The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday December 3rd

Farewell column: Being a part of something special makes you special

Daily Tar Heel's 2020-2021 opinion editor Paige Masten.
Buy Photos Daily Tar Heel's 2020-2021 opinion editor Paige Masten.

Over the past three years, I’ve found myself writing about the same things. Asking the same questions. But those conversations don’t go anywhere when the people you’re talking to don’t care to listen. 

At some point, I realized that the problem wasn’t that people in power couldn’t hear us; in fact, they heard us just fine. They just didn’t care what we said. 

So I stopped writing for the people who didn’t listen, and shifted my focus to those who did. I wanted our readers to feel seen. Heard. Understood. I wanted them to know we were listening, even if no one else was. 

Now, after publishing thousands of words in The Daily Tar Heel, these ones will be my last. I don’t know how to say goodbye. I don’t even know if I want to. 

Ironically enough, amid this hellish year, this job was what kept me grounded. It gave me some form of constant — in ways both good and bad — when everything else felt upside down. 

And, at the expense of my grades, my mental health and my social life, I have given it everything I have. It has very nearly broken me — the highs have been high and the lows have been low. I have lain awake at night wondering if I was doing the right thing, or if I was even the right person to be doing it at all.

My friends always ask me, ”Why do you still do it?” 

And my answer is always the same: how could I not? 

It’s all of the little moments. Watching “Glee” in the office and celebratory drinks on Tuesdays. 

Late nights, missed deadlines, laughing until I couldn’t breathe. The feeling of pride you get when your writer publishes their first story. 

And the big moments, like making national news and speaking with Anderson Cooper on CNN. (I still can’t believe that happened.)

I would be lying if I told you there weren’t moments where I felt fed up, angry and used, or days (weeks, even) when I swore I would quit. But I didn’t. 

I am not the same person I was when I set foot on this campus four years ago, or when I first walked into the DTH office the following August. For better or for worse, this place and all of its people have fundamentally changed me, and nothing will ever be the same. 

When I was at my lowest, the DTH was there to fill me back up; my peers wrapped me up and carried me through until I found the strength to stand on my own again. They gave me a reason to keep going, because they made me feel like I was a part of something — a family.

I’m not the best person to go to for advice, but if I had to tell you one thing, it would be this: 

These institutions are toxic, and they’ll eat you alive if you let them. Don’t. Claim even the smallest victories and embrace them with unbridled joy. Cling to the people who make life seem bearable, and walk away from those who don’t. 

If I ever do anything worthwhile with my life, it will be because of what I learned here. It will be because of Anna, who helped me find my confidence and taught me to lead with grace. Because of Brandon, who has helped me achieve things I never dreamed were possible. Maeve, who reminded me not to take life too seriously. And Will, the love of my life, who has promised to marry me one day. 

I owe so much to so many people, and I want to dedicate this final column to them. 

To my writers: This job has been a privilege, but the biggest privilege of all has been getting to watch you grow. I love you all fiercely — thank you for trusting me with your magic. 

Rajee, my right-hand woman, who has made my life better in every possible way. 

Misha, my sister, my role model, my friend — you are the most talented writer I know, and you inspire me every day. I never would have gotten here without you. 

Alec, my very first editor. Abbas, who has been by my side since it all started. Ben, for supporting me unconditionally (and for never letting me apologize). 

Praveena, who will probably never realize just how incredible she is. Marco and María, who led by example. Morgan, Yates, Maddie, Sonia, Sergio, Krista, Ryan, Nathan and countless others — all of whom added color to my life when everything felt gray. 

Lots of students like to call UNC home. But there’s a little office on Franklin Street that felt more like home to me than UNC ever did. As much as I want to hold on, I know it’s time to let go. 

But if I’m being honest, I’m ready. I don’t think I have anything left to give. Thank you, DTH — I’ll miss you more than you know. 


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