Around this time last year, I remember waiting until every last staff member left the newsroom before I let myself exhale the tears I’d been swallowing under my breath.
I found out hours prior that my need-based aid had been rejected for the upcoming academic year. My mom sold a majority of her retirement funds to pay rent and bills back home, which was reflected in our income on my financial aid applications. FAFSA assumed I had the funds to pay for my last year of school.
So, I felt powerless and alone.
At UNC, I’d grown used to being surrounded by students with stable families and income who didn’t worry about their finances in the same way I did. I didn’t want to bring in my own family and financial troubles into the newsroom, so I stayed quiet.
The very structure of The Daily Tar Heel makes it hard to actually be part of this newsroom if you don’t have the financial stability to handle below-average pay for the sake of altruistic, hard-earned journalism experience. I can count on one hand the amount of DTH editors over my two years that could relate.
It makes being second-in-command at a prestigious student newsroom all that much more lonesome. I quickly came to terms with how foreign this newsroom felt to me and the amount of cognition and sheer willpower I needed to hold on. And it’s made writing this column all the more painful.
The truth is, I’ve contemplated quitting the DTH, or even dropping out of UNC, several times.
I joined the newsroom in the middle of the pandemic. As a work-study student, reporter and editor, I’ve spent more days, nights and weekends here than I ever could imagine, and made some of the fondest, sweetest memories that make my heart well up with joy.
But, even then, it’s hard to avoid awkward lulls in conversations when I mention I was part of the DTH.