"The parts of ourselves that make us vulnerable are also the parts that make us beautiful."
I heard these words in a church service I attended a few weeks ago while visiting a friend in Washington, D.C. And, for the last few weeks, while thinking about the end of my time at UNC and at The Daily Tar Heel, they keep coming back to me.
I feel vulnerable all the time. I usually don't like it. I used to be incredibly private about my emotions and didn't want to share what I was feeling. I have gotten better about this, but it is still hard.
But being at The Daily Tar Heel has taught me not only how powerful being vulnerable is, but how necessary it is. If I have learned anything here, it is to do things that make you feel vulnerable. Do things that are hard. Do things that scare you.
Even going to UNC scared me. "It's too big," I thought. I went to a small high school and was nervous how I would fare in a larger college environment. But I came here anyway.
"You can make a big school smaller but you can't make a small school bigger." I don't remember exactly which neighbor told me this when I was deciding where to go to college, but I will never forget these words.
I joined The Daily Tar Heel during my first year of UNC, looking to find my own small part of the University. My first semester as a City & State writer was hard — I had never written a news article, never covered a Chapel Hill Town Council meeting, never gotten criticism on a council member's blog for an article I had written. But the DTH had quickly become one of my favorites part of UNC, so I stayed.
The hard parts never went away, they just changed. I've jumped around to different roles at the paper — from City writer, University senior writer, assistant Audience Engagement editor, Audience Engagement editor and now Community Engagement director and they all had their own unique challenges. And a lot of times, I couldn't avoid being vulnerable. There's no way I could have excelled in all these positions without asking for help.
When former EIC (and my newsroom mom) Praveena Somasundaram asked me how I was doing, I knew she wouldn't take anything other than an honest answer. And I will always be grateful for that. General Manager Courtney Mitchell has been a support system for me, given me advice and rejoiced with me about my successes. My fellow management members — EIC Guillermo Molero, Managing Editor Allie Kelly and Director of Enterprise Preston Fore — have always had my back. Elise Trexler, who was my assistant last spring, has always been there to be my personal assistant as well.
With everything that scared me, there has been so much learning. Learning how to push through the hard parts to get to the good parts, and learning that, often, they are the same thing. Learning how to write a headline and manage social media and edit stories and lead a team of staffers. Learning how to not leave my laptop on the quad and also not accidentally almost walk through people doing archery in the pit on my quest to retrieve it (yes, this did happen). Learning from the experiences of people I probably never would have had the chance to talk to if it had not been for the paper.
And, there has also been joy.
The joy of learning I would be on the management team this year as the community engagement director. The joy of having an article on the front page of the paper. And, most importantly, the joy of meeting so many wonderful people.
In "Glee," a personal favorite TV show of mine, Rachel Berry realizes that "being a part of something special does not make you special. Something is special because you are a part of it." And that's how I feel about The Daily Tar Heel. The people here have made this paper something special, and I will always be grateful to have been a part of it.
Through the editing, the social media, the staff meetings, the vulnerability and the joy, I found my own little slice of the University. My very own smaller UNC.
So, thank you, Daily Tar Heel.
Thank you for being my little piece of campus. Thank you for teaching me how to be a journalist and a human at the same time. Thank you for all the small moments that have made the last four years so filled with joy and anything but boring. Thank you for Wednesday night sessions of sharing "lore." Thank you for giving me countless friends and sunsets on the fire escape and quotes on the quote wall and trips to Linda’s Bar and Grill and Monday editing breaks at He's Not Here.
Thank you for teaching me how to be vulnerable and giving me the grace to do so. Thank you for teaching me that sometimes, the hardest things are the most worthwhile.
And most of all, thank you for making it so hard to say goodbye.
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