The Eck’s Factor: Left to my own advice

"The Eck's Factor" in bold red capitalized font and a stack of newspapers with a graduation cap on top and an orange background.
(Lauren Schatzman | Daily Trojan)

Last week, I wrote a poem called “Meditations & Jubilee” as part of my senior poetry sequence, an exploration of my own psychology and dreams. The poem concludes with the line, “Through meditation, form // your own concept of jubilee. Consider it a blessing that He is all you have when everyone else leaves.” 

I rarely talk about my creative work, but I would not quote my poetry if it had no relevance to my final column. That’s right, you read that right: This is the concluding chapter of “The Eck’s Factor.” Before I continue, I’ll let my biggest critics have their moment so they can rejoice. 

My poem epitomizes my reckoning with a part of me that my column has guided over the past two years. And now that it has come to an end, I cannot help but contemplate its impact and how I can move onto new pastures with everything I learned and taught myself.  

My involvement with the Daily Trojan dates back to a period in my education shortly after I visited a career counselor and a new major adviser every week. Dornsife advising, my heart goes out to you for tolerating my weekly identity crises. 

I was a neuroscience major, fully immersed in pre-medicine coursework and constantly surrounded by aspiring healthcare providers. I had a love-hate relationship with science, and I would be lying if I didn’t say that I was terribly unhappy the first two years of my undergraduate studies. 

When I joined the Daily Trojan, however, I thought I could maybe find a creative outlet beyond my science courses. Little did I know that writing opinion editorials would respawn my love for writing and lead to adding a creative writing major and becoming opinion editor at the Daily Trojan.  

I started my column in Spring 2019, naive to the storm ahead. I was infatuated with giving my “hot takes” on hot button, sociopolitical issues — typical Aries of me — without having to only focus on topics relevant to USC. I went from writing editorials about the University’s STI-testing policies to practically anything I wanted. I wrote about Penn Badgley in “You” and our societal glamorization of sociopathy. I wrote about dating apps, Chick-fil-A, climate alarmism and psychedelics. 

One of my favorite pieces to this day is one titled, “Hypercompetitive pre-health culture is not conducive to fostering compassionate physicians,” an exposé of my experiences as a pre-medicine student in a culture that prioritizes grades at the expense of human decency. This article is still my guiding pedagogy, as I apply to medical school this upcoming cycle. 

Then the pandemic hit, and we were sent home for what we thought would be a week, which turned into one and a half years. Black Lives Matter became ever so salient following white former police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd. 

I suddenly found myself in isolation and at the forefront of controversy with warranted and unwarranted opinions to my left and right. But I also had an immense amount of privilege. I had a roof over my head; I was physically healthy and I had a biweekly slot in a newspaper that circulated to more than 50,000 readers. I realized that I was no longer just here to share my hot takes about the most recent Twitter feud. 

I had a voice and a platform that I could use to disseminate my perspective without feeding into racist narratives. But as a white man, to what extent would this perspective contribute to an anti-racist movement without also shedding performativism or a white savior complex? I had to reckon with this issue by learning how to best communicate an opinion that would be both accessible and receivable. 

Through all 32 editions, “The Eck’s Factor” provided an outlet for me to foster discourse among a community I deeply care about. It was not only a catharsis anymore but a form of engagement. I simply cannot talk about the tens of thousands of words that I poured into these articles without acknowledging the things I discovered about the people around me. 

I initially thought I could use the outlet to share my opinion and possibly change a few minds along the way. Throughout the journey, however, I realized that my audience would not be that malleable. Of course, it was always such a huge compliment whenever anyone would randomly approach me and say they loved my article, but that wasn’t always the case. Journalism unexpectedly cultivated my conflict-resolution skills. 

The Daily Trojan was catalytic to my college experience. It paralleled the relationships I lost and the relationships I formed. It mirrored my development of communication skills that I could use to create accessible content. It helped me find a political mindset where I felt knowledgeable enough to engage in conversations with others but also cognizant enough of my own knowledge gaps that required more learning, more research, more discovery. 

Upon its conclusion, I feel satisfied with what I accomplished. “The Eck’s Factor” ends at a time where my passions are shifting to newer things. I am no longer the lost sophomore with an opinion or two but a soon-to-be alumnus with a road ahead of me. Freelance writing will forever be a possibility for me, but in the meantime, I will continue looking for a jubilee elsewhere. 

Matthew Eck is a senior writing about hot-button social issues. His column “The Eck’s Factor” ran every other Wednesday. He is also the Wellness & Community Outreach Director at the Daily Trojan.