The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday August 10th

Farewell column: I'll remember it, all too well

Senior media and journalism and english and comparative literature double major is the enterprise director for the Fall 2021 semester.
Buy Photos Senior media and journalism and english and comparative literature double major is the enterprise director for the Fall 2021 semester.

A few weeks ago, Jodi Kantor, an award-winning journalist with The New York Times, tweeted about the strain put on college newspapers right now.



Let’s just see how this all lines up with The Daily Tar Heel:

Low budget? Check. 

No pay? Check, for staff and senior writers. 

Minimal support? While our general manager Courtney Mitchell is always there for a helping hand or piggy back ride when it feels like we can’t forge on anymore — with the mounting mental health crises and increasing pressure — check. 

In my career so far, I’ve struggled with being a journalist first and a student second during a global pandemic. There were times when I felt like I couldn’t go on anymore, professionally and personally. 

There are so many days I failed, and so many projects I didn’t see through. So many ideas that never left my notebook and so many ambitions that never came to fruition. It’s a workplace environment that demands your best 100 percent of the time. 

And yes, toxic feels like an appropriate word for it. But the thought of leaving this place makes me cry.

I was voted biggest Taylor Swift fan in the office last year, so it’s only fitting that I explain these last four years through her songs.

When I first walked up the black metal staircase, clanging with every steep, steep step, I thought that I was about to transcend my television screen and turn into Rory Gilmore, the fictional character I had projected so much of my life onto. That day was a fairytale.

During my sophomore year, I became an assistant editor for the arts and culture desk (may she rest in peace.) Everyday felt shimmery and beautiful and fun. I made some of my best friends. I went into the office on my days off and stayed until the end of the night playing games like Catch Phrase and Anomia. Those early days were like how Taylor felt in “Enchanted.” So easy to romanticize and idealize. So easy to imagine staying forever.

My junior year, I took on a new challenge as the University desk editor. This was the fall semester of online classes and a relentless, national news cycle where everyday I felt like I was drowning. For the sake of this job I lost sleep, peace on the weekends and even a longest-lasting friendship. 

It was around this time where I started to enter a “this is me trying” era. I felt like my shiny wheels had rusted, like I was ahead of a curve that had turned into a circle, like nothing I could ever do would be enough for the demands of the job. 

Then we had a two month winter break away from the paper. And I came back having learned some lessons the hard way: Life and college are too short to waste them. For the spring, I set new goals for myself. I would put down the computer at a set time each night. I would set my phone to vibrate and go offline for an hour to have dinner with roommates. And sometimes I would work completely from home so I could chat with friends while editing. 

My biggest piece of advice for any young journalists who might be feeling anywhere close to how I did that fall semester is to find these personal boundaries that make being a human and a great journalist possible. Even if that means letting go of some of the perfectionism that you equate with success. 

Life started to gain a little more color. “All Too Well” best sums up my feelings during that spring semester. I was in the process of trying to be my old self again. It was just a matter of finding her. I built boundaries to preserve who I was in the face of all that stress because I knew I was growing and I knew the results were worth the work. And that sense of confidence and accomplishment brought me joy. 

Flash forward to today. Senior year. As the director of enterprise, my job is to read stories before they head to our copy desk and to plan featured stories in print or online. But as the fall wore on, I started to realize that something was missing. “it’s time to go” from evermore sums it up — there was an “old familiar body ache” as the joy that had carried me from bright-eyed first year to hardened, confident junior just wasn’t there anymore. 

So this spring, I’m stepping down, because as Taylor said, “Sometimes walking out is the one thing that will find you the right thing” — even if I don’t know what that right thing is just yet. 

That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned throughout this experience. You can fight so hard for something and give it your all, even at the risk of losing yourself in the process, because it’s worth it. And for three years of my life, it was all so worth it.

But now that I’ve lost my passion for it, I’m saying goodbye to this institution having grown as a journalist in immeasurable ways. This office turned me into the writer I am today. Emily, Maeve, Anna, Sonia, Praveena, Paige, Anna, Allie and so many more have made me the person and friend I am today. I am truly overwhelmed with gratitude. 

Looking back, I know I will treasure the memories made in these four walls more than anything. They have defined my college experience in a permanent way, and both the laughs and the tears are tinted golden.

It was rare. I was there. You know the rest.

And for the road, here's a playlist of the songs that got me through each work night.


@madelinellis

opinion@dailytarheel.com

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