I’ve had a few years to think about my senior column and here I am, on the day it’s due, just starting this draft. I’ve never written a piece for OpEd and have rarely strayed from news writing, so I don’t quite know how to start this one. So, I’d first like to say, thank you to the Massachusetts Daily Collegian for giving me the ability to write on a deadline and most importantly, a false sense of confidence!
In my true musical-theatre-loving fashion, I thought it would be appropriate to share a showtune to encapsulate my experience at the Collegian. After a lot of thought and consideration, I’ve chosen “As We Stumble Along” from “The Drowsy Chaperone.” Stay with me.
After graduating from high school and taking a gap semester, I arrived at the University of Massachusetts in January. I knew I wanted to make the most of my experience, and being a fairly shy and quiet person, I made the conscious decision to really push myself and try to get involved on campus. That’s why at the activities expo the first week of the semester, I signed up for the Collegian and attended the first meeting for the news section. I was terrified – I knew no one, I had absolutely no experience and I could still barely find my residence hall on campus. It’s the people in that office in the basement of the Campus Center that welcomed me and helped me get started, especially the News Editor at the time and eventual Editor in Chief, Hayley Johnson.
After a few weeks of – dare I say – stumbling along, I started to get the hang of things and by the end of the semester, I applied to be an Assistant News Editor. I was hired and spent the next year writing and editing stories, spending late nights in the Collegian office and thinking, “I feel like I’m getting good at this!”
At the end of my sophomore year, I applied to be the head News Editor and was brought on to lead the section. That’s where things changed.
I was so excited to be the News Editor, and everyone was so encouraging. However, come fall semester of my junior year, I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. Before this, I had never held a leadership position. I struggled and thought I was doing the absolute bare minimum to get by. I dreaded leading news meetings each week and wasn’t really connecting with anyone. However, I kept stumbling along until the spring semester and all of a sudden, things clicked. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly changed, but I started to feel more capable and was proud of what the section was accomplishing.
Serving as the Collegian’s New Editor has been an absolute joy. There have been difficult moments and situations that seemed impossible to navigate, but they are outweighed by the moments of fun and incredible news stories that have come out of them. I also owe a lot of my time to the Collegian to everyone in that office, but most importantly, my Assistant News Editors over the past two years: Kathrine, Alvin, Gretchen, Will, Mike, Irina, Chris, Cassie and Sophie.
Does “As We Stumble Along” essentially turn into a rousing anthem about alcoholism? I mean, yes, but that doesn’t really apply here. It’s supposed to be a tune sung for inspiration. Does this song actually give helpful advice for the situation and share some insight like I’m trying to do here? Not really. It’s more of a vehicle for a show-stopping number in the middle of Act I… where was I? Anyways – the most important thing I’ve learned is to stick it out and continue giving it your best.
The Collegian has been a place where I’ve grown so much, personally and professionally. I could have never guessed what would’ve happened when I first signed up that afternoon in January, but I’m glad I stuck around for the ride because the payoff has been extraordinary. I’ve made friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. Even in the times where I felt as though I was only stumbling along, I was able to learn to become more confident (or at the very least fake it), make decisions and work on things I’ve always struggled with.
Being sent home from UMass amidst the current pandemic has made the transition of leaving the Collegian harder, but it’s given me time to reflect on the past three and a half years and appreciate this journey even more. I’m incredibly grateful for my experience at the Massachusetts Daily Collegian and feel more prepared to continue to stumble along on life’s funny journey.
Abigail Charpentier was the News Editor of the Collegian and can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @abigailcharp.