As you’re reading this, I’m walking across the stage at Wesleyan University, accepting my diploma, and praying that I don’t face-plant as I shake President Roth’s hand. Our commencement speaker will make many remarks about how this is the ending of one chapter of our lives and the beginning of another, and everyone will talk about how everything is suddenly different now.
But for me, the biggest change is that when I head back to my senior house after all of this is said and done, I won’t open up my computer to check The Prospect’s page view stats for the day. I won’t worry about if TP’s social media has been updated or if there’s a typo in a Facebook post. I won’t email our college writers listserv to tell them that they still need to turn in June article pitches. I won’t field through inquiries from college admissions startups. I won’t do any of it.
This is because after over 1,100 days of running The Prospect, I’ve decided that today is its end date.
Almost three and a half years ago, on February 19, 2013, Steven Gu and I said YOLO and started The Prospect as a means helping underserved high school students get into college.
At the time, the “real world” seemed so far off. The year was 2013. A government shutdown was imminent. The Kardashians didn’t have their own money-sucking phone apps. People were still getting over FarmVille. And the idea of graduating in 2016 and figuring out what to do with TP when that happened was just this weird thing my dad talked to me about in far-future tense.
But here I am, and that decision needs to be made.
When I was younger and heard of other college entrepreneurs leaving the companies they founded to get “real” full-time jobs after graduation, I thought they were sellouts. How could they do this to themselves?! I’d think. They built up this amazing thing and now they’re just leaving it? Damn, I could never do that to The Prospect!
But now I get it. The Prospect was a completely accidental endeavor; I met my co-founder Steven on the Internet, we started a random blog, we worked hard at it (because both of us don’t know how to function any other way), and it went big. But at the end of the day, this wasn’t something I necessarily chose—and it’s a journey that hasn’t always been easy. Working with young people can be both exhilarating and exasperating. For every one high schooler who inspires me with her story of perseverance to get into and through college, there’s a kid who tells me that the only way to succeed in life is to go to an Ivy League university. After a while, the battles get frustrating and repetitive, and you need to take care of yourself when those times arise. I went all in with this endeavor, and I now find myself beyond spent. I need a break. I need some self-reflection. And I need, for the first time ever, to not be my own boss.
So here’s where TP stands: The site will stay up for the next year (probably more) since we have the servers costs covered. However, there will be no new content; you’re stuck with the 3,300+ articles we’ve published over the past near-40 months. I think that’ll be enough.
And as I told my staff when I broke the news about the future of The Prospect, in the words of cultural philosopher Justin D. Bieber, “Never say never.” Who knows what the future holds? I’m not closing any doors.
And now it’s time for some thank you messages.
To all of The Prospect’s readers (both past and present): I don’t think words can’t describe how much I love you. I’ve only gotten to meet about two dozen of you in-person over the past three years, but I can’t tell you how much it’s meant to have you coming to this site and cheering us on.
To the TP staff (both past and present): I think the world of all of you, and there aren’t words to describe how greatly I appreciate everything you have given to this site. Should you ever find yourselves in New York over the next couple of years, pizza’s on me.
To my co-founder Steven: Hope to see you IRL someday, sir. Until then, thanks for everything.
To my internet friends: You’ve saved me more than I could ever describe. I’ve spent a decade on social media, and I can’t wait to spend another decade bombarding all of you lovely people with pizza GIFs and BuzzFeed exposés you never wanted to read in the first place.
To my IRL friends: I’m not just #blessed but actually blessed to be surrounded by some of the greatest people in the world who will do things like watch Survivor with me every week and listen to me ramble about celebrity gossip and bring me Sour Patch Kids all the time. Friendships are built in the tiny, everyday moments, and you all are amazing at those.
To Wesleyan: I’ll admit that I’ve spent a lot of the past year and a half pretty bitter, but I think that’s sort of evaporated over the past couple weeks, and now I’m left with a fair assessment that includes both the good and the bad. At the end of the day, I got the education I needed, and thank God that happened. I’m a far better and more informed person than I was when I stepped onto campus in August 2012, and I think this is one of those times where the end matters more than the means. So, thanks. And also, more specifically, to people like Makaela Kingsley and Ed Thorndike who make Wesleyan what it is, a huge thank you on behalf of the thousands of students whose lives you’ve changed and continue to change. You make that place run.
To my family: Your help and love and encouragement has meant everything. I hope I’ve done you proud.
Miles: You’re one the kindest, funniest, and most genuine people I know, and I hope you never lose those qualities. Can’t wait to take secret Snapchats of you when I’m home and laugh when you watch Snapped with me but try to be low-key about it. Love you, lil’ bro.
Dad: Thank you for reminding me how important it is to keep the journey in mind, regardless of the occasion. Thank you for being an amazing role model when it comes to the importance of hard work, community service, and knowing your value. Thank you for sending me all of those New York Times articles; even though I didn’t respond often, believe me when I say I’ve read every one. And thank you for letting me watch Who’s Line Is It Anyway as a small child; I’d like to think I have some sense of humor because of it. You may not be a Cool Dad™, but you’re a cool dad. I love you.
Mom: There’s a really great quote in the series finale of Glee where Rachel Berry thanks Mr. Schuester by saying, “He cheered the loudest when I soared, and he picked me up when I was in a million pieces.” While Glee turned out to be a very bleh show, I can’t think of a better quote to describe the incredible lengths you’ve gone to and what you continue to do every day. When I look back on my first 22 years of life, the big public moments aren’t the ones I hold the most dear. The things I remember most vividly are The Race and The Call, and only you and I know what those things mean. I’m happy to say that I’ve measured my life not in tangible accomplishments but in trips to the restaurant in Nordstrom (its real name is irrelevant), in cups of tea on the couch, and in Hilary Duff’s Metamorphosis replays (my nine-year-old self apologizes). I love you.
And to everyone else: As every kid wrote in my middle school yearbooks, HAGS.