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Daily Bruin Opinion taught me how to advocate for myself, uplift other voices -30-

Navdeep Bal stands for a portrait. (Megan Cai/Assistant Photo editor)

By Navdeep Bal

June 4, 2022 1:27 p.m.

Outline: Say goodbye.

For the past four years, every article I wrote for the Daily Bruin began with a very poorly planned outline.

I always started with the lede. Forget the nut graf, the counterargument or even my angle. The part that I put the most time and energy into was always the first sentence.

And now I have to think about the ending.

How do I even begin to say goodbye? This newspaper, and especially the Opinion section, has been my home and identity for almost the entirety of my college experience.

It has been a real privilege.

As an Opinion editor this year, I got to read and work on some of the most touching articles our columnists have ever written. They wrote about their personal lives, their college experiences, their visions for the future – and all along, I got to relate to their stories alongside the rest of our readers.

That’s what Opinion has really taught me. This section showed me how to be confident, how to ask for (and demand) space, and how to believe that my voice really mattered. But more than that, it taught me that underneath all the differences and the crazy, complex lives we have lived – it really is all relatable.

I know that seems hard to imagine, but when you have read as many columns as I have, it becomes shockingly apparent that we all truly have the same fears, hopes and desires.

There’s profound comfort in that.

UCLA, college and life in general can be numbingly lonely.

But there are times when you can stop, look around and know that everyone is truly going through the same things you are. Genuinely, it makes you feel a little less crazy.

That is the gift that Opinion has given me.

For that I want to thank every editor I had the opportunity of working with for the last four years and all the writers who worked so hard to make the section what it is. But most of all, I want to thank Sabrina Huang and Payton Kammerer, my fellow Opinion editors, for being some of the best people I have met here at UCLA. To see the compassion, patience and humor that these two brought to every interaction was an honor to witness.

I know that difficult goodbyes are always a good sign. I have enjoyed every second of my time here at the Daily Bruin. My exclamation marks and emojis were never sarcastic; I truly was that excited to respond to your 1 a.m. Slack messages.

But that doesn’t make the process any less difficult. My time at the Daily Bruin shaped who I am. I came in as a freshman too shy to talk to her roommates, and now I get to leave as someone who can demand answers from politicians on the issues that I care about.

To know that I matter, that I have a voice and that I can advocate for other people who don’t have that privilege – that’s a powerful feeling that isn’t afforded to everyone.

So if you’re just a student, a new writer or anyone else who stumbles across this article, I hope you walk away with something that took me four years to learn.

Learn to speak up and learn to shut up.

Your voice matters. There’s a lot of messed up stuff happening, and complacency is the saddest stance that you can take.

On the other hand, you aren’t an expert on every issue. There’s so much that you can learn from other people when you stop and listen. The biggest takeaway I had was that no interview should consist of me talking more than two minutes total. The people you are speaking to have lived through the issues that you are writing about. Stepping aside means amplifying the voices that don’t always have the privilege of a platform or that are often cast aside in the conversation.

For myself, the last lesson will be learning how to write a conclusion.

I don’t think it’s the time for that yet. This story is far from over. I still have plenty of opinions to be annoyingly loud about, and I have even more to learn from the stories of others.

So for now, all I can say is thank you and:

To be continued.

Bal was an Opinion columnist 2019-2021 and assistant Opinion editor 2021-2022.

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Navdeep Bal | Assistant Opinion editor
Bal is a 2021-2022 assistant Opinion editor. She has been a columnist for four years, covering stories from UCLA student life to California politics. She is currently a fourth-year political science and sociology student.
Bal is a 2021-2022 assistant Opinion editor. She has been a columnist for four years, covering stories from UCLA student life to California politics. She is currently a fourth-year political science and sociology student.
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