The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday January 24th

Farewell column: The necessary struggle of letting go

DTH Photo Illustration. Assistant opinion editor Ben Rappaport shaves his face on Nov. 11. Ben is not participating in no shave November.
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. Assistant opinion editor Ben Rappaport shaves his face on Nov. 11. Ben is not participating in no shave November.

I have always been a chronic pushover and a people-pleaser. I want to make sure the people in my life don’t leave — and so I do all I can to hold them tight. But that also means I struggle with confrontation and I don’t like putting my opinions out in the open.

Opinions lead to disagreement, which leads to arguing, which leads to leaving, which I cannot handle.

So, when I impulsively applied to the opinion desk of The Daily Tar Heel last spring, it was a challenge to myself: to be more confrontational and be more willing to engage in uncomfortable dialogue. While my time at this paper has been brief, I feel content knowing I have fulfilled that personal challenge.

I have learned more about this community than I ever thought I wanted to, and I have fallen in love with it as a result. And perhaps more importantly, I have learned more about myself and the type of person I want to be.

Now, as I approach graduation in less than two weeks, that personal fear of abandonment has turned itself into guilt. It has become fear that I am abandoning this place I have become so drawn to.

The people of Chapel Hill aren’t mad at me, they get it. This is a college town where the population changes all the time. Students and young professionals constantly come and go, a conveyor belt of brilliant minds and optimism.

Over the past four years, I have spent countless hours learning the history and culture of this area. I have covered the events that have shaped Chapel Hill, spoken to countless community members and learned the messy past of this place.

It has all been utterly exhausting and at times demoralizing, but through reporting, I made Chapel Hill my home.

I know someone will fill the gap. There will be another bright-eyed young reporter who finds immense fulfillment in listening to the stories of the people of the Greene Tract or spending hours digging into the corruption of my now mortal enemy, the Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town.

But right now all that knowledge in my head feels for naught. I hate the transient nature of it all.

I am leaving Chapel Hill behind in pursuit of, presumably, something more grandiose. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

As afraid as I am to admit it, this place and this institution will keep moving. But so will I.

I know going elsewhere right now is the right thing to do. I am leaving earlier than many of my peers for a reason. For all the fulfillment this town has given me, the University has turned my hairs prematurely gray and cost me thousands of dollars in therapy. UNC has broken me, and Chapel Hill has stitched me together again. And so, my internal battle between love and hate, between guilt and excitement goes on.

When the countdown to graduation hits zero, I will be traveling across the world to Cape Town to keep doing what I love, telling the stories of community. And though I will only be there for a brief three months, I know I will fall in love with the people I have the privilege of listening to there as well.

The guilt of leaving this place will continue to haunt me, even after I am gone, but it is because of that sinking feeling, I know I have made my time in this beautiful town worthwhile.

So, thank you to all the people who care about this place so dearly and took the time to teach me about its quirks and shenanigans. 

Thank you to all the people of the DTH who made me feel like my opinions were valued. Thank you to Paige for always holding the space to let me be my full self, to Rajee for being the most kind-hearted and encouraging soul I could ever ask to be my partner in crime this semester, to the members of the Editorial Board, past and present, who welcomed me with open arms and encouraged my overabundance of ideas, and those in that Franklin Street office that made the DTH a haven of collaboration, innovation and community.

At the precipice of leaving, I am still struggling to let go. Still wanting to hold on to the friends, colleagues and community members that have made this such a bittersweet goodbye. It is also because of you, though, I know I am ready for all that is next.

@b_rappaport

opinion@dailytarheel.com

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