Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

This paper has become my home, and I can’t bear to think about it

Coping with the loss of passed time
Saliha Bayrak / Daily Collegian

Lately, I’ve been sitting in the office of the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, silently looking around and wondering what led everyone to drop their free time to sit around this room. I’ll especially look at the freshman and think about all the moments that this paper will bring them in the future, and how they’re just entering this unique world. I usually get too emotional to finish this thought experiment.

When I first joined the Collegian my freshman year, still looking for what my social niche would be, I half-dipped my toes and wrote my articles with lukewarm passion. In 2020, we all got sent home and I fell into a deep pit of anxiety, obsessively watching the pandemic death count go up daily or doom scrolling through the news, becoming paralyzed by a sense of helplessness. I grew a desire to become a sacrificial lamb. I dedicated all my time to work and lost myself in the writing, trying anything to bury a sense of dread.

The Student Union, home to the student-led groups at the University of Massachusetts, became my second home when we returned to campus in fall 2021. I was introduced to many different worlds through my reporting for the Collegian. The world of students who had to work full time to support their parents during COVID-19, students who were struggling to overcome trauma from war to get an education, students who marched to have their voices heard by the UMass administration and countless other realities that I had otherwise never been in touch with. I was also introduced to my community of fellow aspiring journalists, people who worked endless hours with no promise that their work would get any exposure.

At our little office, fellow student journalists and I would spend hours working late into the night; writing, reporting, editing, rewriting and editing again. I know this selfless hard work is familiar to everyone who has passed through the Collegian.

When anything happens in our community, we are the first to bear witness and document it. When someone has something to say, we are the first to listen. We sacrifice so much of our free time just for the sake of storytelling, even if many people don’t pay attention. These reporters have taught me that journalism is not about recognition or praise.

I didn’t have as many demons to bury when I got back on campus, but I still wholeheartedly delved into this world. When you attend a school with tens of thousands of students, it can be hard to feel like your voice is heard, that what you do matters. In a world of nearly 8 billion, it seems almost impossible. But on those nights that I left the Student Union after hours of working beside my peers, I knew then why they all worked so hard: it was about not giving in to that feeling of helplessness. I finally felt like I had some agency and impact, even if it was just on this campus, within the little private world that we inhabited at the paper. At the Daily Collegian, everything you do matters, perhaps even a little too much.

I believe the thing that defines one’s college experience — and our experience at the Collegian —  is the existence of these private worlds, with experiences, places and things only the people who are in that world truly understand. How do you explain to someone who has never attended UMass why Orchard Hill is the place you go when it first snows, or how the sunset looks the best at the top of the Campus Center parking garage, or the experience of leaving the Student Union feeling empowered, like you might have some impact on this world? How do you explain to someone who has never been part of the Collegian that we rarely check how many people even read our stories? But there is always that hope in the back of our heads that maybe someday, one person will pick up something we’ve written and have their world changed forever.

As editor-in-chief, I’ve felt overworked, invisible and beat down so many times. But knowing I can go to the office, sit around the table for hours, laugh and talk about anything and work with people that care about something as much as I do, helps it all make sense. Maybe you’ll see those same people on the weekend, less tired, to watch a band play in someone’s basement, grab something to eat at a local student business or have a picnic by Puffers Pond. Only we truly understand this precious pocket of time and space that we have carved out, know it so intimately and love it so dearly.

I can’t bear to think about the good times, the ones that are stuck in the past. I can’t bear to think about that after today, we’ll all become part of different worlds; maybe the world of professional journalists, writers or artists. But this was it — we only get one chance at this thing. We’ll never be freshmen again, hesitantly walking into the office for the first time, hoping we’ll gain the attention and affection of the older writers. Hoping we’ll make some friends, or that we’ll eventually write something that matters.

I can’t bear to think about the fact that there will be a last time that I leave our Collegian office, saying goodbye to a group of familiar faces. Thank you, Joey, for being a kind, patient friend and sidekick through it all; I don’t have a bad thing to say about you. Leigh and Julia, I’m grateful to have people who will work and giggle late into the night with me, and to have such hardworking women to look up to. Thank you to Ella, for going into this as a scared new writer with me, becoming assistants together and remaining my best friend through it all. Luke and Grace, I couldn’t have pictured a better ending to my Collegian experience than becoming friends with you two, and I can leave the paper under your leadership with peace of mind. I can’t name everyone, but you have all changed my life in more ways than you could know.

Maybe we don’t have to learn how to cope with this as a loss. This world will always be with us, long after we graduate and after we’ve become part of different ones. It will live on in our shared memories, pictures and stories. Haven’t stories been our thing all along? I am just grateful to have been part of the Daily Collegian, even for a brief moment in time.

Saliha Bayrak was the editor-in-chief. She can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @salihabayrak_.

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