Irene Ly: Coming home for the last time

Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

If you had told me four years ago that I would eventually become The Hatchet’s opinions editor, I would have thought you were crazy. I thought I would at most be a columnist all four years. When I first stepped into the townhouse for an open house, everyone seemed worlds more mature, capable and confident than me.

I have made no secret of the fact that I had trouble adjusting to GW, or that I used to feel like I had no voice here. Not only did I experience culture shock after coming from a much more diverse high school, but I felt double the isolation as a commuter who had no physical space on campus to call home. Even after getting hired as the contributing opinions editor at the end of my sophomore year, it took me a few months before I truly felt like I belonged and deserved to be here. But sure enough, eventually, The Hatchet would give me a home away from my home, both literally and figuratively.

I’m still far from the most confident person you’ll meet. I still make jokes that I don’t know what I’m doing or why I’m entrusted with an entire section, though that’s more due to my self-deprecating sense of humor. But I’m no longer the same unsure and lonely freshman as I was four years ago, and I have The Hatchet to thank for that. Week-by-week, I have become more confident in my ability to edit, lead an editorial board and section, and handle a dozen things at once. In the process, I’ve become more confident in myself.

This last year has been the most stressful of my life, trying to juggle classes, The Hatchet, a job and applying to law school. There were times I wanted to scream because I needed to study for the LSAT and it was already 10 p.m., but I had to edit one more column or send one more email. And yet, it has also been one of my happiest years. Running the opinions section while trying to get into law school meant that I could sacrifice my social life or studying for a class, but I was never willing to let myself miss a deadline or skip re-editing a column. I still gave my all to every piece of content I wrote or edited and felt accomplished whenever I could help my writers turn their initial draft into the best column or blog possible. Being on The Hatchet also meant I was never truly alone. Having an editor in the townhouse stop and joke around with me for even a minute made a world of difference in lightening my mood when I was stressed.

It feels surreal to look back at when I was a freshman opinions writer who could barely come up with a pitch with a GW peg and who felt my voice was not being heard at all on campus. The thought of baring my insecurities in a column for anyone to read used to scare me a little. But as a writer and ultimately editor, I have become unapologetic about using my voice to share my personal experiences, from the good to the bad, as an Asian-American, first-generation student, a commuter and more. I’ve done this out of the hope that someone out there will read it, and think, “I’m not alone.” And while I wish I had been able to write more columns myself this last year, I think all in all I have succeeded in that goal. Most of all though, I’m proud to have led a section that encourages and helps people to opine confidently in the same way I have learned to over the last few years.

Four years ago, I never would have thought I would have so much trouble letting go of my time and the people at The Hatchet. Four years later, I feel like I’m coming home for the last time.

Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

Sarah: After you took over as opinions editor, you emailed me asking if I still wanted to write since I hadn’t in forever. Having felt so disconnected from GW initially, it was a struggle to come up with pitches, and eventually The Hatchet became an afterthought. But by reaching out, you made me feel remembered and made me realize I still wanted to write, and you helped teach me what kind of pitches would work. I’m not sure if I would have ended up where I am at The Hatchet now without your help, so thank you.

Melissa H: You probably don’t realize just how grateful I am that you chose me to be your contrib, thus changing the entire course of my college experience. Thank you for making me believe that I could be a good opinions editor when I didn’t think I could. I seriously admire how capable and independent you are, and how you handle every obstacle with grace. I’m glad I was able to work with someone as sarcastic and cynical as me. You are going to be one hell of a journalist.

Ellie: Thank you for being so welcoming to me when I first joined staff and for being so supportive and kind about everything I wrote. You were a fantastic editor in chief.

Shwetha: While we were shocked when you found out more than halfway through the semester that you could graduate early, that haphazard timing turned out to be a blessing in disguise. You joining staff allowed me to see how amazing it could be to work alongside someone who would very quickly become one of my best friends. Our dream partnership kept me going at The Hatchet and made me see it as something I love – instead of as a job – which was needed in the most stressful semester of my life. Being able to joke around with you kept me sane, and I hope I was able to do the same for you. Thank you for always offering to do more as contrib, but most of all, thank you for being my confidant and friend. I’m so glad I was able to work with you, even if it was for just a semester, and that you’re still in D.C.

Renee: Life has a funny way of working things out because I ended up being able to lead the ops section with not one, but two kick-ass Asian women. I knew from the moment you showed a llama video during your first ed board meeting that it was going to be a fun semester. It has been a blast working with you, and playfully bickering so much that our writers probably sometimes wonder if we actually get along. You were hired as contrib knowing that in less than a semester, you would be thrown into my role, and you learned fast, while injecting spunk and passion into our section. Now it’s time to retire your “ops mom-in-training” hat. I know the opinions section is going to continue to grow and flourish under your leadership, as a shorter version of me.

Kiran: Remember when you addressed my edits for your first column and told me next time you wouldn’t need as many? I thought you were just an excited freshman getting ahead of himself. Yet, your second column draft had barely any edits, showing me just how much you had taken my feedback to heart and how quickly you were capable of learning. I knew right then and there you were going to be a real competitor for the contrib position. I’m glad that, despite your initial doubts, I was able to convince you that you were in fact qualified to apply. You are going to be such a wonderful addition to staff.

Renee and Kiran: Ops is in for a fun ride with you two at the helm next year. I’m always here for when you guys want help, have questions or just want to hang out and vent about Hatchet-related problems.

Lillianna: The smartest decision I made junior year was dropping my Logic class and taking Criminology. Not only did it save my GPA, but I became friends with you, which was when I really started to feel at home at The Hatchet. You encouraged me to spend more time in the townhouse, and sure enough, it became my home away from home. You are such a genuinely kind, friendly and funny person who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. You always see the best in everyone, but are also honest and strong in your convictions, which has made you an amazing EIC. Thank you for always believing in me and shutting down any of my claims that I’m bad at my job. It allowed me to eventually genuinely believe that I wasn’t. We can’t lock you in a room to read other people’s stories anymore soon – and I can’t wait to finally see your byline again.

Ed board: I’m really going to miss our meetings every Tuesday. It has been a pleasure being able to lead an editorial board filled with such intelligent, passionate and cool people. I’m proud of the work we’ve done, and have loved all of the laughs and ridiculous, random tangents we have gone on before, after and occasionally, during ed board.

Melissa S: Thanks for always being the first one to send in their ed board response email and for always sending in pitches for staff ed when I ask for them. You were always able to start off and move a discussion along. Your passion for ed board has not gone unnoticed.

Matt: I still don’t know much about you. But through ed board, I have learned how thoughtful and passionate you are, and how strongly you feel that just because something is lofty and near impossible, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. I may not always agree with you, but I admire how you still possess this quiet but unwavering optimistic realism. I know you will be a key player in volume 115. But no, we’re never talking about presidential numbering for staff ed.

Tyler: I admire every single person on this staff for different reasons. For you, it’s that you also knew you weren’t going to pursue journalism professionally, yet care so much about The Hatchet and put so much time into it. Ed board is losing such a valuable voice next volume. Thanks for always being the passionate, contrarian voice and for keeping things interesting.

Zach: You are like the eye of the storm in the basement. I love that when chaos ensues and people are screaming around you during prodo, you are still quietly focused on laying out the pages to perfection. I’m so glad that you were able to join ed board in my last semester.

Anna: Although it was only for a semester, I loved having you on ed board. You always knew how to stop and look at things with a level head, which acted as a needed balancing act with the rest of us.

Eva: We’ve missed you and your passion during ed board this year. Thanks for offering to let me sleep over at your place for prom when I first joined staff and you found out I commuted, even though I didn’t end up going that year. It showed me how caring, thoughtful and welcoming you are.

Team News: I’ll never stop being in awe of what you guys do. You all work so tirelessly and write such important, well-reported stories. Cayla: You’re going to kill it as senior news editor next year. Here’s to hoping for a scandal-free SA election next year.

Sam: You can joke all you want about how you don’t know what you’re doing, but we know you care about The Hatchet more than almost anyone. I’ve given you a lot of grief about how you interrupted many of my section meetings with your tangents, singing and your bizarre sneeze. But you really are such a fun and lively presence, and the basement/“third floor” will be a lot quieter without you around.

Olivia: Team Photo is lucky to have someone as cool and dedicated as you as its leader for another year. Thanks for being an awesome “honorary ops member” after sitting through so many of my section meetings as you edited photos.

Liz: After being a vital member of staff for years and leading a killer culture section, it couldn’t make more sense for you to take your creativity and commitment to be the next EIC. I have no doubts you will be a fearless, fantastic leader.

To the rest of Volume 114: For the sake of length, I’m thanking the people I have worked closest with. But just know that I appreciate each and every one of you. I will never cease to be amazed by how talented and dedicated everyone here is.

Grace, Emily, Cheska and Jekko: Last volume, we struggled with retaining and finding enough quality cartoonists. These days, the opinions page looks amazing each and every week with your cartoons. All four of you are so talented. Thank you for making page four beautiful. Grace: Thank you for being such a wonderful and dependable cartoonist and friend by agreeing to do cartoons nearly every single week for months, even when you were busy. Don’t worry, I may be graduating, but I still expect us to keep having Korean BBQ dates.

My opinions team: Being your editor means I have sometimes needed to put my foot down or be critical, but hopefully you could tell behind that was love and a genuine desire for your columns to be the best they could be. I have given much effort to be the most helpful I could be for you, and I hope that ultimately showed. It has been a pleasure seeing you all grow as writers. I will miss you, but I will keep reading. The opinions section is always going to have a special place in my heart.

Nhi: I’ve ranted and freaked out to you more times than I can count in this last year, and you always took it in stride and comforted me without ever judging me, even though I know you were struggling with balancing things in your own life too. You’ve also heard me talk about The Hatchet way more than anyone who doesn’t even go to GW should ever have to, so really, you’re the real MVP. Thank you for being my person.

Jeremy: You still absolutely drive me nuts sometimes, but my life would be utterly boring without you. I really can’t live with or without you as my best friend. Thank you for being my rock.

Salad Bowl Fam: People always tell me how nice it is that I’m still so close with my high school friends. But really, I was unbelievably lucky to have met true friends so early on. I never would have thought that a group chat I started the summer after high school for us to keep in touch would continue until now, and I certainly never thought our friendship would become even stronger than in high school. Thank you for being the family I so needed as I adjusted to GW, and for continuing to be my family after I found my home here.

My mom and dad: Thank you for your never-ending support. I wouldn’t have spent the last four years at GW if it weren’t for you, pushing me to be the best I could be and being willing to do whatever it took to help me get here.

Volume 115: I already know you will be amazing. Keep informing and keep holding the University accountable. But while you do that, don’t forget to see this as your home, and as a place you can cultivate quiet, overwhelmed little freshmen into confident – or at least slightly more confident – people like me.

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