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Opinion

Butterfly Tornado

Meryll Yan – The LaSallian Editor in Chief, 2004-2005

2004-2005 was a definitive time in movies.

Among now film greats like Troy, V for Vendetta and Kill Bill 2, that period saw the release of Pixar’s The Incredibles, Howl’s Moving Castle by Studio Ghibli, Christopher Nolan’s opening salvo Batman Begins, the controversial and ambitious Butterfly Effect and still my favorite installment in the HP film franchise, Alfonso Cuaron’s imagining of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Whenever I’m asked to talk about the past, I usually reply with an Edna Mode “I never look back” stance. However, on the occasion of The LaSallian’s 60th anniversary, a worthy exception can be made. Tasked to return to the halcyon years of 2004-2005, when I was given both the honor and burden of being TLS EIC, I cannot help but grow wistful and also a bit wary of what I can impart.

Nostalgia

Br. Ceci Hojilla FSC, was more than a Lasallian brother. To me he was a sage, a guardian and a true friend and north star and he defined nostalgia as the memory of the heart.

Diving into the past, there are things that are hazy and things that are in sharp relief:

I had a bright orange Sony Ericsson Walkman w600i swivel-style phone, the coolest thing at the time. I probably still have it buried somewhere in my non-Marie Kondo stockroom.

My consistent cardio would be climbing the four stories of stairs in SPS building to reach the TLS office. Its atmosphere I will never forget: The warm, sleepy glow of the overhead lights contrasting with the consistent buzz of adrenaline from the staffers and editors. The clunky desktop computers with their chunky keyboards that powered our press weeks. The communal dark wood table the surface of which has been scuffed, scratched, inked and laden with generations worth of articles, proofs, books and bags.

I still vividly remember when we had to form a crude but effective supply chain to paste together a magazine spread of Menagerie that suffered a major typo. Then as now, I’m still very much a stickler for these things and I’m a bit envious that now you can edit a post digitally. As soon as I walked through the door, I would be peppered with questions by the team all of which I had to answer quickly and decisively.

Fast forward to now and I wonder how differently I would act as an EIC at this time of journalistic trade-offs—with speed for clicks maybe winning over the percolation of an op-ed column and with every individual, journalist or not, vying for the first tweet or the first post, well-written or not.

Butterfly effect

I still have mixed feelings when I read my old columns from before. I am shocked and awed at the person I was—at how sure, how young, how steadfast I was. In parts I cringe, in parts I fawn at the words and the convictions. But all in all, I am fond of and grateful for that girl because the past me led to the human being I am now, although I will always consider myself a work in progress.

Going back, I cannot help but also wonder if I would change anything. While time teaches us and weathers us, it also wizens us and humbles us.

I had tossed and turned thinking of what to say to you in 2020, to a generation faced with a black swan event… when you should have been at the cusp of only bright and open possibilities, with companies falling over themselves to get you in their roster or with places and destinations lining up to be stamps on your passports.

I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I just took a trip down memory lane without addressing the clear and present reality that we all must come to terms with now.

Call it rationalization or self-preservation but maybe there is a purpose to this pause. The world as we knew it had to end so we can build a new one—a better one that didn’t follow the previous paradigms and programs because clearly they weren’t so great.

Now we see how one person’s small action or inaction can have wide-ranging effects and create a wave of good or bad. If we are so timed to live through this, I wonder if it means we need to define it as much as it defines us. Maybe we’re not butterflies in a tornado. Maybe we are the butterflies that create the tornado. To have everything you think you know wiped clean, while that might be a cause of despair, maybe it’s also a chance to write and build anew.

Always in you

All of this has caused me to reevaluate everything. To rethink what it means to be a professional, and what it even means to just simply be alive.

One of the most lingering lessons for me from Harry Potter is that, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” And while J. K. Rowling is sadly one of the canceled casualties of 2020, I still wish to honor the legacy of HP and the truth and influence it had in my life at the time.

It is also why at this time, my husband and I have taken on a Youtube channel called “Miming and Friends” where I voice a special cat named Miming so I may somehow, even in animated form, be a light for kids and their parents.

While we live in what may seem like end-times or worst-of-times, I remind myself also that if a 20-year-old girl could lead and rise up to an editor-in-chief position, so too can a now-36-year-old mine the tenacity and decisiveness that she learned and practiced what seems like a lifetime ago.

That light never goes out and I hope you find it in yourselves so we can all make a blitzed-up tornado for the new world.

By Meryll Yan

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