I had just graduated high school when a copy of The Daily Tar Heel’s mail home edition showed up at my house, all the way on Long Island.
I had never heard of the DTH, but the excitement of receiving anything that was affiliated with my future college had me thumbing through the paper, reading about the worst dorms to live in and the best spots on Franklin Street. And then, on the back page, a huge ad: “Join our newsroom!”
I didn’t know anything about journalism. I didn’t even think I would be accepted when I sent in my application for the Copy & Online Desk. So, when I was, I don’t know what I expected.
I know I didn’t expect to find a love for editing, writing headlines or laying out print pages. I certainly didn’t expect to get pulled up to a desk editor position a month into my second semester. And I never expected that by the end of that first year, I would have made a spot in the newsroom to call my own.
And, after all of that, I definitely didn’t think that I would ever, ever choose to leave this paper before I graduated.
But here I am, writing my farewell column as a junior.
I guess sometimes things aren’t what we expect. There are lots of reasons that this column is coming a year early, but I think I’ve narrowed it down to one: as much as I love the DTH, it has never loved me back.
I can confidently say that — like nearly every editor here — I have given this newsroom my everything. I have given it my time. I have given it my grades and my sleep schedule. My passion. My effort. And though it’s hard to admit, I have also given it my health and my well-being.
And, for a really long time, I thought the DTH did love me back. But over the past three years, I’ve learned the hard way that an institution can’t love me back — especially not one like this, where the more you give, the more it takes.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t get anything back during my time here, though.
I got rooftop sunrises and sunsets. Slackbots and #spotteds. Office karaoke sessions. Emotional support Diet Pepsis. Shifts spent sitting on the floor between the editor-in-chief and managing editor desks, leaning with my back against the refrigerator — carefully, so as to not disturb the shrine of sticky notes with quotes scribbled on them — pouring over the print pages ready for proofreading.
I got late-night (or really, early morning) conversations, curled up on the gross office couches. Laughter in the nearly empty newsroom when only copy and management were still working. Yells of “Bye, Hannah! Happy night!” every time I left to go home. So many hugs that were actually saying "Hello" and "goodbye" and "I love you" and "It’ll be okay" that my chest hurts just thinking about them.
When everything was wrong and I cried my heart out on the floor of our little supply closet, someone was there with me, holding me through it. And when it was really bad, people were there to sit next to me in the office the entire night. Even when there were still stories to read and pages to place. Even in the face of all the endless work we had to do — everywhere I turned, there was always something left to love.
But it wasn’t The Daily Tar Heel that gave me those gifts — it was the people.
It was Guillermo, my brother. It was Leni, my person. It was Susie, my first newsroom friend. It was also Allie and Lilly and Tania and Elise and Taylor. Before them, it was Praveena. Before her, it was Brandon.
All of these people have given me so much of their time and friendship and love. And they did it in spite of this institution, not because of it.
I love the DTH so much that I wanted to let it break me. If we’re being honest, I might have let it do that already.
Yet, the people here have faithfully carried me to the other side of all of it. I can only hope that I have done the same when they needed it, too.
I know The Daily Tar Heel well enough now to know it does not love me back, and that’s okay. I don’t know if it can love anyone back, no matter how much they give it. I love it enough to know that I have to leave it, or it will continue to take and take until I have nothing left — and then where will I be? I don’t want to find out.
So, I’m saying goodbye while I still have some of me left — parts of me to give to other things and to keep giving to the people I love.
I love The Daily Tar Heel, and I always will. But to keep doing so, it has to be from afar.
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