While the pandemic separated us physically, it brought us together in another light

“I get by with a little help from my friends”

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Parker Peters / Daily Collegian

By Dan McGee, Assistant Sports Editor

As an undergrad, my Monday schedule usually consisted of a long day of classes, followed by hustling to either the Champions Center or McGuirk Stadium for a media session, running back to my dorm to write a story, scarfing down a quick dinner at Berk or Hamp and then running across campus to make it to a sports section meeting at the Collegian office in time.

Even though I knew that the sports meetings could sometimes only last 10 minutes, this was an integral part of each week. Sprinting down the Campus Center stairs and into the windowless office — where it often felt like time didn’t exist — brought on a sense of pride.

I first joined the Collegian after signing up at the activities expo as a freshman engineering major—a short lived academic experience to say the least. Following one of my first ever sports meetings, I remember meeting with then-sports editor Phil Sanzo to discuss why I wanted to join the Collegian. I explained to him that my parents had met at their college newspaper, and though my then-major was far from journalism, writing was something I always loved to do.

One of the first things I picked up on as I wrote for the Collegian was that you really get out of it what you put in.

Even if you are not the best writer or are in a major not remotely related to journalism, it was apparent that if you show care and effort, you will improve, become stronger and more relied upon day by day. The aforementioned sense of pride stemmed from this collectivist mentality — a group of people of various skill sets and interests put forth the effort each day to ensure that the Collegian was the best it could possibly be. What could be accomplished as a group couldn’t be done on an individual basis.

A lot of the advice I received as I started college was to ‘get involved on campus’ which is what propelled me to the activity fair that September 2017 day. But I soon realized no amount of advice can really prepare you for the true challenges that college can present.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my time at the University of Massachusetts, and I cannot take for granted the friendships I made and experiences I had. But while I was making friends, participating in extracurricular activities and even doing well in the classroom, none of this could really hold off a diminishing sense of mental health at times.

Even when you come across thousands of people a day like is typical at UMass, adjusting to college life is hard. Though I would routinely meet new people, it was still difficult not to feel alone. There were times where even though I could be texting or snapchatting a bunch of people at once, I was unable to confide my real emotions or thoughts to others.

In my sophomore year, my veiled mental and emotional distress manifested itself physically, as a bad breakout caused my self-confidence to plummet. In hindsight, failing to address my mental health more directly is probably one of my biggest regrets of college and I would encourage anyone who feels similarly to reach out and seek help. However, when Monday evenings rolled around, I would still routinely find myself hustling past the wind tunnel of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library and into the Collegian office.

Now as I depart UMass and the Collegian, I feel as confident and healthy as I ever have and that is an ode to my peers. Though the pandemic pulled us apart physically, in a way it brought us together.

While no one wanted to spend the last year at home, there was an increased sense of community as we continued to produce content, especially as a sports section without sports to write about for much of the year. Though my weekly sprint to the Collegian office was replaced by opening my laptop and joining a Zoom meeting, the level of pride I had in our section remained uncompromised.

Whether it was directly Collegian-related or not, the sports section had each other’s backs throughout this year. In an increasingly challenging time for mental health, support was shown in all kinds of ways. As we dealt with the changing landscape of the world, openness and honesty made confiding in one another — whether through Zoom, a phone call or text message — not only acceptable but encouraged. I cannot be more thankful for the kind and loving people who supported each other along the way. Put simply in the wise words of The Beatles: “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

One of the beauties of a college newspaper is that it brings a lot of people together that may never really interact otherwise. Sports people collaborate with arts people, different personalities mix but the end goal is all the same. I have no idea how many stories I wrote or how many I edited but that doesn’t matter because like I said, the collectivist mentality is what makes this place so special. And I think that togetherness is what really shined about the Collegian in 2020-21.

Thank you to anyone that has supported what we wrote over the past four years. While I am sad to be leaving, I know the future of the Collegian is in great hands and I cannot wait to see what it holds.

Dan McGee can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @TheDanMcGee.