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The final paragraph, 208 columns later

I can't remember exactly why I started writing this column four years ago. I'm sure I needed the money (know so, in fact), and I was desperate for the attention I thought it would afford me.

More than that, though -- if my memory serves me at all -- I wanted to find sort of answer, a knot to tie together all the loose ends of my life. My little mind was full of questions then, about myself and a world I was just (and still am) beginning to understand. I guess I thought writing them down and sending them off to the press would give me some answers.

Who was I kidding? For the past 208 weeks, my column has given me more questions than I ever had before.

I would reach a milestone, such as getting my license or turning 18: how can I share this with the world and not seem obsessed with myself? Go to a party: how can I write about this and keep my job? Read someone else's article in the paper: can I do better?

I lived my entire high school career through the eyes of my column. Never content to appreciate a given moment for itself, I perceived everything in relation to how it might better my next 500-700 word piece for the Wave.

And it always was about the next column, not the one currently in print or any that came before it. Of course, I never had to think about what I'd written in the past; didn't need to remind myself of the clever witticisms and double entendres I'd slipped into previous columns or analyze their pros and cons. There were plenty of people to do that for me.

Still, if I have a single piece of advice for whoever takes my place, it is to avoid thinking of previous columns as accomplishments to dwell on and instead keep a constant focus on next week.

The questions only multiplied when I sat down to write. "What angle should I take?" "Will I be serious, or take a stab at satire?" "How will I end this?"

After all, the ending was critical. I never put a lot of thought into my introductions, and I could plow through the body with ease once I got the general hang of it, but I would often spend hours obsessing over a final paragraph. I always wanted to end strong, to write a satisfactory conclusion that would bring a sense of closure and tie the loose ends. The result never quite measured up to the vision, but my concluding paragraphs are the ones I will always be most proud of.

I'm heading off to college now, with more things to say and no time left to say them. I dreaded the effort of coming up with a column every week in high school, but now I don't know how I will live without it.

I'll go to my first college party and want to fit it into a column somehow (slyly enough to avoid putting my job in jeopardy, of course); have a bad experience and feel the need to write it out of my system; find a girl and want to tell the whole world about her.

Where will I vent all my dreams and questions and desires now? Will they just bottle themselves up inside me and continue to gain pressure with every passing day, until I either explode or find another writing job?

These are questions I can't answer and this, faithful readers, is an ending that I cannot write.

Nathan Kitzmann graduated from DLHS and will be attending the University of Minnesota this fall.