A few weeks ago, I went on a bike ride down to the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms. It was a warm, sunny day – one of the first we had after the six-month wet/cold/grey/windy bonanza our nation’s capital calls “winter.” On my way back, a strange feeling came over me. My baby blue Free Spirit behemoth of a commuter bike seemed about 10 pounds lighter. I moved faster, hardly needing to push on the pedals to glide easily down the sidewalk. The experience lasted less than two seconds, but it felt like I was sailing on air.
That’s because I kind of was. For the first time in three years biking in D.C., the wind was at my back.
Then just as quickly as it arrived, my helpful breeze was gone. Whipping around faster than a helicopter wing, it soon returned to its normal role: blowing directly full speed into my face. I stood up on my pedals, struggled to climb up Virginia Avenue, and was instantly reminded of how much I hate this city and this school.
I’m sure many of you had relatives like I did who continually reminded you all through high school that college is “the best time of your life.” You probably believed it too. Hell, I did. I had heard some of my Uncle Jonathan’s stories from college, and judging from those it seemed like a pretty fun proposition (especially that part about playing golf in the hallways of the freshman dorm . I never really got around to doing that here).
Now, after five-and-a-half academic years at three different institutions of higher learning, I have a different view. If my college experience was truly as good as my life is going to get, then I fear mightily for my future.
Don’t roll your eyes. College just sucked for me, OK? It sucked from the very beginning, when every single one of my applications came back rejected only a few months before I was set to graduate high school. It sucked when I had to waste my senior summer at Harvard, busting my ass on three four- credit classes that have done absolutely jack for me since I took them. It sucked when I lived alone in London as a freshman at King’s College, alienated and nearly friendless, forced to study a subject I had zero interest in while following all my friends’ wild freshman party fun times via Facebook. It sucked submitting transfer applications to 22 schools that year, and it sucked more to get rejected by 21 of them.
But more than anything, it sucked coming to GW expecting to get a well-rounded education with a well-rounded student body in a city whose culture and way of life just might resonate with my own, and being wholly disappointed on every single count.
So, no, I won’t look back on my time in college as the best years of my life. Not even close.
But I am pretty sure I’ll see my time at The Hatchet that way.
It’s actually kind of funny I feel that way now that I think about it. I’m pretty sure a requisite part of being on production staff is that by the time you’re done you must be so sick of killing every single Wednesday and Sunday that you simply can’t wait to get as far away from 2140 G St. as possible.
But for me, the townhouse was everything GW wasn’t. People there cared about things other than their careers and moving up in the Washington bureaucracy. I was given the tools to learn how to be a better journalist there. We even threw in a few parties, some intramural sports and a road trip to the beach for good measure. The Hatchet was more college to me than college itself.
But it went beyond that, too. More than any location on campus, the Hatchet townhouse became the epicenter for my change as a person. It was where I first arrived – a bitter WRGW outcast who wanted to write and had done some designing oh so long ago.
It was where I met Brendan Polmer – the arts editor that would somehow be totally OK with any design or headline idea I came up with, even if I was just joking around (That’s how the headline “LOLOMFGHAHA” actually got into the paper).
It was where I cracked my first terrible joke during page one headline time. I’m not sure exactly what the joke was, but chances are it had something to do with your mom.
It was where I learned that photographers get really, really pissed if you do re-crops without asking them.
It was where my Nissan Versa was dubbed “Hatchet 4” for the caravan to Ocean City.
It was where I inadvertently tried to sneak in a false depiction of an unrealistic dystopia as the lead graphic on the front page of our first issue of the year.
It was where it seemed every staff member gathered on election night, while I sat around and absorbed the scene as much as I could. Later, it was where I took off on a mad dash toward Pennsylvania Avenue with a camera . even though I had no idea how to use said camera.
It was where I stressed out for 10 straight hours putting together the election timeline.
It was where I discovered what the difference between a Snuggie and a Slanket is. Wait, is there a difference?
It was where I spent valuable production time closely analyzing photographs to see if a certain object looks like a penis.
Speaking of penises, it was where Freckles peed on the floor. Possibly more than once.
It was where I consumed approximately 5,986 cans of Arizona’s Arnold Palmer beverage, 3,987 pulled chicken BBQ sandwiches, 2,123 chicken breast clubs and 1,265 bags of jalapeño chips (all from GW Deli).
And finally, it was where I had the privilege to work with some of the most supremely talented and creative journalists I could ever hope to be associated with. Their work and enthusiasm for this paper has not only kept the neighborhood informed and updated, but has also made everyone involved with The Hatchet better at what they do, myself included. There hasn’t been a single class I’ve taken in journalism that even comes close to what The Hatchet gave me. For that, I will be forever thankful.
Hatcheteers, I’d like our bunch to take on any other college paper in the nation in a knockdown drag-out tussle of journalistic skill and knowledge. In volleyball . maybe not. In any case, just know that I love all of you, and that when the time comes for me to bike away from the townhouse for the last time one week from now, my only thoughts will be when I’ll be able to return and see you all again.
With any luck, the wind will be at my back that time. –30–
This article appeared in the April 20, 2009 issue of the Hatchet.