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The Daily Tar Heel

Farewell Column: 14 minutes and 35 seconds.

Assistant Audience Engagement Editor: Aiko Rachel Peterson
Assistant Audience Engagement Editor: Aiko Rachel Peterson

14 minutes and 35 seconds. 

That’s approximately how long it takes me to walk from my other job at the Student Union to The Daily Tar Heel’s office. 

14 minutes and 35 seconds. 

That’s how long I persevere every Monday and Wednesday night trying to avoid tripping over uneven bricks, going uphill on the Quad and hoping no one tries to attack me in the open streets of Franklin Street.

“Why do you do it?” My mom would often ask me as she’d accompany me during these walks over the phone. But I often have trouble trying to explain my reasons in those 14 minutes.

I guess now’s as good a time as any. So mom, and the world, here are my ‘why’s.

I often make my way to the office when the sky is a blanket of black. Summer, fall, spring or winter, there’s no way I’m making it there before 8 p.m. on Mondays, or 7 p.m. on Wednesdays (sorry Alli!). By then, I’m beyond exhausted from classes and my other job and that short flight of stairs up to the office or thinking about sitting on the last available lumpy chair is usually my last straw.

But as soon as I open that creaky door, everything changes. My Audience Engagement "babies" never fail to greet me with an ecstatic “Rachel!!!” and my dearest Alli Pardue, my work wife, our amazing AE editor and matriarch, always gives me an enthusiastic smile.

“Hi guys! How’s everyone’s day been?” I’d often say as I’d take a seat in the AE editor inner circle. This marks the start of a bustling conversation about Shannen Horan’s last trip to the Boot Barn, Abby Miss’ explanations about American culture or sports to me and Pranav Uppalapati’s side remarks of his work-sisters’ comments. Ava West is there trying to tackle some of the captions, yet she can’t help but be roped into the conversation.

The next two to three hours are filled with a mix of crazy conversation topic jumps, caption writing, Instagram photo-editing, "glancing" and a whole lot of panicking when a newsletter draft, a photo draft or a caption gets temporarily deleted. That’s when I really kicked into editor, or AE mom as we call it, mode.

The past year and a half, this has been my routine for at least two nights of the week. Whether we were stationed in the peninsula, or the back semi circle tables, Audience Engagement carried the same lively spirit every night at the office.

We’re the fun, light, happy baby desk as everyone would say. But it wasn’t just me and Alli making AE shifts as memorable as possible. It’s also the Audience Engagement staffers who fill our hours with endless stories. AE co-assistant editors Viyathma Hapuarachchi and Lydia Chen who never fail to lend anyone a helping hand. It’s also our past editors Elizabeth "Lilly" Egan and Elise Trexler who live vicariously through our desk traditions of "Happy Nights" and "Audience Shapes."

My time at The Daily Tar Heel will undoubtedly be one of the most memorable moments of my undergraduate journey in America. Even though I won’t be in the middle of that cramped editors’ circle anymore, I know that Audience Engagement will be well taken care of by one of our babies. Who knows, maybe it’ll even be a patriarchy one day. 

So to my dearest moms, Lilly and Elise, thank you for believing in me, helping me through work permit issues and giving me my first "big girl" job in America. I got to be the first Indonesian on the editorial team and be a mother of 24! Getting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to retweet a DTH tweet was pretty dang cool, but you guys are cooler. 

To my amazing work-wife Alli, thank you for being so patient with me when I’m running late, being careless or lacking the energy to be the best sidekick to you for the night. Your never-ending perseverance inspires me everyday. 

To Viyathma and Lydia, I miss you both so much! Thank you for being the most amazing editorial partners I could ever wish for.

And to my dearest shift babies I haven’t mentioned — Maggie, Mika, Ameena, Pasquale, Ellery, Zuzie, Sarah, Olivia, Madeleine, Anna, Rafaela, Sam, Ashley — thank you for adding laughter and purpose in my life. You will all always be the main characters in my stories, and kids, be nice to your new moms (or dad?) and don’t ruin the social doc! <3

So herein lies the conclusion of my time at The DTH and my farewell column. As the last day of classes approaches, I can feel my time here slipping through my fingers. But if I had an extra 14 minutes and 35 seconds in America, it’d be on one of those lumpy chairs again, listening to the vibrant stories of Audience Engagement that vividly brings color to my life in the U.S.

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