As if we’d never say goodbye

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By Ana Pietrewicz, Editor-in-Chief

It’s September 21, 2021, today. Time is 11:13 a.m. I’m in a campaigns and elections class and just put out a call for student sources to email me. Students have been protesting outside Theta Chi for two days and a Massachusetts Daily Collegian reporter has been at every protest.

The only thing I can think to do is write.

This is my senior column, which feels weird to say now. I’m going to keep adding to this throughout the year, because I know at the end of the year I’ll probably be annoyed by school and not want to be sentimental. But this moment right now feels special.

A lot of the time, I get tired of reporters saying that “we are the voice of the people” and all that. When people say that, it seems like that’s the only way to validate choosing this masochistic career. But as I watch my coworkers, my friends, record history and hold the University of Massachusetts (spelled out on first reference, per AP style) accountable, I’m reminded that it might be true.

Today is December 9, 2021. It’s 6:25 p.m. I have one of my final essays open in another window, to be dealt with later. Classes ended yesterday and the crunch is on. I haven’t opened this document since the end of September, and it’s the first time I’ve felt compelled to do so since then. Last night I watched my last-first Western Massachusetts snowfall. Obviously, I’m feeling reflective as the semester draws to a close. So, let’s reflect.

It’s been a hard semester on the Collegian front. I felt ready to give up more than a few times. But we made it through in (mostly) one piece. And as I drove down Pine Street today, heading home from Cushman Market and Café and passing the wide-open farm fields, seeing the fresh snow still on the ground and shimmering in the sunset over the mountains, I felt grateful. I spent the rest of my drive back to campus thinking about the semester, my years at the Collegian and how beautiful Western Mass is this time of year. And for the first time in a while, I was reminded to be grateful for where I am, and grateful for this life.

Yeah, I know, I know, gross. Sentimental. Whatever. But after a semester that, to be blunt, sucked, I was reminded once again of why I’m here.

I was cleaning out my childhood bedroom a few summers back and found a college newspaper from one of my college visits before I had even decided where I wanted to go. It was their last edition for the year, and it was full of senior columns. They were filled with memories and references that were probably not accessible to most readers. I found myself reading and thinking, “This is weird, who cares?” I had no idea that I would join a college paper or how much it would change me. Now, in their shoes, I think I get it.

I shouldn’t waste more time writing my senior column when I have finals deadlines rapidly approaching. I’ll probably check in again soon. See you next semester.

It’s Wednesday, March 30, 2022. It’s been a while, senior column. Sorry, I’ve been a little busy. Time is 3:29 p.m. There are 45 days until I graduate college. Tonight is the second night of debates for next year’s editor-in-chief. Forgive me for reflecting again, but I can’t help thinking about my own debates – the nerves, the elation and uncertainty that came with getting elected. It’s been a year since then, although it feels like just weeks.

I have to start preparing to graduate, and that means starting my goodbyes.

Goodbyes have never been easy for me. I tend to come off as a callous and un-emotional person, but it’s easier to front than to admit it hurts to leave behind something you love. It’s easier to just say, “see you soon,” instead of facing the end.

This year has been so frustrating at times. I feel in some ways that I’ve failed – I haven’t been able to do all the things I wanted to do, to leave the Collegian better than I found it. At the very least, I know I am leaving the paper in great hands, whoever is elected tonight.

It’s less weird to say that this is my senior column now, but I still don’t feel ready to jump off that Commencement stage without a safety net. If I figure it out before this column is due, I’ll get back to you.

Thursday, April 14, 2022. 4:39 p.m. I think this will be my last entry.

For those of you who haven’t graced the Collegian’s hallowed walls, we have an enormous collection of archives dating back to 1933. Almost one hundred years of written history sits right next to us while we edit each night. I was combing through the archives from the early 70’s earlier. Surrounding the Associated Press wires about the Vietnam War and Watergate were the banal reminders that UMass has always been UMass – even then, students were still dissatisfied with the brutalist architecture. The construction-du-jour everyone was complaining about was that of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library. I was reminded of that same memory of finding the senior columns from another college newspaper, and of my favorite Kurt Vonnegut quote: “So it goes.” Life continues on, no matter how much we protest it.

At the time I’m concluding my final Collegian article, I still don’t know what I’ll be doing next year (so please stop asking). I should be hearing back from graduate school programs next week, and I had a job interview earlier. I’m happy writing this in a state of limbo – a mosquito frozen in amber for the generations after me to examine half-heartedly: “This piece captures a specimen on the edge of independent adulthood, an awkward baby bird in a cap and gown.”

Maybe my future self will read this in a few years and wonder why I was being so melodramatic.

The Collegian has been my home-away-from-home since the first week of my freshman year in the fall of 2018. For those of you who knew me during my freshman and sophomore years, the Collegian was, in essence, my actual home. I spent more time in the office than I did in my own dorm room. I didn’t want to be alone. At the Collegian, I could always count on someone to come in and talk. It was always me and the green-and-blue linoleum (and maybe a sleeping janitor or two). The thought of returning to the Collegian kept me in school during – and even before – COVID, through my own struggles with my mental health. I had something to look forward to if I came back, and I could stay in the office for as long as I needed until I felt okay again. I will miss that indescribable magic the Collegian seems to hold, that feeling of belonging and the sense of coming home.

The Collegian holds some of my most special memories from college – finding discount parking in Springfield before a Bernie Sanders rally, reporting on a possibly-unprecedented SGA impeachment trial, fighting with InDesign, laughing until I cried, eating a gross amount of pizza from Harvest and even somehow falling in love under the old asbestos tiles (hi Parker). Our little newspaper has occupied my every day for four years. It’s changed me forever, for better or worse. I still don’t think I’m ready to say goodbye, but with less than a month left of my college career it might just be time.

But wait! I have to say some thank-you’s first!

Thank you to Tess Halpern, my first Op/Ed editor, for giving me a chance, and thank you to the entire Op/Ed team – you will always be my first family at the Collegian. To Zach Polak and Leigh Appelstein, without whom the Collegian probably would have collapsed this year. To McKenna Premus, for balancing my crazy. To all my amazing head editors and assistants this past year. To anyone who has ever given me advice, solicited or not. And to the Collegian comment trolls, for giving me the fire as a freshman to keep writing.

To anyone who made it to the end of this, I commend you (and to the staff members editing this, I’m sorry). To Saliha Bayrak and Joey Aliberti, I wish you the best of luck next year – not that you need it, I know you’ll do great.

Thank you for everything, Massachusetts Daily Collegian, and I’ll see you real soon.

Ana Pietrewicz was the Editor-in-Chief and can be reached at [email protected].