Nobody Puts Kenzie In The Corner: So Long And Goodnight

I give you my final post.

Nobody Puts Kenzie In The Corner: So Long And Goodnight

by Mackenzie O'Guin, Managing Editor of Copy

In a dark, lamplit room, a slightly less young girl stares at her laptop through large black-framed reading glasses. An obscure hip-hop record plays softly as she sips her black coffee, contemplating what to write for her blog.

Sound like a scene from that pretentious, angst-ridden coming-of-age film you stumbled upon on your last Netflix binge? It’s not. It’s me, right now.

Hello. It’s Mack(enzie Nicole) O’Guin, lipstick connoisseur and mediocre coffee-brewer reliving a very similar scene to one I described to you three years ago, and to understand how this blog is ending, I have to tell you a little bit about my last three years writing Nobody Puts Kenzie In The Corner.

I was a sophomore and first-year Dart staffer when then Editor-in-Chief Libby Hyde asked the staff if anyone wanted to have a blog on DNO. At the time, I was an over-achiever obsessed with doing every possible thing I could possibly do to pack a resume (more on this later), so I volunteered. For days, I puzzled over what my blog would possibly be about. I could rant on any topic for ages, but who would want to read my unprompted ranting? I needed some inspiration for the more appealing alternative – prompted ranting. That people might read.

I don’t remember what gave me the idea to make the blog a bucket list, but once the idea occurred to me, I couldn’t shake it. I started creating the List. I came up with some items myself, but most of them were suggestions from my mom, my friends, other Dart staffers, etc. Before I knew it, the original List was 31 items long. Its successors from 2015 and 2016 would be even longer. Over the course of the last three years, I did a lot for the blog. I drank half a gallon of chocolate milkshake for the blog. I harassed a Netflix customer service associate for the blog. I suffered through laryngitis for the blog. We didn’t get to every item; I never did do that police ride along or crash a wedding (even though I came dangerously close to the latter). But, we made up for those items with some unexpected additions on our “off-the-script” posts, like the World Series Parade in 2015 or my most recent post, my first time attending the Grammys. And, at the end of every escapade, I got to sit down and write to you in all my pseudo-philosophical, self-deprecating glory so you could live the experience vicariously through me.

Yes, the last three years with the blog and the List have been an adventure. But, what no one else knew is that while I was trying to knock items of this List, I was also simultaneously struggling to live up to another bucket list of sorts, an unofficial bucket list. I was a very different person three years ago. I was obsessed with achievement. I had to be brilliant, genius, talented, top of everything, first place in everything, etc. If there was an award to win, a title to claim, a talent to master, an honor to earn, I would win/claim/master/earn it. I made my mind up as a freshman that by the time I was a senior, I would be valedictorian, class president, EiC of the Dart, Academy Woman, and Ivy League Princeton-bound. After that, I would score a high-paying job in some hyper-intellectual field and move to New York City, after which my next list of aspirations would be achieved (join MENSA, win a Nobel Prize, etc.). I had a Master Plan. It became my identity.

Why? I think it’s because, at a time when I was very insecure, it became easier to tell myself who I would be and become that person, rather than just be myself in the first place. I started doing things not because I enjoyed them or even wanted to do them, but because I was Mackenzie, and this is something Mackenzie does. I was acting a character rather than living a life. And, I was fairly successful; I got great grades, a great GPA, won a lot of awards, and accumulated a lot of empty titles being the empirical success-craving machine I was. But, it was never enough, because no matter what I did or how many clubs I was an officer in or how many resume-fillers I gained, there was always something else I could be doing. There was always another scholarship I could be working on, another extracurricular I could squeeze into the schedule, another few points I could have earned if I just worked a little harder.

It started to drive me a little insane. My Master Plan consumed my life. Friends used to joke that my catchphrase was, “This will look so good on college apps,” because I said that phrase before virtually everything I did. My self-care got so bad by the middle of my junior year that I had developed a stutter because of sleep deprivation, and I started losing muscular control (my limbs would spasm for no reason, like a tic). I got sent to the counseling department after I had a hysterical breakdown in class and started sobbing uncontrollably for no apparent reason because I was so stressed. I don’t remember most of my sophomore and junior year because I was so exhausted, but I do remember constant, crippling anxiety.

What was even worse is that about halfway through my junior year, I started having doubts. Did I even want to go to Princeton? Had I ever wanted to go there? And, what was the point of all these imaginary numbers? Did I care enough to be captain, president, editor-in-chief? What did I really like doing? Why am I so depressed? What was the point? Why was there always more, more, more?

These doubts were only reinforced when a song I recorded (for fun more than anything), a song I didn’t even like all that much, became a big deal. When “Actin Like You Know” became the top song on its album, then got a music video, then got radio play, then got me performing onstage, it knocked my entire trajectory off. I had always said that I wanted to do music, but since it didn’t fit into my Master Plan for what Success Robot Mackenzie did, I figured I would cross that bridge when I came to it. Well, I was at the bridge, and I was panicking. I loved doing music. I loved Strange Music. I loved the music industry. But, I had just made myself miserable for two years trying to accomplish my Master Plan. I couldn’t bow out now, could I? For a while, I lived in limbo, half committed to the Plan, half committed to music, one foot out the door at all times.

Over the last year, I watched my Master Plan, my unofficial bucket list disintegrate before me. I wasn’t Editor-in-Chief of Dart. I wasn’t class president. I wasn’t on track to be valedictorian or Academy Woman either. The worst part wasn’t that I had failed virtually everything I saw as important for the last three years. The worst part was that I didn’t even care. After all that, I got rejected from Princeton and didn’t shed a single tear.

Truth be told, I was relieved. While I had known since before senior year that I would take a gap year after graduating, I still fretted constantly over how an Ivy League education could balance with a full-fledged music career. Even music aside, I realized I did not want to go to an Ivy League after all. My experience with the people I met from these schools through the interview process and visits were almost all horrible. I felt myself submitting to another four years (or more) of having to prove myself, having to be a robot. I realize now that I also committed to this Master Plan because I thought it was what my parents expected of me. Honestly, I was killing myself to make them proud of me. I just wanted to be the perfect brilliant daughter that graduated weighed down by honor cords and went off to this Ivy League college. My parents perpetuated this mentality. To them, they were being supportive in driving me to achieve my ambitions. To me, they were raising the bar ever-higher as I worked to fulfill their expectations. Don’t mistake me, it’s not their fault, nor mine. We were all just on very different pages and didn’t realize how our intentions were being perceived by the other party.

Every time something went wrong with my Master Plan, something went right with my new life. I got rejected from Princeton, but I also discovered that I really wanted to go to college back in Los Angeles, my second hometown. For every award I didn’t win, there was a concert being booked for me to go play. Over the last year, I stopped collecting titles and started collecting experiences. I started rediscovering myself through the little sparks of passion here and there. I visited Los Angeles on work for a week in July and realized just how much I loved and missed living there; I barely knew it then, but that was the beginning of my decision to move back to LA in 2018. I felt alive and happy there in a way I hadn’t felt in a long time. I spent hours in the studio laughing and making art with my (unbiological) family at Strange Music. Sometimes, the jet-set adventures we went on were unbelievable. I would leave school to drive immediately to KCI and meet my father halfway across the country for a meeting. I left the morning after my senior prom to fly out to meet the other artists on tour and play a few concerts with them, only to be back in the publication room at 7:50 AM Monday morning for class.

That’s not to say the transition was seamless. The last year has been an excruciating, extended death of the person I once was. Even if she wasn’t who I was supposed to be after all, she still existed. And, now, I’m mourning her. I would not do anything differently, because I learned a lot from the last few years, but I would not relive those years again. Even though I got through it, even if things are seemingly falling into place around me, I’m still having a hard time. A lot of times nowadays, I feel downright depressed and lost, because I don’t totally feel like I have an identity anymore now that I’m not trying to live up to the old manufactured one. I feel like I was in a coma for two or three years, woke up with amnesia, and have to rediscover who I am, what I like, what I care about, etc. But, even though I’m finally realizing the extent of the darkness I’ve been in for so long, I’m not scared anymore because I also recognize the light, and I’m running toward it at full speed.

So, as I brainstormed what I would write for my very last post on this blog that has born witness to the years-long process I just described to you, I decided the last thing I wanted to leave you with was the story you didn’t know of the list you didn’t see. If you made it this far, I hope this offers a few explanations, and I want to leave you with just a few last pieces of advice before I go.

  1. There is a limit to how many things you can put on most your college applications. Seriously, you can only put 5-10 things down for most colleges. And, most limit how many pages your resume can be. Don’t try to join everything or participate in everything or win everything, because most of those accomplishments won’t even make the first, second, or final cut for your applications anyway. I wish I had known. Stick to what you actually care about.
  2. The ends do not always justify the means. If you’re miserable and depressed and worked to death on the off chance that you might achieve some goal, reconsider your priorities.
  3. Never, never, never neglect your physical and mental health on a long-term basis for short-term goals.
  4. If you have to convince yourself you’re happy, you’re not happy. If you have to tell yourself that “this is what happy feels like,” that is not what happy feels like.
  5. At the end of the day, you’re the one who lives with your decisions. One day, you’ll wake up and all the people you were once trying to please will be gone. It’ll only be you and the life you’ve chosen, so make sure that life is yours and not someone else’s.
  6. Don’t study for 4 hours to get the same grade you would have received studying for 2 hours. Go get a coffee. See a movie. HAVE A LIFE.
  7. Get some perspective. In six months, will this matter? In one month? In a week even? Adjust your anxieties accordingly.
  8. Trust the process, not the plan. The plan is your attempt to control the process. Live righteously and the process will lead you where you need to be.
  9. It’s never too late to change your mind. Better a few months of growing pains (what I’m going through now) than a lifetime of regret (what I would have gone through).

Around the same time I started Nobody Puts Kenzie In The Corner three years ago, my old best friend sent me what became my favorite song for the next few years. I had no way to know how eerily accurate its lyrics would foreshadow my own life.

“You came here with nothing and you’re leaving with the same.

Sometimes, the road that you’ve been walking on is going the wrong way.

Just come as you are – when you leave you will be changed.

Every day is a gift, every day is a gift,

And it’s all slipping away.”

“New York City” by Among Savages

Thank you so much for the last three years, reader. I love you very much. Remember, every day is a gift. Don’t let it slip away.


For the very last time…

So long and goodnight,

Mackenzie Nicole O’Guin

Special thanks to everyone who has had any small part in Nobody Puts Kenzie In The Corner over the last three years. It was a really good blog.