Gabriel Okolski: All ready for takeoff

I am dying.

I know it’s been coming. I’ve been a marked man for four years since the humid summer day I stepped foot on a few acres of city streets in the heart of our nation’s capital. I’ve had plenty of time to prepare for this, but I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

The fact remains that in a few weeks, I will no longer be with you all.

But don’t worry. I don’t want a memorial service or a statue in my honor. After all, I am going on to a better place – a place where I will actually receive money for doing what I do, instead of having to pay for it.

Plus, no memorial or recognition could compare to what The Hatchet has bestowed on me during my college career. The paper and its staff gave me the ultimate honor by letting me work out of an old brick townhouse at 2140 G St., for four years with some of the best people I’ve ever met. In the end, you couldn’t give me anything better to mark my time here at GW.

Perhaps explosive nostalgia is kicking in right now, because it certainly wasn’t fun all the time. I started at the bottom, in this case as a news reporter, with high hopes that were quickly crushed by a harsh and demanding editor. The work was tough and the words I actually wrote rarely survived the meat grinder we call editing.

But damn, was it interesting. I remember my first reporting assignment, where I interviewed some pretty insane protestors at a small demonstration in front of the White House. Nothing says ‘welcome to journalism’ more than the extended mangled stump of a grizzled-looking hippy waiting for you to shake his deformed hand.

I suppose I’ve loved it so much because journalism is all about people. GW is largely a school for this realm – politics, history, languages, media and all of GW’s other strong points rely mostly on individual interacting with individual. And at this multifaceted buffet of human interaction, The Hatchet is probably the best place to sample it all.

Soon I was proudly calling my parents to tell them of the latest major event I covered or the newest big-name personality that I interviewed. And of course there will always be a soft spot in my heart for the first job I actually attained on my own merit – campus news editor at the best damn college paper in the country.

Many students don’t believe that editorial positions at The Hatchet count as a real job, and I invite these people to spend a week with one of the news editors. Although I got paid for what I was doing, it was little consolation for having my life brutally taken from me and having my time consumed by a cell phone, a reporter’s notebook and that same demanding editor who helped prepare me for the position.

I feel as if too many people in this world are inclined to vomit uncontrollably at the thought of hard work, and judging by some of the workplaces I’ve seen so far, I don’t blame them. But when you work with so many motivated and fun people, hard work becomes a driving force and an enjoyable passion in life. The Hatchet did just that for me. Being able to make irreverent remarks in the office is something I will especially miss in the professional world, assuming of course that I don’t want a pink slip and a lawsuit from a co-worker.

So many things in life ultimately serve as a vehicle to get us somewhere else. And sometimes if you’re not going in the right direction, you need to get off and take another route. So was the dilemma I faced junior year, being forced to choose between editorial responsibilities at the paper or an internship at NASA, a lifelong dream of mine.

When I realized that space and aviation, not journalism, is my true calling, The Hatchet knew to let go, just as an understanding parent would. For not only me, but also so many others, this paper serves as the beginning to a path of discovery. For this, I cannot be more grateful.

Also like an understanding parent, The Hatchet took me back, letting me write regularly and participate with the editorial board junior year, and allowing me to come back as opinions editor senior year. It may be difficult, but it’s so important for people to let go and do what they need to do to be in a better place. If my experience is any indication, there are always ways to stay involved with all your passions.

And such is the case this year, during which The Hatchet has taught me yet another lesson about carefully evaluating your opinions and having what it takes to back them up. In a society where even young people anchor themselves to one ideology, it’s nice to know there’s still a place where you are forced to question your beliefs and make sure you are on the right track.

Every person who has made a difference in my life knows whom he or she is, but no reflection piece would be complete without some obligatory shout-outs. Thank you Mom, Dad and Christian, for supporting me in every decision I’ve made, even if you didn’t agree with it. I know my being far from home was tough on you, but I’m a better person because of it.

Thank you Barnett (the aforementioned crazy editor) for putting me through the grinder. It was the most helpful thing anyone has ever done for me.

Thank you Rachel for understanding when I had to drop everything to go spend time with the other special someone in my life – the red brick townhouse at 2140 G St.

Ryan and Caitlin, I’ll never forget the laughs we had at some of those news meetings. Brandon, thanks for being my most loyal reporter and a good friend. Kyle, thanks for teaching me about nuance and perception being more important than reality. Nick, thanks for my camera – it’s going to provide me with plenty of good times. Natalie, thanks for putting up with constant nagging during production. Lizzie and Diana, thanks for taking the reins – I know you guys will do great. And although I’m not naming you all, thanks to everyone on staff for making production nights something to look forward to twice a week.

So while I may be passing into the next world very soon, don’t worry about me. I’ve had a life at GW that most people could only dream of. I wish it could keep going, but I know there are good things coming for me in the future. And of course it’s all thanks to the college newspaper that made my life worth living for four great years.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.