Conor’s Complaints: Taking a look back

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Clarion photo Ashley Lytle

By Conor Bergin, Editor-in-Chief

“Ten decisions shape your life. You’ll be aware of five about.” This quote from Julian Casablancas, the frontman of the Strokes, has stuck with me. It is spot-on about the nature of life. The little decisions you make can end up having huge impacts you don’t expect. You might put little thought into the decision, or no thought at all.  I’ve tried to look at my own life and find the unconscious decisions I made that ended up changing my course. Deciding to write this column three years ago is without a doubt in that category.

I was walking down the street with two of my newspaper classmates and I said, “I want a space in the paper where I can just complain about things. I’ve got stuff to say.” Cyrus Lyday answered back, “You could call it ‘Conor’s Complaints.’” And with that little conversation, “Conor’s Complaints” was born.  My goal for the column was to satirize Cleveland High School and Portland Public Schools, as well as capture or criticize the mindset of the student body. I wanted the column to be conversational and blend in pop culture. My enjoyments include talking and quoting movies; here was a platform where I could do both. The same day I had that conversation, I wrote my first issue in class. I realized that day how much I liked it, so I just kept writing.

Flash forward from my naive sophomore self to the overconfident, five o’clock shadowed senior you see today. Over three years, I have written 28 columns of “Conor’s Complaints.” I never missed an issue of the Clarion (although there were a few close calls. I think I’m the tardiest writer on the staff). Looking back across the collection is the craziest thing for me because I can see my evolution as a writer. At first, I only wrote about mundane inconveniences at CHS. I quickly learned you can’t do that for three years, mainly because Cleveland really only has the same problems every year: the bathrooms suck, nobody flushes the toilets, the water is poisonous, and once a year, there is a new structural problem dangling above your head. There, see? I explained almost all of it in one sentence. (For the record, thank god the school bond passed, because I have long said if the big earthquake happens, just pronounce everybody inside a PPS building dead.) As time passed, my content matured. In my first issue ever, I complained about shortened assemblies, water fountains, and vending machines. This year, I tackled topics such as coming of age, gender equality, nostalgia, narcissism, my own family crisis, and politics (I mean, who didn’t satirize politics?). Of course, much of the column is still goofy–I’ve complained about asparagus and minivan discrimination–but now it is more dynamic. It can be goofy or serious. If you followed all the way through, you saw me cross over from innocence to experience. This column documented the whole synthesis, like a Disney show catches a child star’s journey through puberty.

Another thing this column did for me was improve my confidence as a writer. I developed my own voice and style. I learned to take more chances. One visible way you can see this confidence boost is by looking at my column’s growth in length. My first column sophomore year was 398 words. The first column senior year was 1,100 words. I know some people who have read my column don’t care for it. Some people simply hate it. People have told me it is just whiny rambling, and if they’re reading this, they are probably saying, “It’s not like you wrote a symphony.” I see where they’re coming from. Frankly, I don’t care. I know I didn’t write a symphony, but this column was exactly what I intended it to be, and I am proud of my work.

For three years, I’ve been complaining. Compliments have been sprinkled in, along with inside jokes, too many Harry Potter and Spongebob references, reunion shows, and Christmas specials featuring my own Christmas song parodies. From chastising the ‘Lo Boys sophomore year to serenading my mom last month, I think I’ve taken this column as far as it can go. (Also I literally can’t come back here next year so I think this is the right time to end it.) Although I satirized CHS and PPS the most, I still think I let it shine through that I have the greatest pride to be a public school kid and work for the Clarion. I also let it shine through, on several occasions, that I have the deepest hatred towards the pretentiousness of private and suburban high schools. Those condescending elitists, I don’t like ‘em. Sorry, got a little carried away there.

Now, before I leave, I have one last thing to check off my list. I’ve never complained just to be a jerk. I’ve complained to bring awareness and, I hope, solutions for change. I will never know for sure if my articles were the sole reason for the changes that took place, but I’d like to think the power of the press had something to do with it. Let’s see how we did.

Sophomore year, I complained about students not being able to see Hall Decorations because they were torn down before the morning bell rang. Junior year marked the first year tutorial was held in the morning on Hall Dec days, so students who wanted to check them out could. Thumbs up.

Sophomore year, I confessed my man-crush for Leonardo Dicaprio and ranted about how the Academy was “on quaaludes” for not giving him an Oscar. I am certain the Academy read my column and it influenced their decision to give him the Oscar in 2016.

I specifically made fun of KGW weatherman Nick Allard for botching snow forecasts. He no longer works for the network. Coincidence? I think not.

I complained about bathrooms four separate times in three years. They still suck. Thumbs down. (However, I did complain about no soap in bathrooms being a health violation and the next week they started locking the doors to soapless bathrooms. That one sort of backfired. I wanted more soap, not to go on a scavenger hunt every time I had to take a piss.)

Lastly, I did not fix the school water fountain problem, but I did call it. Look at this excerpt from Issue 1 of my column, September 2014: “For the record, the fountains in the gym taste like rusty metal mixed with blood.” If only Carole Smith was reading, she might still have a job.

Goodnight everybody.

 

CONOR’S COMPLAINTS BY THE NUMBERS:

25,540 words

28 Articles

55 Complaints

12 Compliments

56 Movie References

24 TV References

33 Music References

7 Harry Potter References

4 Bathroom Complaints