A fond farewell to a friend

Struggling to say goodbye

Photo+courtesy+of+Astghik+Dion

Photo courtesy of Astghik Dion

By Astghik Dion, Arts Editor

I have always struggled with goodbyes. I remember clinging on to my middle school best friend in Florida. We talked there in her in-ground pool, her bright blond hair becoming twinged green from the chlorine. I would soon be moving to Massachusetts, a place I could only associate with the Pilgrims. I stayed furious with my mother for the next four years for ripping everything I loved away from me.

It wouldn’t be until college that I could look at this cold, cutthroat, fast-paced and hungry state with admiration and adoration. One of the biggest reasons for that is the Collegian.

As a senior in college, you become afraid to tell people your year because you know far too well the two questions that will follow.

  1. Are you excited to graduate?
  2. Do you know what you’ll be doing after graduation?

No. And I don’t know. How could anyone be excited? How could anyone have any sliver of certainty in what life is about when you’re no longer a student?

When the joy behind something is so vigorous, when the happiness that you’re living in swallows you whole, it’s easy to forget that at some point it has to spit you out. I am terrible at letting things go. I feel like a hoarder. I find myself collecting people and places and experiences and stories I cannot bear to let go of. If I loosen my fist up the slightest bit, everything that makes me who I am will slip right through my fingers. Everything I have to show for my 21 years on this planet are the stories that I will tell.

You feel the peak, though. You know when some things cannot possibly get any better, yet we are greedy creatures with vices. We keep milking the cow that has nothing left to offer. Right now, in April 2022, less than a month before my graduation, I can feel the swelling.

The swelling of joy as it expands further and further, I won’t let it pop this time. I won’t ruin a goodbye by choking it with terrified hands, attempting to hold on to something that is no longer there.

It’s better to leave things this way, and maybe find excitement in the next farewell that will frighten me.

I have a faint idea of what I’ll be doing after graduation, the typical job and where I’ll be living combo that we all give as answers to shut out interrogators and our own thoughts. I have passions of the logical sense, of course.

Here at the Collegian, I have felt the greatest honor to lead such an exceptional and talented group of arts writers — being an editor is a passion. I have felt the rewarding sentiment that follows after interviewing a group of young, local artists, knowing because of my writing even just a few more people will be in tune to them — writing local arts stories is a passion. I have captured countless photos detailing the music scene here at the University of Massachusetts — photography is a passion.

Truly, I can’t envision myself doing anything other than what I am pursuing now. But I believe that with enough practice, I could find joy in doing just about anything. My true passion does not lie in the things that I do, but rather the people involved in the experiences.

Having been the head arts editor for the Collegian over the past year, I combed through many awe-inspiring stories and was able to help many of my writers find their journalistic footing. Yet, it was much less about what I did in my role and more about their growth as journalists. Every Tuesday, I joined my incredible assistant editors — Molly Hamilton, Catherine Hurley and James Rosales —  in listening to a slew of pitches ranging from mainstream cinema movie reviews to niche reports on grungy basement shows. Art IS passion, and no one talks about how difficult it is to encapsulate another person’s passion projects into the written word. I could not be prouder of how far the Arts section has come, both in its proficiency as journalists and in its confidence regarding the material that calls out to them.

Throughout my four years here at UMass, the main stories I gravitated toward were local artist profiles. My journalistic career was centered around speaking to regular students such as myself, who were simply doing something super dope. I have always believed if you have a platform, a loud voice, it is your duty to use it to amplify those of others. To speak to so many talented artists from so many different walks of life, to hear their stories and capture their presence has been a blessing unlike any other. It’s all I want to do, always.

No matter the field that I pursue, my desire remains in listening to stories. I love to find pieces of myself in someone I’ve never met before.

I’ve been dreading this section of the column. The part that means so much to me that I am afraid my hurried words could never do it justice. I will merely say this. This past year, I have spent endless nights in the Student Union Room 210, my head getting sucked into my laptop screen clicking through countless Oxford commas. I have felt exhausted, aimless, stressed, without purpose and almost always without hope. Yet all of these feelings are immediately drowned out the second the door to the office is opened, and I am no longer alone. Having my Collegian peers alongside me, some of the brightest and most hardworking people I have ever met, often makes me feel like I’m in a coming-of-age movie.

People who can tackle stories centered around sexual assault with the utmost elegance and justice. People who receive four hours of sleep a night because they are balancing two more jobs in addition to their editorial positions. People who dance so gracefully outside of the office and lead groups of writers with the same sophistication during their meetings.

I grapple with the reality of it all. What did I possibly do to make me so lucky to be able to learn and work with people I know are going to change the world? I don’t cry very often. It’s something that has never come easily to me. Yet, many times, sitting there in that office, I have been overcome by such a feeling of gratitude that my eyes glaze over and my bottom lip begins to shake.

For all I know, I could be working with you all on a strawberry field and feel just as fulfilled as I do now. To work with such a magnificent group of journalists has been a blessing. I am excited to graduate, I suppose, because I am excited to see all the beautiful lives you all will lead after this. Whether reporting for the New York Times or producing a show for NBC, whether coaching high school basketball or traveling to someplace you have never been to find the piece of you that you’ve been missing since you were a kid — you have all made me so proud to know you. Thank you, and a fond farewell.

Astghik Dion was the Head Arts Editor and can be reached at [email protected]