All I know, is that I don’t know — and I love it 

This is a story without an end


Courtesy of Cassie McGrath

By Cassie McGrath, News Editor

For all the magnificent things words have done for me in my life: broke news that held the University accountable, expressed deep gratitude and love, created lifelong friendships and bonds, there are no words to describe what the Massachusetts Daily Collegian means to me.

I don’t want to write this. It’s not that I don’t feel ready to graduate. It’s not that I don’t have things to say or people to thank.

It’s that it’s hard to reflect when I am still living through this moment. This intense moment of pandemic, of goodbyes, of joy and appreciation. I am overwhelmed quite honestly. I am not sure how I am supposed to tell you anything when I haven’t figured it out myself.

I have so many feelings, ones I cannot quite put into words, but that I know my friends at the paper would understand. I could say, “singing Les Mis on the way back from covering the Bernie Sanders rally,” to Ana or Irina and they would both know what I mean.

I also fully expect my reflection of college to change throughout my life, as I know that the Collegian’s impacts on me are long term and ever-changing. Maybe in 10 years, I will look back and see everything through different eyes. But for now, I am grateful for the chance to unpack what the paper is to me at this point in time.

There were many edits of this piece before I sent it off to Bhayva. Thinking of all the words I have deleted throughout the years before my work got published makes me laugh. It feels like a metaphor for how I, myself have changed. Cutting out the pieces that no longer define my thesis, doing more research and establishing a new narrative.

I entered college as a ROUGH draft. I had about a million questions, about myself, about the world, that I set out to answer.

Four years ago, I walked up to the Collegian booth at the club expo that the University of Massachusetts hosts every fall and got the answer to my first question: what should I do with my life?

Something clicked for me here.

I went to my first all-staff meeting where, little did I know, my friends were sitting all around me. Bhavya, Morgan, Dan, Evan, Noah, Chris and Will were all in the room that day. Hi guys.

Collegian File Photo

When I look back at this photo, I just have this feeling in my chest — maybe it’s passion, maybe it’s love.

We have come a long way in our friendships since that first meeting, whether it be meeting with Denim, Claire and Morgan for a night out at Vera, venting to Touri or playing Jackbox with Dan, Noah and Ben after Applebee’s. We have also come a long way at the paper, putting out special issues and making executive changes.

But my success at the Collegian did not come easily. Before I was cited in national outlets or asked to be a guest on public radio, I applied four times before being hired as an assistant editor. The third time I was rejected, I remember walking home past the library, crying, feeling like I would never be able to do what I really wanted.

I asked myself, “how can I make this happen?”

The next thing I remember, I was in BJ Roche’s office asking her how to get an internship at the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

The next semester, I was hired as an assistant news editor.

When I found the news section, everything fell into place. I was searching for something that made me feel driven, alive, empowered. I wanted to do something that I knew could make a difference and I found the true love of my life in journalism.

There are many stories behind the stories that I have covered. During my tenure with news, my obsessive curiosity certainly paid off. I restructured the entire section. I stayed up until 2 a.m. picking apart sentences of the “What Went Wrong Series” with Will. I jumped out of a moving car with McKenna to cover gatherings following the UMass hockey National Championship win.

When a big story hits, I leave my body. Nothing matters but my journalism ethics, getting the words onto the page and getting the information to the public. I chased this feeling more and more throughout the years, as my skills and experience caught up with my passion and I could tackle the big stories.

I have physically felt my brain expand in college — always questioning and listening. Which is one reason I love journalism so much: you never stop learning. The other reason is the people. I am so grateful for those who trusted me with their stories throughout the years. It has been an honor to share them.

Being news editor for the last year has been one of the honors of my life. To Will, Chris, Claire, Irina, Sophie, Abby, Kathrine, Will, Mike and Alvin, I am eternally grateful for your hard work and dedication to making the news section better. I came into the position with a dream that you helped come true. Thank you for giving me my shot.

To the news writers, I would name every one of you if I didn’t have a word count, you never stop inspiring me. YOU are what make the section special. Keep telling the stories of all community members, continue challenging yourselves. As I graduate, I am honored to have worked with all of you. I know you will make me proud.

For everyone who has asked, no, Noah and I didn’t meet at the Collegian. But we certainly fell more in love here. Working in the same office as Noah has made the Collegian even more special. I will miss sharing desk nights and chatting about how to make the paper better. Watching you grow into your role as sports editor has made me incredibly proud. You are my role model forever.

To my journalism professors who lit a fire under me. Before the pandemic, when I wasn’t in the Collegian office, I was on the fourth floor of the ILC getting edits or cracking jokes. Thank you for making me critically think and never letting me be satisfied.

When I look back at my time at UMass, I am proud. I did everything I could possibly think of: seven internships, a study abroad, leadership programs, theater, clubs and more. The only times I didn’t do something was because I applied and didn’t get it. I am so grateful for all these experiences, even when things didn’t work out the way I hoped.

The Collegian is a special place. My mind wanders to when I said goodbye to our old office in the campus center basement last fall. I remember seeing notes from old staffers, writing on the walls, moments from the 70s, 80s, 90s that were still alive in that space. I felt bonded to people I have never met. To the alumni who support me and keep the basement alive, thank you.

I knew that the Collegian was special when I walked in the room for that first time. Maybe it was the smelly couches or the bustle of the staffers, maybe it was something in me knowing I would be writing here today. Whatever it was, I am so honored to have been a part of it.

The Collegian has been a part of my identity for the past four years, but as the alumni event this semester wrapped up, it became clear to me that it always will be.

I absolutely hate goodbyes. I am going to miss so much about college. I will miss class discussions that pushed me to ask questions that have no answer. I will miss the energy of UMass. I will miss a home, a home that is disappearing as my best friends graduate alongside me.

But this isn’t really goodbye. The relationships I have formed here, the mentorships I have received, the priceless experiences, the alumni network, the belly laughs — the Collegian will be a piece of me forever. This is a story without an end.

As I write this, I sit outside with Morgan, Will and Chris, hearing the cows absolutely screaming and I feel something I can’t describe. And I don’t think I have to, because I know they feel it too.

So, I don’t know a lot. Okay, so I know the rules of AP style, I know how to add a slider on WordPress, I know which computers in the office simply couldn’t handle InDesign. But I love not knowing. I love being curious, endlessly pursuing the truth, uncovering, inspiring, creating.

So, with the messiness of years of love and life at the paper, I had the ultimate question answered: that I was meant to be a journalist.

Cassie McGrath can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @cassiemcgrath_.