Each year, graduating editors are given 30 final column inches - "30" was historically used to signify the end of a story - to reflect on their time at The Hatchet, published in the final issues of the year.
There are many things you want to do with this space, these 30 inches you get as a graduating Hatchet staffer. It's yours to use or misuse however you like. You can tell stories and make jokes. You can say goodbye. You can make them remember you.
And that's what you want to do when you sit down to write it, once you get over the fact that you don't want to write it at all, that you don't want that finality. You want to write something great and transcendent, something that will resonate, something that will outlive your tenure and stay in the collective consciousness after you graduate. You want to be remembered.
But then you realize you're getting it all wrong. You do that a lot. You think about the photos pinned to the bulletin boards in The Hatchet's townhouse, all those faces smiling and laughing and drinking margaritas, and how you don't know a damn thing about them. You think about how soon Louis will take your spot, just as you took Alberg's, who took Joanna's, who took Jake's, and so on, and that the year after that someone new will take his, and The Hatchet will roll on, strong as ever - a high here, a low there on a steady journey that began long before your byline was ever printed in its pages. The beauty is not in the individual. The beauty is in the institution.
So as you sit down to write your last piece, however impossible that may seem, you resign yourself to the fact that it will not be great, will not transcend, will not be remembered. Instead you take stock, run through three years you'll never forget, and think about.
. everything Joanna did for you and how you owe her more than you'll ever get a chance to repay. She took you under her wing when you were just a quiet sophomore with little clue and even less experience and showed you the ropes of this sportswriting thing and you wouldn't be writing this without her.
. how funny it is to think you were ever wary of an unfamiliar editor named Alberg, and how funny he was in his own pun-derful right. That guy could write - still can, probably - and made you want to write too, but more importantly he became one of the best friends you made at this paper and someone with whom you hope to never lose touch.
. coming in around the same time as Byers and getting the good fortune of being able to succeed simply by following in the wake of his never-ending achievement. He spoiled you with the most trusting relationship anyone can ask from an editor and if anyone would gamble with you on future success, you'd bet your house on him.
. getting to know and befriend and goof around with Louis, watching him grow into his role and knowing you were leaving the keys to the section in great hands. You hope no one's fooled by the goofy Cubs hat because that kid's gonna be good.
. the endless teasing and sibling-like pestering with Scire, whose approval and respect you always sought. She was almost as good at keeping you in check as she was at her job, which is saying a lot.
. how just when you'd be able to leave for the evening, you'd pop in to say bye to Rachel, Erica, and Connor in prodo and get caught up for another half hour talking Snuggies and Kobe and kittens because everyone in that room was so much fun to be around.
. all those ed board meetings with Justin, Lyndsey, Tim, and Hadas, and how even though you got distracted and free associated, they were all so bright and inspired and opinionated that they cranked out one quality editorial after another nonetheless.
. covering basketball games in 24 arenas in 11 states, the road trips you shared with the photogs - Auburn with Ellis, cheesesteaks with Viktors, the Wilmington Walmart and Hooters with Anne - and how much you enjoyed just sitting in their corner of the office with them and Chris and Michelle.
. staying in the townhouse way too late, listening to Wallace and Anna watch Always Sunny and trying to seem cool by talking music with them and Caroline. Sometimes you'd be there so late Nacin would come in and you'd try to talk hockey, too.
. the staffers that graduated before you did, how much you valued Jake and Roper's sparse praise, hanging out with Abnos in the summer and how when you were hired as an editor in the middle of your junior year, the seniors on staff - Alexa, Diana, Nat, Pacitti, et. al - made you feel so warmly welcome within the editorial family.
. the staffers that will be there after you leave, how you got to see French and Cahn go from underclassmen to the paper's next generation of leaders, and how you know someday you'll remember they did a damn good job.
. all the student-athletes, coaches and administrators who let you try to tell their stories and how you couldn't have written anything worth the ink without their help. You decide to put the veil of objectivity aside for once and let everyone know how many good and hard-working people make up this school's athletic department and teams, and you hope you were fair to them.
. how even though it seemed like The Hatchet took over your life, you were lucky enough to have an incredible group of people outside that townhouse - Joe, Kevin, Nik, Jon, Allie, and the rest of the gang - and how you will always love them for the garage, the birthdays, the Christmas parties, and everything in between.
. the invaluable support and encouragement you got from Mom, Dad, Jaime, and the rest of your family and friends back home and how you cannot thank them enough - for this and for everything.
. the one image hanging of you in the office: a tracing Justin did of a photo of you and French earlier this year, and how should it survive just a few short years, some staffer will look at it and not know who it is. They won't know anything you wrote, anything you did, how this newspaper was the best goddamn thing that could have happened to you and how you came to think of that townhouse like home and the people in it like family. They won't care. They'll be a whole new crop of talented people making memories of their own. No one will remember you. And that's the beauty of it. -30-