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An(other) Open Letter to My Younger Self: Saying Goodbye Where It All Began

The first time I ever set foot on UK’s campus, someone handed me a magazine. Flipping through its pages, I had two immediate thoughts: “I so want to be like them,” followed by, “There’s no way I’ll ever be as cool as them.” But I’d like to try.

That magazine (surprise surprise) was KRNL. The first thing I did when I came to UK for real a year later? I signed up for the KRNL blog writing team. That was the second week of my time as a student, and now, three years and a stint as editor-in-chief later, it’s already time to say goodbye to KRNL in the place that started it all. 

I took a short trip from writing blog stories about moving into my freshman-year dorm to interviewing some of the coolest people in Lexington and Louisville about their art and seeing it in print to sitting slouched over a Mac in Blazer Dining into the night editing the magazine, but there is nowhere I would have rather spent my entire college career.

(Needless to say, if you’re reading this, KRNL blogs can end up changing your whole life if you let them. That’s not an exaggeration.)

While I always had a pipe dream of becoming the magazine’s editor-in-chief, I never actually thought myself fit for the job. I thought I was too quiet, too unpopular, not fashionable enough to be the editor of a fashion magazine, for God’s sake. Nevertheless, I persisted. 

I published a blog story every single deadline of my freshman year, and when I showed up back home the next time to see my parents’ and grandparents’ printed copies of my questionable blog posts, I knew that I was doing something I could be proud of if they thought it was a big deal. 

When the time came a year later to interview with the Kernel Media board of directors for the editor-in-chief position, I still didn’t feel qualified or ready, so I did the thing I knew how to do best: I made a list. And upon writing that list, I found that I had more ideas than I let on about how to get organized and do the damn thing. 

So to KRNL as a whole: while I love myself some words, I can never find enough to explain how much this publication means to me.

It’s made me a stronger person, a stronger writer and especially a stronger leader. There were days when I genuinely thought this job was too much for me to handle, but those turned into days where this job felt like the only thing I had a handle on. Ours is a story of growth, change and hard times, mine and KRNL’s, but my life wouldn’t have been the same without her.

When I needed an escape from the world, this job and these people gave me something to be excited about again. Even in the beginning, all I knew was that I wanted to write something real, and KRNL proved to me that I could be exactly what I wanted to be. It’s been my favorite passion project and a reminder that I can do hard things. 

To Blazer Dining, the place I was initially so nervous to enter for fear of being asked to do something I didn’t think I was ready to do: thank you for turning into my safe haven on campus. Even with your odd banging noises in the wee hours of the night, your slow-as-molasses Macs that we would sit hunched over for days editing the magazine, and your windowless facade that made it impossible to tell whether I would leave the office blinded in the afternoon light or squinting to see anything in the dead of night, I still inexplicably dread the day here soon where I will have to pack up my desk and move on.

Those long hours in the office may appear miserable and exhausting from the outside, but they made me realize that I actually Made It where I always wanted to be.

But the office would not have been the same without the people that made it home. 

To my entire staff of incredibly talented and creative people: I am so proud of all you’ve accomplished at KRNL and will continue to accomplish afterward.

There’s no way I can get around to thanking everyone for their contribution to this publication, but to name a few trailblazers: Rana, Gray, Mal, Laurel, Sydney (both of you!), Kadija, Olivia, Bennett, Karli, Bree, this magazine would not be the same without you. Thank you for sticking by my side through thick and thin and doing everything you can to make your great ideas a reality.

Laurel, you have everything it takes to keep pushing KRNL to be the best that it can be, and I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with it as editor next year. And to my newfound newspaper friends at the Kernel – Hannah, Abbey, Bryce, Cole, Sam, Gracie, Kaci, Alexis and everyone else – you all are incredible journalists and I can’t wait to see what you do. I’m so glad I got here in an age where our publications can be the best kind of sisters. 

To my advisers, Bryce McNeil, Ryan Craig and David Stephenson: thank you for jumping in to help me with any and everything all year, from being a shoulder of support to buying cupcakes to turning in the final (final!) version of the magazine while the rest of us were in New York at a journalism conference. And a special shoutout to Ryan, who offered himself as a second dad while I was away from home and going through the hardest time of my life and gives me no shortage of praise for everything I accomplish (none of which would have happened without your help). You were the first voice I listened to that made me really see that I could do this. 

To my family: thank you for listening to my constant chattering about the magazine and the highs and lows of collegiate publishing. To my sister Grace, for instantly choosing to carry on our KRNL legacy on the outreach team and being another friendly face in Lexington. To my little brothers, Jack and Matthew, for showing up to our launch parties for more than just the cupcakes, but to support me. To my dad, who always encourages me to do what I love. And to my mom, who I was never able to show my last magazine to but I know will always be proud of everything I do and every word I write. There is no me without you. I wish you were here to see how it all turned out all the time, but just know that we’re all going to be okay.

And to Luke, who can pretty much be counted as family at this point: I can never give you enough credit for the patience and love you’ve shown me over the last five years we’ve been together. Thank you for forcing me to trust myself until I finally believed it. Thank you for being there for not only me, but my whole family, while we battled something impossible. Thank you for making me laugh every day, even when I don’t feel like it. It feels like just yesterday you were there congratulating me for getting the editor-in-chief job at our high school yearbook, and again when we went out for burritos to celebrate my new editor job at KRNL. Life’s taken us so far already, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of our lives together look like. 

When I first got the email in my freshman year dorm room from Rana Alsoufi, then online content & copy editor, that I could start blog writing, my life changed forever. When I sat down with her again later that year at Brevede Coffee Co. and got invited to become an assistant lifestyle editor, my life changed once again. And the next year, when we met at the Willy T Starbucks to discuss my new role as her managing editor to train to become the next editor-in-chief, there was no turning back. So to Rana (and everyone else who has encouraged me to keep pushing myself until I became exactly who I wanted to be): I can’t thank you enough for believing in me from the very beginning and giving me the room to grow alongside this magazine. 

My last KRNL blog post of my first semester was titled, “An open letter to my younger self.” It seems only fitting that my last one ever be an(other) open letter. A lot’s changed.

To my younger self,

You haven’t begun to process it yet. You’re standing on the edge of an even bigger precipice than you were before this all began. For the first time ever, where you go now is totally up to you. And you’re not going to know where you want to go. 

You’ve loved and lost and gone through hell and back, more than you know, but you’ve come out of it an even truer version of yourself than when you started. Do what makes you feel whole again. Wear your mom’s old clothes with a little extra love. Write about the things you care about and what you’re feeling. Always tell people you love them anytime you’re thinking it.

I know what comes next, and this time, your world will come crumbling down around you, but you’ll be okay. 

You’ll have to leave before you’re ready (but you would’ve never really felt ready anyway), as is the case with most things. You know that feeling all too well now. You’ll be left afloat without your anchor yet again. Somehow, the immeasurable distance between you and everything you knew will make you feel even closer to home than when you were there every day. Returning home will never feel the same again.

Still, you’re trying to bring that feeling of home back, wherever you are. Words are still your safe space, the same as they were when you were 18, but you’ll notice that they’re still growing with you to tell your new story. You’ll use them to tell the stories that matter to you, and you’ll learn that lots of things matter to you. 

You’ll meet new friends who care about you when times get hard. You’ll do everything you dreamed about since the beginning, even becoming the editor of the magazine. It’ll be the proudest you’ve ever been and the coolest thing you’ll work on. You’ve come a long way from writing letters to your younger self on the blog. 

You’ll want to hang back and take it all in at the end, but you won’t know how to say goodbye. Time still won’t slow; if anything it’s only sped up even more. You’ll spend time chasing familiarity until you’re up against a cliff of unknowns. But you know you can handle it now.

I don’t know what comes next, but I’ll be okay.

With love, 



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