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 first time The Hatchet rejected me was a few weeks into my freshman year, after I applied to be an opinions writer.
It was nighttime when I received the email, and the city still held that wet summer stink. I pouted my way over to 7-11, bought a bunch of taquitos and a packet of wine cigarillos and walked with a friend all the way to Chinatown, eating and half-smoking/half-coughing, because that’s how I thought college students were supposed to handle their anger. Not by calling their moms and whining.
For that first semester, the way I talked about The Hatchet resembled the vitriolic online comments that I would later learn to ignore (only after taking them very, very personally). “The Hatchet is pretentious! I don’t want to be friends with them anyway! Wah wah wah.” Again, handling rejection as a newly minted adult should.
When the new semester arrived, my best friend dug me out of my self-pity and foolishness, and she encouraged – coerced – me to reapply. As best friends do.
Thus began my career at The Hatchet. I don’t remember the first time I entered the townhouse, or met my editors – Doug and Annu – or learned how to write a column. My first memory as a Hatchet writer is of walking up and down the stairwell of Crawford Hall, looking for people to interview for my first column. The topic was about what I saw as the pervasive sentiment among freshmen of a desire to transfer – a perfect match for my angsty, no-doubt irritating freshman disposition.
I ran into a girl in the hallway and, in the coolest way possible, I said, “Oh, hi. My name is Jacob and I’m a writer at The GW Hatchet.” Subtle eyebrow lift. Pause to acknowledge how outrageously cool I am. “Can I ask you a few questions?”
The Hatchet became my first “thing” in college. It was the first organization I truly felt that I was a part of, where I felt welcome, where people took me under their wings.
During the second semester of my freshman year, the door of 2140 G St. became much more inviting. But it was Annu, then-opinions editor, who made me realize that I wanted The Hatchet to be a big part of my college life.
Every Friday morning during freshman year, I walked to the National Gallery of Art, the same way every week. I entered near the portrait gallery, smelled the flowers around the rotunda, admiring Degas’ “Four Dancers” and Wyeth’s “Looking Out, Looking In.” Then I bought a postcard and wrote my girlfriend while I drank a cup of coffee in the underground cafe, the glass-covered waterfall splashing a few feet from my head. It was the way I’d escape D.C.
As long as my coffee was full and the postcard wasn’t covered in ink, I’d feel as though I was back home in California.
One day, I took Annu with me. We talked for what felt like hours about art, writing, dreams, goals, anything. We bought postcards, we drank coffee. But I didn’t feel the need for my weekly departure from D.C.
That was the day that D.C. – and The Hatchet – became an extension of my far-away home.
The second time The Hatchet rejected me was a few weeks before freshman year ended.
After writing three columns, I interviewed for the position of contributing opinions editor. But, it was different that time. I was there to stay. I’d try again next year. And I did.
The narrative of my time as contributing opinions editor is best told through my friends – those who taught me, helped me and sometimes called me by the wrong name. So, I will move to the thank-yous, as the influence of these friends tells the best and most accurate story of my past year at The Hatchet:
Justin: No laudatory blurb could do justice to the amount that I’ve learned as your assistant; however, my gratefulness won’t keep me from using semicolons. You taught me how to look at writing with a more objective eye and how to translate my feelings into something coherent, argumentative and meaningful. Every editorial I write in the future will be inextricable from your guidance and skill. You are a good friend and teacher – Robin and Sarah are lucky to have you around next year.
Jenna: Motorin’. What’s the price for flight? Whenever the question comes up – whether on my iTunes, on the radio or at an 80’s-themed party – I’ll think of you, your humor, your design aesthetics and the passion with which you argued your opinion during every editorial board meeting.
Zach: Thank you for your hugs. I am the least demonstrative person you’ll ever meet. (I tend to run from all human contact more than a handshake.) But, somehow, you have been there during the three-maybe-four times this year when I’ve thought, “Ugh, I could really use a hug now.” So thanks for that. Your kindness affects people more than you may know.
Cory: Whenever I walked by your office and you called me by a name that was only marginally similar to “Jacob,” I thought, “Wow, The Hatchet really is my second family.” But actually, your ambitions as EIC made this an amazing year for the whole paper, particularly the opinions page. You taught me about writing bullet-proof and serious columns, and your legacy at The Hatchet will remain long after you move to Iceland, or whatever. So thank you, Charlie.
The other three friends: Jake, your socks are much more expensive and comfortable than mine. That is why I steal them. Sometimes, I wear them when I write columns, and my foot comfort helps me find nuanced angles on complex topics. Thank you for all of your (foot) support. Thom, sometimes I channel the frustration over our debates into a column, and I suppose I owe you for that. David, you win the award for most op-eds submitted. Thanks for making my job easier. And, sincerely, I’m fortunate to have you all as friends.
Emily: Without you, I wouldn’t be writing this.
To Volume 111, and particularly Robin and Sarah: I have no doubt that you will do wonderful things for The Hatchet. With next year’s leadership, I couldn’t be more confident in our paper’s future.
Now, excuse me as I ride off into the sunset.