When I first sat down to write this farewell column, I thought it was going to be about what an incredible experience it was to cover UNC athletics, specifically the men’s basketball team.
I wrote three paragraphs before realizing that isn’t the story I want to write and it’s not the story I want you to know. My time at The Daily Tar Heel is not that simple, and it’s much more special than that.
I joined the paper in October 2015 as a transfer student stripped of any self-confidence. Coming over from community college, I felt inadequate among my peers — many of whom had been at or near the top of their high school classes. To put it frankly, I wasn’t. Hell, I wasn’t even in the top 100 at nearby Chapel Hill High School.
So perhaps it’s easy for me to look back now and see why I was so nervous.
My first year at UNC was a whirlwind. I stumbled, falling behind in my classes and putting together articles for the paper that were so bad that on at least one occasion, something I wrote wasn’t published.
It wasn’t until late in my second semester when I finally felt confident in myself and started believing that I belonged. I turned in a story and read with a recently hired assistant sports editor who was positive and supportive. I had goals of becoming the sports editor, but until then, they seemed ridiculous.
But my editor inspired me and believed in me. He was the first of many amazing people I met at the DTH who made me feel confident in my own abilities.
That summer I spent my time reading and writing, steadily improving my craft. Our sports editor for the next year was great, and he’s now one of my closest friends at UNC.
Coming into the year, though, I didn’t know him. Yet I still decided to send him a text letting him know how serious I was in improving my standing at the paper. He listened to me and I felt encouraged by his response.
During the fall semester I worked and worked, picking up every assignment that I could. Covering men’s soccer in the NCAA Tournament? Sign me up. Going to a volleyball game on a Friday night? I can do that.
Something else happened in that first semester. I consistently looked forward to coming into the office and chatting with my three editors. I opened up more and felt more confident as a reporter. When one of the great assistants, James Tatter, announced he would be studying abroad for the semester, I didn’t hesitate to apply for the position.
A year earlier, I would never have applied for the job. But the people around me believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself and consequently my own confidence grew.
I got the job as an assistant sports editor and I remember I felt distinctly proud of myself. To that point it was a somewhat unfamiliar feeling. But that feeling of pride made me crave more. I had to be the sports editor my senior year.
I could tell you more about how I continued grinding and picking up assignments before eventually getting the sports editor job. I remember exactly where I was, walking down Franklin Street with my roommates on a Saturday night to go to bars when I checked my inbox and saw I had been named editor. It was an incredible feeling that I got to share with my friends.
But again, that story is boring. I would rather write about something else.
Around the time I became an assistant, my mom was battling breast cancer. It was a terrifying experience and it pained me to watch her suffer. Getting out of bed in the morning proved challenging every day, but I had to because she was the one fighting the real battle and she did it so valiantly. My friends at the DTH helped me more than they will ever know.
Whether it was shooting at the foam basketball hoop late at night with Jack Frederick or playing Sporcle NBA quizzes such as naming every European-born player in the NBA and identifying each All-Star with Chapel Fowler, or engaging in rap battles with Alex Zietlow, the office was my escape. I met some amazing people whom I hope to know for the rest of my life.
That is the great thing about working for the DTH. Yes, covering the UNC-Duke game at Cameron Indoor Stadium as an editor this year was an experience I will never forget. But it’s not what I will remember the most from my time at the paper.
What I will remember are the people who made me believe in myself. It is the people around me who are so incredibly talented and choose to spend their time working 40 or more hours a week to put out important content every day.
I will remember letting off steam on Thursday nights by walking to Pizza Press with my assistants Jack, Holt McKeithan and Ryan Wilcox and going to Sup Dogs for Sup Crushes more than I will remember covering UNC vs Wofford.
I will remember arts editor Molly Looman and Alex checking in to make sure my mom was okay after she came out victorious in her battle with breast cancer.
I will remember looking forward to playing board games on a Thursday night with fellow editors Taylor Buck, Maeve Sheehey, Myah Ward and Kate Karstens.
I will remember joking around on Sunday nights with our management staff, Bailey Aldridge, Sarah Lundgren and Rachel Jones.
I will remember all of that and I will remember the fact that the DTH made me proud of myself. It made me feel valid as a student and a reporter, and it gave me a place where I belonged, surrounded by so many people whose careers I will be following for years.
Wrapping up this column is proving more difficult than I thought it would be. It’s creating a knot in my stomach, and I can’t help but think of how hard it will be to walk away from all these amazing people I feel like I’ve just met.
But I know this: I’m a better person because of the DTH and the people I met, and I will always be thankful for that.
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