here is a story.

I can remember the first time I was able to read a book all by myself.

I’m four or five years old, standing in the Cedarburg Public Library. My criteria for choosing what to bring home for mom or dad to read to me are simple: bright colors, and shelved low enough to reach. My eyes settle on a suitable candidate, and on my tiptoes I grab it: “Scuffy the Tugboat.” The cover is worn; it holds memories, like fingernails dug in when one is resisting bedtime or tears of parents who better understand the moral of the story. I open to the first page, my eyes glide across the page and everything just clicks. I’m reading, and I’m enamored.

The most compelling elements of English to me were the rules, which I learned early and enforced often. I began correcting everyone’s spelling and grammatical errors, normally not receiving the praise I expected. Luckily for me, a job at the Marquette Wire would come along in January 2017 that would reward this detail-oriented practice.

A copy editor ought to be motivated by a desire for accuracy, clarity and precision, and for a time, I was — until my tenure began as the Wire’s copy chief. My love of rules buckled under the weight of competing with a new love, one of feeling trusted by my reporters to take care of their words that they so meticulously strung together; connecting with my coworkers through laughter that gave way to tears or tears that gave way to laughter; knowing the work we do has real impacts.

Here, I’m at another impasse: conveying to the Wire staff that I’m heartbroken to leave them. So, I will continue storytelling.

In “Scuffy the Tugboat,” Scuffy, a toy tugboat, can’t get past the thought that he was made for something more. “A toy store is no place for a red-painted tugboat,” he says. “I was meant for bigger things.”

A man in a polka dot tie and his son purchase Scuffy, and Scuffy convinces them to graduate him from sailing in the bathtub to a small river so he can experience more of life. The wind pushes Scuffy far from home; he becomes afraid when a cow almost slurps him up while drinking water and is frightened by an owl’s hooing.

“I was meant for bigger things, but which way am I to go?” Scuffy asks himself as the river’s current chooses the way for him.

As a graduating senior, I know I’m “meant for bigger things” — but as Scuffy points out, knowing one’s potential doesn’t always mean the path is clear. Having to step away from the warmth and support of the Wire, I feel like Scuffy. I, too, am afraid that a cow might slurp me up. The unfamiliarity of what comes next and the knowledge that I will have to write more cover letters are menacing realities.

Differences do exist between Scuffy and me. Scuffy is a toy tugboat; I’m a human. Scuffy’s story ends; I’m still living mine. Scuffy had a support system of just two people; my Wire staff is formidable in comparison.

To the writers who have trusted me with reading and fine-tuning your words, I hope you know I took that responsibility to heart. In every comment or suggestion for a revision I left in pink, I hope my love wasn’t lost between “consider cutting this” and “wording unclear” — though I know it was and probably had to be.

To those with whom I bonded over shared frustrations, funny stories and popcorn into the early morning hours, I hope my love wasn’t lost in the yawning spells that never seemed to afflict anyone but me.

To the whole Wire staff, you too are “meant for bigger things.” But don’t lose this in the translation: What you’re doing now is bigger than you may realize. I am absolutely confident your spirit will not quiver in the pursuit of serving the public, even through a pandemic. You will continue to win many more awards that prove your indomitable energy.

But the reason I’ve been so proud to say “I work for the Wire!” is not because of awards — it’s because this organization breeds leaders, inquirers, critical thinkers, creatives and storytellers. And now, I get to say “I was among them.”

This story was written by Emma Brauer. She can be reached at emma.brauer@marquette.edu or on Twitter @em_dash_emma.