A love letter to the paper that taught me who I am

On making up for lost time

Courtesy+of+Sophia+Gardner

Courtesy of Sophia Gardner

By Sophia Gardner, Head News Editor

I want to preface this column by saying that I am strictly a news writer. Over my four years at the Collegian, I have written for one section and one section only. I don’t know how to write about myself, and I certainly don’t know how to write about leaving the college newspaper that has defined my ambitions. So, I’m starting out simple.

This morning, I bought flowers from Trader Joe’s — $5 Gerbera Daisies that are bright pink on the inside and a sage green color around the edges. I took them home and settled them in a slightly-too-big glass vase next to my bed.

In order for them to take up residence in this spot, I had to unhouse the previous flowers — small white Chrysanthemums that had started to go dry around the petals. As I took a last look at the flowers — I felt a familiar kind of guilt. It seemed as though I could have admired the Chrysanthemums more. How do you better appreciate flowers that live on your nightstand? I don’t know, but nonetheless I felt that I could’ve done it.

This feeling is not specific to flora, though. I also had it the other night when the sky was pouring rain at 12 a.m. and I was getting ready to sleep. Rain is, in my opinion, the best sound to sleep to — but on this particular night my room was messy and I had unfinished work and I felt unable to give the rain the attention that it deserved. Even now, as I write this with my window open, I can hear the sounds of birds and frogs and people laughing, and part of me says, “you better enjoy this now — everything will be frozen again in a few months!”

I also had this feeling a few nights ago, walking to my car from the Collegian office after finishing up one of my last desk nights. I was overcome by frustration about just how little time I’d actually spent on campus. As it did for most of us seniors, save those who are graduating early, the pandemic hit halfway through my sophomore year, and I wouldn’t return to campus until I was a senior. It seemed that, if I had only done a better job of cherishing the moments I did have at the paper, I wouldn’t be so torn up about leaving.

On my drive back to Northampton, I felt myself wishing I had just a little more time: to cover a last sentimental SGA story (the beat that sparked my passion for journalism thanks to an aptly-timed impeachment trial), to see my writers continue growing into fiery journalists with each new article and to watch my assistants become the future of the paper (looking at you, Ella and Saliha).

Over the past few weeks, I’ve come to suspect that it’s impossible to feel entirely at peace with leaving something that you love. And I truly love this paper and the people who carry it.

I have a surplus of words that could describe my fellow Collegianites, but there’s one that seems to best encapsulate a quality that is uniform throughout the paper: grit. This is a group of 18 to 22-year-olds who put hundreds of hours into a college paper, usually for free, simply because they saw something special within the walls of the grimy Campus Center basement or the nicer-but-unfortunately-couchless room 310 of the Student Union and wanted a part of it. It has been an honor to spend my college years with you all.

Last year, we held the last news meeting of the spring semester on Zoom. Cassie McGrath was the news editor then, and I remember after all the writers had left, the assistant editors were lingering on the meeting, unready to say our final goodbyes. As we all sat there reminiscing, I started crying uncontrollably — a reaction that, at the time, thoroughly confused me.

Looking back, that reaction seems entirely appropriate. It was with the people on that Zoom call that I had first discovered and been encouraged to pursue the thing that I plan to do for the rest of my life.

I am eternally grateful to the people who have been with me through that process. To my assistants Alex Genovese, Saliha Bayrak, Ella Adams, Sofi Shlepakov and Irina Costache, thank you for your constant support. I am so proud of you all, and I feel immensely privileged to have watched you all grow as journalists and people. To Sara Abdelouahed, my honorary assistant news editor, thank you for continually making the Collegian a better place to be, and to Astghik Dion, for remaining by my side for the last four years.

The pandemic has made it easy to feel like my time at this paper was cut short, and looking back, it is tempting to wish I had better cherished every second spent here. The truth, though, is that I did cherish them, more so than any other event in my college experience. If I hadn’t, it would not be difficult to leave. The Collegian gave me a passion and an identity, and I will be forever indebted to this paper and to my friends here. Thank you.

Sophia Gardner was the News Editor and can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @sophieegardnerr.