The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday May 31st

Farewell Column: Realizing Who in Fact “we” Are, together

Emily Gajda was a member of Copy Board for 2022-2023 and will graduate in May 2023.
Buy Photos Emily Gajda was a member of Copy Board for 2022-2023 and will graduate in May 2023.

Sometimes, I still feel like I’m new around here.

I only joined the staff of The Daily Tar Heel in September, long after many of my fellow seniors did. By now, it’s only been about seven months.

I’m not going to lie and say that I’ve loved every minute. Honestly, working here has given me a lot of complicated feelings — towards journalism, the University, Chapel Hill and even my colleagues.

I think it makes sense to feel sour towards your college town when I’ve lived here for four years and am ready to move onwards and elsewhere. But, at the same time, it’s nice to know my bartenders at Zog’s and Linda’s. I love having a favorite seat at a favorite coffee shop. I will miss knowing my running routes by heart. 

Every student has their ups and downs with their university. Did I want to go to UNC? Not particularly. I thought I would be at a smaller school in a bigger place. I wanted grander spaces, stained glass windows, colder winters and something more reminiscent of Gilmore Girls.

But I found my way once I got here. 

Over time, I noticed my campus’ beauty, as I realized the serenity of McCorkle Place, the antique comfort of Graham Memorial Lounge, the warmth of sunshine and friends on the Quad on the first warm day at the end of winter. 

And journalism has its ups and downs. The nature of news is that there always is some — meaning there’s rarely a day when I don’t think about work.

When I started working at the DTH, I was in the middle of preparing for the LSAT. I was about to visit UC-Berkeley’s law school. I had a grand plan for what I was going to do next and none of it involved the news.

The job itself can be grueling, and I couldn’t, in good conscience, write a column like this without mentioning how tired I am at the end of this semester.

But here I am now, having not applied to a single law school, planning for my next move to start reporting at a local independent paper on Martha’s Vineyard. I still don’t see myself staying in the profession for long, but something about its unpredictable nature makes it seem like an exciting way to spend young adulthood. 

I never would’ve made the decision to pursue journalism without the people I worked with. 

I doubt I would’ve even applied for that job.

The DTH office isn’t redeemed by its comforting and peaceful energy, nor its snack selection. It’s redeemed by the people inside it.

That’s what complicates those tired, sometimes (often) defeated feelings at the end of a print cycle — the friends who are there encouraging me through every story I write or edit, drinking blue cups after deadlines and watching all the coverage of Donald Trump’s indictment on our phones.  

They're the ones who make me happy that I took this job on a random day in Andy Bechtel’s news editing class after Hannah Collett said the newsroom needed more copy editors.

The people I get to work with every day have made my senior year better than I ever thought it could be — and even harder to let go of now that it’s ending.

Heading into my next chapter, I’m thinking a lot about my favorite quote from Aldous Huxley’s 1962 novel Island

“The more a man knows about himself in relation to every kind of experience, the greater his chance of suddenly, one fine morning, realizing who in fact he is — or rather Who (capital W) in Fact (capital F) "he" (between quotation marks) Is (capital I).”

I’m so lucky to have had this specific experience and to have been surrounded by people who made me not only a better journalist but a better person. The experience of working with them was one I didn’t know I needed, but that I am so glad that I had. 

These people have gotten me closer to finding myself.

At the end of the day, isn’t that what we’re all really searching for — Who in Fact “we” Are?


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