I have always hated endpapers. It is a longstanding FM tradition to give the last page of each issue over to the musings of staff writers who can write about anything they wish. Surely, my FM ancestors must have reasoned, Harvard students have much to reflect on, would be overflowing with anecdotes to fill that 1,000 word page limit. Surely not, in fact.
Every week as I proofed the pages of FM, I shuddered as I reached the endpaper. It was never the fault of any individual writer. As it turned out, nothing could live up to the promise of blank space. Given the lack of restrictions, endpapers can potentially be profound, funny, insightful, thought-provoking. Instead they’re generally mundane, tiresome, substanceless, pretentious.
Writers would either overshoot and try to use a story about their summer internship to shed light on the human condition. Or, even worse, they wouldn’t really say anything at all. Hoping, I suppose, that I would find hidden relevance in their “funny” anecdotes about Lowell brain break.
My hatred of endpapers became a running joke. It mapped on well to my cynicism about oversharing in public spaces. “Here comes another groundbreaking story about how a grandparent’s illness caused him to reevaluate his life choices,” I would announce with my typical combination of sarcasm and eye rolling. “Does anyone actually care about this girl’s dog dying?” I might ask to the horror of my more sympathetic editing staff.
I called for more editing oversight, I tried to be more selective in who could write them, I petitioned to end the practice altogether. But, buoyed by the support of others, whom I accused of being ridiculously tolerant of stories I labeled “glorified journal entries,” the endpapers endured.
It’s not that I’m entirely lacking in empathy with the writers. It is hard, of course, to stare at the limitless potential of a blank page. As students we always ask for assignments, prompts, at the very least a few guidelines. The writers, at least, went down fighting. I reached a begrudging stalemate with the endpapers, accepting their existence even as I continued to mock them mercilessly.
One day in the fall, however, I found myself not just mildly enjoying or tolerating an endpaper, but actually loving an endpaper. So moved was I by this endpaper that I started crying during production, and trust me, I am not one to cry (unless it’s during a particularly moving episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” in which case all bets are off). I wasn’t feeling tired or overly emotional: the endpaper was just that good.
I’d like to say that the moment changed my opinion forever on endpapers, but it didn’t. I didn’t like them before, and I haven’t liked them since. I certainly don’t like this one. I’ll continue to avoid emotional oversharing. I’ll keep my cynicism and eye rolling. I’ll question whether anything I do can compare to how that one great endpaper found a way to fill a blank space.