Michelle Rattinger: Staying focused

by Michelle Rattinger

Senior Photo Editor Michelle Rattinger fights the urge to direct her own photo shoot after years of being on the other side of the lens. She has been taking photos for The Hatchet since her freshman year.
Media Credit: Marie McGrory | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Senior Photo Editor Michelle Rattinger fights the urge to direct her own photo shoot after years of being on the other side of the lens. She has been taking photos for The Hatchet since her freshman year.

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.

I’ve pictured my last day at the townhouse several times.

Sometimes I’m kicking open the front door with that annoying, trigger happy alarm (sorry, UPD) and launching myself into a leprechaun-like jump and ankle click combo. Sometimes Francis is dragging me as I frantically clutch to our weathered desk, searching for any excuse to stay and tone just one more photo. Either way, I really hope the general public does not witness it.

As of publication, I will graduate in 20 days. But even with that, moving and losing my coveted townhouse swipe access combined, I know nothing will keep me away from the photo nook that has been my home for four years now.

The truth is, I always wanted to be a writer. I studied journalism in high school and even got into a college for its writing and publishing program. But my life took an unexpected turn when I stumbled into my high school’s darkroom. Maybe it was the dim, red light or the strong smell of chemicals affecting my brain – something in me had changed, and I was hooked. There wasn’t a day my senior year of high school that my hands didn’t smell like fixer.

Fast-forward to my second week of classes freshman year at GW. I’m in The Hatchet townhouse for the first time, sitting on the same worn-in couch I’d be working across from for the next four years. Only I didn’t know that then. I met a girl named Anne, a bubbly, bright-orange-converse-wearing, belly-showing girl who ripped my portfolio to shreds. Ouch.

Who knew I would be brought up as her co-editor later that year? Not me, the sweaty-palmed, nervous novice trying to lower her heart rate in the corner. Anne, thank you for your honesty, your stories and your invaluable advice. The office is too quiet without you.

Viktors, I still remember the day you hired me as assistant photo editor, and it’s one of my happiest memories. I ran from the University darkroom, actually – not fully understanding I was both literally and metaphorically sprinting from one form of photography into the next: The digital world would become my newest venture. With my heart in my throat, and my head spinning, I accepted. Thank you Vik, Anne and Alex for believing in me.

Over the next few years, I climbed the ranks to photo editor and then finally to senior photo editor. It’s been a wild ride. I met the people who would become my best friends. I lost touch with others along the way. I got an iPhone and haven’t turned it off since. I got anxiety from never turning off my iPhone. I invented the perfect combination of ingredients for GW Deli iced coffee (Hi, Joe!). I’ve nursed too many a caffeine headache. I’ve photographed the president and vice president of the U.S., the entire Clinton family, John Mayer and Jane Goodall. I’ve photographed a break-dancing 67-year-old and helped to create the infamous Hatchet men’s calendar. Confession time: Not all the photos were destroyed.

I’m a psychology major and a photojournalist, so there isn’t much my eye misses. I’ve been lucky enough to witness four staff change-overs, and every year, I had the honor of meeting more people who amaze and inspire me.

Francis and Jordan, you stood out from the start. Leaving this place will be much easier knowing the photo section is in such capable hands. Ashley, beyond looking absolutely ravishing in red, you have brought a fresh style and perspective to this section. Push yourself next year and always follow your instincts. I’m so proud of all of you.

My dearest Frannypants, thank you for #walking #me #home #every night, even though you have a #bicycle. Thanks for always having my back. Whose sandwich is that? It looks amazing. J-Dawg, although I avert my eyes every time you do your signature “twiggle,” know I really do think it’s hilarious. I could do without the spelling out of the alphabet with your hips, though. You bring an energy and lightness to the townhouse that has been greatly missed since you left. As always, stay focused.

To my team of relentless and ridiculously goofy photographers, you are the reason I’ve stayed year after year. I’ve proudly watched many of you grow from newbies to vets, and I'm so excited to see what next year has in store. Now, who wants Snapshot?

Rachel, Lyndsey, Annu, Miranda – I bunched you together because you all have an incredible ability to bring a smile to my face even on the worst of days. You are amazing journalists and invaluable friends. Looking forward to summer dates.

Priya, we fell in love in a hopeless place, and that place was a strange man’s Escalade. I have a feeling the paper has yet to see your full potential. Be strong, and don’t lose yourself in the chaos.

Gabe, your sexy face puts all sexy faces to shame. Meeting you on that fateful bhangra-filled night – well, for me anyway– was truly destiny.

Teams news, culture and sports, can I haz more info plz? Here’s to you never having to hear me utter those words again. Your ferocity and dedication is what drives this paper.

Lauren, thank you for trusting in my judgment, even if that means running boobs on Page 2.

My Marie, you’ve saved me in more ways than you’ll ever know. Thanks for being desperate enough to ask me to be your roommate. I can’t really explain the effect you have on those around you, radiating light and a fierce passion I only hope to emulate some day. Morgan, thanks for being my wifey. When we’re older and have jobs and I’m babysitting your kids (shh, this is MY piece), we will look back on these days and laugh.

Emmybuggs, you are so vair vair talented. Can’t wait 'till you sing at my wedding. I love you forever.

Stephen, I’m really glad I took that last minute assignment one year ago. You could say it was my favorite decision. And yes, I can turn my phone off now.

Mom and Dad, I love you soooooooo much. I hope to one day reach the level of brilliance and kindness you both are so loved for. Brittsky, I’m flying to Illinois in two weeks to watch you become a college graduate. You are brilliant, beautiful and the best wombmate I’ve ever had. Al, I feel like the luckiest person in the world to have seen you go through half of your college career firsthand.

So, did I march out of that door with a heavy heart and a strong look to the future, or did I cry until someone had to escort me out of the building? Here’s to hoping the truth lies somewhere in the between. -30-

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