Column: On the power of giving a crap

Henry Gargan is the Opinion Editor. He is a senior journalism and global studies major from Chapel Hill.

Since August, I’ve had to lie to myself every day. “My work is very, very important,” I’d tell my reflection as I brushed my teeth in the mornings.

The depth of my delusion cannot be understated. Editorials were planned around when we knew the Board of Governors would be in town, as if they might pick up a paper, scratch their heads and decide they might as well govern with integrity. Can you imagine!

As I prepare to descend to earth, it’s humbling to see that the opinion page hasn’t led to comprehensive racial justice, the downfall of the NCAA or an end to poverty.

I’m also recognizing this delusion of difference-making has the potential to be a dangerous thing in the hands of a college kid, which is why I’m so grateful for the editorial board members, columnists, cartoonists and editors who have suspended disbelief alongside me.

For the past nine months, we’ve lived in a world where a stuffed otter could become the desk’s most beloved member, where hour-and-a-half editorial board meetings could be the highlight of our weeks and where one board member — and I won’t say who — would come to grudgingly accept the nickname “Baby Bear Brian.”

And sometimes, if we lied to ourselves often enough or with enough conviction, the people around us got sucked in as well.

Colin Kantor wrote an editorial encouraging UNC to emulate a program at Duke that brought high school students to campus to learn from college students. Not long after, Colin decided to go ahead and start it himself.

The day we published our front-page editorial on athletic reform, Hodding Carter, a member of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics and a spokesman for the Carter administration, dropped by the office to give it his blessing.

It was because of these small moments where our delusion seeped into the real world and poked and prodded that we gained the strength to continue occupying our fantasyland for just a little longer.

All the happiest people I met in college exercised a similar type of self-deception. All of them were convinced that what they were doing, even in the most obscure corners of campus, was important and necessary. They all gave a crap.

This leads me to my parting piece of unsolicited advice: Care about something — anything. Care about it with a force that defies all logic and everything you’ve ever learned about sensible time management.

In a world that can seem as though it’s out to get you, hardheaded devotion to the idea of a better one, whatever that looks like to you, will sometimes be your best defense mechanism. The idea that my work mattered in some small way got me through many a dark hour this year when my self-worth was otherwise in question.

I love UNC and The Daily Tar Heel more than most things but not because they’re flawless. I love them because they allowed me to feel I could make them better if I cared hard enough and then love them all the more because I’d made them my own.

Thanks for reading.

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