VS354’s Exhaust

When I was little, I watched planes take off into the sky, leaving behind long white trails of smoke and dust in the blue. Even when the planes themselves had flown beyond the narrow frame of my carseat window, their white tails remained, criss-crossing and arcing to create animals and faces that could only be conjured up by the mind of a three-year-old. For me, the trails seemed permanent, evidence that in order for humankind to defy the laws of physics, something had to be left behind. The pixilated icon on the screen informs me that we are 3,370 miles from London. What comprises the 3,370 miles of exhaust we leave in our wake? Along with the white dust and carbon dioxide that tints the air, what am I leaving behind? In the newsroom, we frequently sling around the term “news judgment.” [Forgive the digression, The Phillipian is (always) a metaphor for life.] News judgment dictates every word we print in the paper. From the order of each sentence, to the structure of each article, even to the way we lay pictures and words out on a page. Creating a newspaper does not simply mean spewing out uncontrolled amounts of information; it’s a process of consumption and discernment. We place different value on different information and, by extension, on different people. A quote from John Palfrey, for example, is not valued equally a quote from a freshman.

News judgment I will leave behind. That does not mean I will lose the curiosity and the hunger and the constant questioning the newspaper has given me, but I will leave behind the judgment. Andover, I think I can safely say, is a place I more or less know. I have a basic understanding of how it works and I know how to cover it. Mumbai? Dharavi? I have no idea. I cannot evaluate when I lack a standard of comparison, so I won’t.

We are 35,000 feet up in the air, just like my senses of direction, intention and self. Hovering above central Europe, we are caught between a known—London, Boston—and an unknown—Mumbai, just as I currently reside in the purgatory that divides the familiar grind of Upper Spring and the chaotic yet decisive mystery of Senior Fall. The map names key cities along our route: Bucharest, Ankara, Baghdad, the start of school, first All-School Meeting, college application deadlines. But for the most part, the map is blank, unlabeled, the locations unrecognizable due to my poor sense of geography. I am traveling over the unknown, grey area left to be carved out and defined by my own imagination.