My journey at The Daily Tar Heel has not been all perfect moments, and seeing it end is the very definition of bittersweet. In one of the most internally and externally wild years the paper has seen in decades, there were moments when I wanted to give up. There were moments when everything felt like too much, when the newsroom was too loud and I would go sit on the cold fire escape or walk to CVS so I could hear myself think. There were moments when I went home and shed tears out of pure physical and mental exhaustion. There were plenty of moments where I laid in bed and considered quitting.
Then, the next morning, I would wake up and do it all over again — voluntarily.
Because for every moment that was full of frustration or resentment, there was also a moment when I laughed so hard my stomach hurt. For every late deadline that didn’t seem to care that I had a 9 a.m. class the next day, there was a story that moved the community to action. For every occurrence that made me question whether workplace sexism has really come as far as we like to believe, there was a woman ahead of me who was proving that we could pull ahead and claim our own success.
Eventually, I realized the good moments far outweighed the bad. We just have a tendency to dwell on the tears because the laughter feels expected.
I will walk away from this year, this last semester of school, and I won’t remember my lectures or assignments. I won’t think about my classes or my finals. I will think about staying in the office until 2 a.m. finishing the Decade in Review paper — a paper where everything seemed to go wrong and everyone seemed to keep smiling anyways. I’ll remember all of the times I felt responsible for both the forest and the trees — and every time I lost sight of both. I will know that The Daily Tar Heel made me more of a journalist than any education, no matter how esteemed, could have. And I will always be thankful for this experience, as it is the first thing in my life that has made me feel truly competent.
I’m ready to have a job with normal hours, to leave college and all that it entails behind. I’m ready to feel like when I leave work, work is done — at least until the next morning. I’m ready to know what’s next, even if “next” doesn’t come quite as soon as I anticipated in these unprecedented times. I’m ready to stop feeling so divided and compartmentalized.
At the beginning of this year, I made the decision to prioritize being a student-journalist over being a student. Sometimes, I think it made me jaded. Most of the time, I know it made me capable.
So, I leave The Daily Tar Heel with less outright sadness than might be expected. But I also leave it with respect for an institution that has spent more than a century turning students into journalists, and lost girls into strong women.
The Daily Tar Heel will always be the place where I found out not only who I am, but who I want to be. And I’m ready.
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