Chelsea Radler: Reflections on a worthwhile sacrifice

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.

The Hatchet is unforgiving of carelessness and irresponsibility – by those whom it covers and its creators. Triumphs and errors are recorded in ink, demanding timeliness, dedication and honesty from University leaders and the paper’s editors alike.

But The Hatchet is also unforgiving of time. Churning on year after year, it is indifferent to the students who forfeit a normal college experience to create it. This legacy demands forgoing nights out, grades and friendships, which pile up as Mondays and Thursdays creep insensitively by. Equally as punishing as it is rewarding, The Hatchet defined my time at GW. Yet unsympathetically, it will bowl on past my contribution as soon as I reach out my hand for a diploma.

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day hustle, but looking back, I realize The Hatchet is essentially a relic of the past as soon as it’s published. “The first draft of history,” we always say, and appropriately, the first issues of Volume 108 are already yellowing – so quickly tossed into recycling bins, shuffled off newsstands, filed into blue leather binders that collect dust in 2140 G St.

What we must hope, in our brief turns at the helm, is that we manage to slightly alter its trajectory. We strive to leave some legacy behind, create some small uptick in the arc of progress that means The Hatchet might be better – or at least not worse – for us having made the sacrifices we did.

It’s liberating and horrifying to think of being forced out of The Hatchet microcosm, to admit that most people on this campus don’t know what goes into making the paper, or don’t notice it at all.

My favorite part of production nights is the walk home. Shouting goodnights to the few stragglers still in the townhouse in the early hours of publication day, often receiving only halfhearted nods from the sleepy editors left inside, I pound down the narrow staircase and out the front door. Hopping down the steps, I suck in a huge breath of clean air and pace the few dozen steps toward home, reflecting on the upcoming issue. The ever-present stress of juggling stories with homework, work with socializing, Hatchet life with everything else, melts away as I congratulate myself on another issue survived. Knowing I can no longer tinker with the words, I revel in satisfaction and accept the potential criticism, proud to have done my best to contribute to the paper.

In a way, writing this feels like a walk home. I’ve said that 30 pieces are a self-indulgent tradition. Perhaps that’s true, but they’re also a chance to make our peace with the sacrifices we made for the paper, and reflect on what it gave us in return. Though at times the relationship felt one-sided, I now realize that The Hatchet gave my life an unyielding routine, without which I would not have learned nearly as much as I did in my college years. More importantly, the paper gave me a true family and the chance so few people get – one that I fear other jobs won’t offer: the chance to be part of something bigger than myself.

Of course, the toll claimed at the door of the townhouse at 2140 G St. comes with precious benefits. Aching to avoid the clichés that keep traipsing onto the page, I can only begin to thank the people who shared my time here.

For teaching me and supporting me more than anyone else could. French, your office was my sanctuary this year because, from my first day on staff, you opened it to me – for belly-aching laughs, criticism, tears and love. You challenged me more than anyone ever has, and I’m a better journalist, and person, for it. You leave impossibly big shoes to fill. Remember our pact, and follow your dreams.

For patience, poise and unfailingly high standards. Andrea, your skill and intelligence astound me. Berlin was truly a highlight of my time at GW. If you only live once, I plan to spend it appreciating having a friend so dedicated. I look forward to tackling the roads less traveled, wherever they may be, with Team Campus News, which has and will always only mean you.

For your perspective and your sass. Turley, you are always full of energy and laughter, always there to have a late night heart-to-heart in Ivory’s basement or to comfort me after a tough day. I’ve been intimidated by your talent since we met, something I suspect I will have in common with everyone you ever meet. I am certain you won’t waste it, in whatever you do.

For your smile and your love. Traynor, since the day I met you, I’ve been desperate to impress you, to be counted among the people that can make you belt out that deep belly laugh when you’re not just chuckling to be polite. I may not be a Bruin or have a Boston accent, but I will always appreciate your strength and raw sincerity. Keep DTS alive, and don’t forget me.

For your compassion and your talent. Ferris, never change. Your ability to rise to a challenge and push tough issues make me sure you will succeed in whatever you do. Do not sell your talent short, and more importantly, follow your heart home.

For being my anchor outside The Hatchet. Julie, Patty, Dana, Tatum and Sarah, you’ve gotten me through every challenge, Hatchet or otherwise. I couldn’t exist without you, and wouldn’t want to.

For carrying on the legacy. Jeremy, your instincts are fierce. Remember the benefits of honey over vinegar. Kierran, you will always be my writer baby. Do great work.

For being my family, that niche I always hoped so desperately to find at GW. The rest of Volume 108, I cannot imagine staff any other way. Allison, Madeline and Lauren, I will always be grateful for your visual creativity with 1-percent changes. Gabriel, we’ll always have the fabulous life of page two. Team photo, thank you for your tireless work to keep desk portraits interesting. Priya, make me proud – I’ll bring word home to Marlboro.

For taking my calls on production nights and letting me glimpse the inner workings of Rice Hall. University administrators, I have learned so much from you and so enjoyed the opportunity to know you in a way most students never do. Remember me fairly, the way I always strived to approach you.

For your unwavering support, through everything. Mom, Joey and Dad, I love you boundlessly. -30-

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