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Archive for Monday, August 1, 2011

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Double Take: Departing columnist realizes advice easier to give than follow

August 1, 2011

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Wes: August is upon us, the season of goodbye. In a few short weeks many of our 18-year-old friends, neighbors and children will head off to college. For some that will be only a few blocks. For others, a thousand miles or two will lie between them and everything familiar. For columnist Ben Markley, it will be down the K-10 corridor to Johnson County Community College to begin an undergraduate degree in philosophy with an eye toward transferring to KU and then on to seminary. It’s a long year as a teenage newspaper columnist. I warn everyone when they sign on that churning out 50 columns a year can be a grind, yet Ben did it with aplomb. Scarcely a week goes by without someone commenting on how much they enjoy both his writing style and content. We’ll miss him as we have every c-oauthor over the years, grateful to have shared a wisp of their lives, as they pass through the door of adolescence and on to adulthood.

A whole lot has changed since we started the column in 2004, and Ben would have been about 11 years old. Way back in those days we thought Xanga was the latest thing. Text messaging was something you paid for by the message, and many a family opened their monthly phone bill in horror to learn their teen went $228 over their limit. We were embroiled in warfare, the memory of 9/11 still fresh in our minds. What hasn’t changed is the consistent quality of writing our area teens bring to this column and the astounding opportunity the Lawrence Journal-World gives them by providing a barrel of ink each year to allow their voices to be heard.

Next week we welcome Miranda Davis, the eighth Double Take columnist. She won the contest in April in a very competitive year, and we look forward to seeing what she’s got for our parent and teen readers this year.

Ben: This column taught me something pretty significant: that a person is really two people. Unlike Dr. Jekyll, who thought there was a Good and Bad Self, I think it’s more accurate to say there’s an Everyday Self and a Theoretical Self.

We all have a Theoretical Self, the person who always does the right thing for the right reason, unfazed by circumstance or consequence, who exists primarily in our imagination. Theoretical Self is the one Socrates was referring to when he said, “Be as you wish to seem.”

I’m convinced my columns were written by Theoretical Ben, because when I went back to read them, I was amazed at how badly I needed my own advice. It’s downright unsettling to see your name published just above good advice that has seen no shadow of application in your own life.

I’m fully convinced that, just after religious leader, advice columnist might potentially be the most hypocritical job ever.

As I leave and ask myself what I’m going to do about Theoretical Ben, I’m reminded of Alexander Ivanov, who spent 20 years of his life on one painting. While it never became the painting Ivanov had in his head, it was still a masterpiece. I think people are like that. We may never become that perfect person we like to imagine, but we can still turn out to be pretty great people if we try. I don’t know how long my painting is going to take, but I’m pretty sure I want it to be a masterpiece. That’s my goal as I go into the adult world.

Thanks, everybody! This has been a blast.

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