Joanna Shapes: Life no longer on the road

I came to GW for The Hatchet.

There were other reasons too, like the fact that the school was just about the perfect distance from my home in southern Connecticut, that it was in the heart of a city, and that it had the kind of journalism program I was looking for.

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But perhaps the biggest drawing point of the entire school was The Hatchet.

I had heard about it from an older friend who had gone to my high school and had joined The Hatchet when he arrived at GW.

“It is one of the best college papers in the country,” he told me. “You want to come here and you want to write for The Hatchet.”

I was convinced.

So off I went to live in Thurston Hall and take journalism classes and make new friends and, most of all, write for The Hatchet.

Looking back almost four years later, this was both the smartest and dumbest decision I ever made.

It’s not that I regret coming to GW. I love Washington, I met a lot of really great people and I feel like I got a pretty good education. But choosing which college to go to based on an extracurricular activity was a pretty big leap of faith. I could have written one story, hated it, and that would have been it.

That didn’t end up being the case. I loved writing for The Hatchet’s sports section when I was a freshman. I felt like I was involved in something that had bigger meaning, I was learning what it meant to be responsible for your work and I learned to grow up fast.

My second weekend of college, I was sent to George Mason to cover a soccer game. I was told to take public transportation, which meant the Metro and then a shuttle to the campus. What I wasn’t told was that the return shuttle stopped running at 8 p.m., which was before the soccer game ended. So to get back to D.C. I had to just find my way. This led to grabbing a ride with a Dominos pizza delivery guy to a 7-Eleven so I could get out enough cash at an ATM for a cab. Then I waited for the cab for 45 minutes on the steps of the 7-Eleven while hysterically crying because I had no idea where the hell I was.

That was the first of many, many trips I would take on The Hatchet’s behalf.

I would take six – yes, six – forms of transportation to get to Palo Alto, Calif., for the women’s NCAA tournament. I would endure below-zero temperatures in Olean, N.Y., when I covered both basketball teams at St. Bonaventure. I would deal with a whiny photographer who was always upset about something. And I would meet one of the nicest coaches as well as one of the sourest coaches to ever roam the sidelines. These things don’t even begin to scratch the surface.

But each one of these experiences taught me something new. I grew a thicker skin and realized that it might suck at some points, but somehow life always seems to go on, regardless of how cliché that sounds.

So I toiled away, on the road with the basketball teams in the winter, and at 2140 G St. the rest of the year. It was my life, and for the most part, I loved it. I made a lot of really good friends in that townhouse and learned so much more there than I did in the classroom.

But it’s not like I didn’t get to experience other things in college because of all the time and energy I put into The Hatchet.

There was the time I jumped out a second-floor window of a Dakota dorm room because UPD had shown up to a party I was at and a couple crazy friends who didn’t want to get caught convinced me to make the leap with them. I still have the scars.

There was the time I spent all night in the little park across from Thurston with a roommate because we didn’t want to leave our incoherent friend there alone when he was too drunk to make it back into the dorm. We finally got inside after sunrise.

There was the time I found out my bed was infested with bed bugs (oh wait, that was two months ago).

There was the time I vomited in the kitchen garbage of a fraternity house while a bunch of brothers watched.

There were the two frat formals I went to freshman year and the Inaugural Ball senior year.

There was the time I left my passport in my JBKO desk drawer when it was supposed to be with me in northern New Jersey for a flight to the Bahamas. The story of what it took to retrieve that passport might take up 30 inches alone.

And there were the people who made the journey truly special. Just a handful of them:

Jake, thank you for convincing me to come to GW. You may never be my boss again, but that doesn’t mean I won’t always listen to your advice. I just might not always take it.

Andrew, thank you for putting up with me freshman year and letting me crash one of your last weeks in Dublin. You’ve been a great friend. I’ll really miss your punny sense of humor.

Ben, thank you for helping me realize just how far my patience can be tried. I knew after our trip to get-‘er-done Norfolk we’d be good friends, but I think I underestimated just how good of friends. Keep clicking away and remember me one day when you’re famous.

Kyle, thank you for sticking it out with me this year and for being the wackiest friend I’ve ever had (in a good way). KC and Jojo forever.

Every roommate I’ve ever had, thank you for putting up with my need to always have ESPN on.

Danielle, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to not live with you. Marisa, we’re going to have to glare at each other over the Internet next year. Andrea, you are the queen of Jeopardy! For that you have my undying respect. I’m going to miss having the three of you as roommates like you don’t even know.

Nat, wanna hear a joke? The WNBA. In all seriousness, I think you’re a great writer and editor and an even better friend. Keep that list alive on your BlackBerry.

Alexa, you may be on another continent soon but that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop being friends. Your self-appointed position as get-together planner this spring really helped me enjoy my final few months at GW.

Byers, you’re one of only a handful who truly understands why Joe McKeown’s departure made me cry. Best of luck next year even though you don’t really need it.

Roper, keep your goofy ways and your love of hard news. I know I gave you a lot of grief this year and for that I’m sorry. You really did the paper proud.

Dan, I know the sports section is in good hands for at least one more year. You were truly an editor’s dream last year. Keep working at it, because you’ve only scratched the surface of your talent.

Nacin and Timmy, you were my go-to guys for anything. I’m not sure I would have survived my summers in D.C. without you two. Now meet me for lunch in 10 minutes and get your stuff out of my room.

Allie, Stef, Ariel and all my non-Hatchet friends, thank you for giving me a chance to escape The Hatchet when I needed it. I know I neglected all of you at one time or another because of the paper, but you never failed to understand. I couldn’t pick a better group of friends.

And to my parents, thank you, thank you, thank you, for everything. You allowed me to live my life without being overbearing, but I always knew you were just a phone call away. I wouldn’t be where I am today without you.

College has been pretty good to me. For all the bitching and moaning I do about how I can’t wait to get out of here, there’s a very good chance that once I’m actually gone, I may just miss it.

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