The final draft

Photo of Lisi Ludwig

A worn doorframe with the chicken scratch notches of time and growth — this column has been written and recycled in my mind for months, seasons and semesters long gone.

 I’ve spent way too damn long not writing this than writing this, but with the imminence of seemingly infinite endings and goodbyes, the familiar caves of self-doubt have been more inescapable and unforgiving than ever.

It’s been worth reminding myself that to write is to write to and for oneself. However, there’s a blithe disregard in not seeing how every word and strung-together sentence can parse down to the voices and lives of those I’ve encountered.

And so to that end — I’m writing for myself to keepsake the drafts of tales and relics I treasure. And I’m writing imbued with the spirit and currents of life that has come to pass.

 Cut scene, enough intro, andiamo. Here we are:  

One draft of this unfolds the intricacy and intimacy with which I’ve come to know my greatest foe and closest friend: anxiety. I feel generic in admitting this struggle, but for the chapters and perennial presence with which it has encompassed my life, it’s a catharsis I reserve for me more than anyone else.

I take a silly little blue pill to keep sane, and like scripture, I can recall my Instagram dashboard’s verses of feel-good, good faith mantras and therapy. It has been demoralizing and debilitating, and it almost kept me from being and doing so much. It’s something, but it’s not everything.

There’s another draft with an ode to the swings that hang a right, just off the last block of Ellsworth Street. I walked, ran and learned to skate the straight shot from my junior year apartment to their reliable reprieve when life became too much. I missed them a lot this final go, and I ache to find a refuge just quite as youthful, rejuvenating and personal. 

There’s a draft where I recall how — P.E.M.D.A.S., order matters — I tell a girl I like her and then follow up that confession with the possibility I might also be gay. My Midwestern, rural roots are routinely stronger and more deep-seated than my brain systematically musters. 

There’s a draft in which I proudly yet softly tout the successful completion of a major change — with t-minus three semesters of school to go. I write with the ease of posterity but learned truth that solutions are mere exercises in creativity and endurance. Cut your darlings. The curtain doesn’t call until we draw the blinds.

There’s the one where I ponder what is to come. I haven’t felt bothered to meticulously arrange the what, why, who, how, when, where of tomorrow. I’m relishing the space and time to breathe lighter and to be unbounded by the pressures that have knotted my back and brought me to the brink of bowing out. 

 And there’s the draft where I wane and wax about the people who have buoyed me throughout this entire beautiful chaos. I harbor alone time and independence to a defensive mechanism fault, but I am still liked and loved for reasons and lengths I can’t often rationalize. My heart is full, and despite my arduous efforts, I, too, believe life never really is meant to be tackled alone.

P.S. Thank you to too many to name or properly prattle on about. But to the one who gave me everything from life to how to live — Mama, thank you for your unconditional love and trust. Blue and gold were in my future, but these California hues suit me far better. 

Lisi Ludwig was the spring 2022 creative director. She joined The Daily Californian in fall 2019 as a staff photographer and was a deputy photo editor in fall 2020, the head photo editor in spring 2021 and a member of the editorial board for seven consecutive semesters from spring 2020 to spring 2022. She is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in rhetoric as well as a minor in journalism.