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Saturday, May 25, 2024
The Observer

The walk back from SDH

“You work in the basement of South Dining Hall? That’s so far from P-Dub,” friends say — words languishing with pity. 

I haven’t quite nailed my response yet, but consider this my rebuttal: The 10-minute walk back to Pasquerilla West Hall at 4 a.m. is one of my favorites in the world. The sidewalk tiles are enchanted. 

Campus is eerily empty. I hum the tunes of my favorite songs and walk the cement lines like I’m balancing on a pirate ship’s plank. I skip (OK, only sometimes, but it happens sometimes) under the glow of the Golden Dome and send up prayers of hope for the future. 

I smile and let my imagination run wild, because the walk is way more than the physical half-mile. It signifies a long night’s work — the freedom and joy brought by its completion. In just a few hours, the printing press will jolt to life. Like an architect admiring a building alone before the big unveiling ceremony, I dream about the front page I’ll soon see on the newsstands.

Before you write me off as delusional, I assure you I’ve rationalized this experience already. I’m the one who makes the walk mean something; it’s just a mental pathway, explained by nothing but well-trained dopamine receptors.

But have you seen the snow tonight? Cotton-like clumps cuddle up around me. And that spotlight? Beaming from the top of the Basilica. I can see the whole ray from start to finish, illuminating a trail of spinning snow. The indelible light has always been there, just waiting for the right weather to show off. 

A few weeks ago, I bumped into someone speeding around South Quad, trotting along for a 3:47 a.m. run. Been there. (Are you OK?). I caught a glimpse of a couple parting ways inside the warmth of a women’s dorm, their awkward limbs clamoring for one final embrace. I laughed aloud. “Young love,” I mouthed soundlessly, shaking my head. “Or so they say.”

When I walk past LaFun, I think about that one wall in the basement. My mind zoom in like an X-ray, finding the one wall graffitied with Sharpie marker. “It is normal to care deeply about things.” I hope maintenance never paints over it. 

Would you say it’s normal to feel so alive a few hours before dawn after adjusting headlines all night? Maybe not. But regardless of what keeps you up at night, some things are worth fighting for. 

Journalism is one of those things I choose to fight for. Even if there was one lonely Observer reader, I would be here. Even if not a soul picked up the morning paper, I’d still be writing. And I’m so grateful to have a group of incredible, talented individuals who would do the same.

I can’t quite put into words what an honor it is to have the opportunity to lead this newspaper. 

And yes, most of the time, we sit here in our isolated office in the basement of South Dining Hall, the kind of place only a mother (read: editor) could love. But I take so much comfort in knowing we are just a few of many, many students fighting for something.

Your time here is so much shorter than you realize. Have the courage to do what you love, to write what you love, to sincerely, unabashedly use the word — one that means something. I’ll be here, doing the same.

Whatever you do, love your work. And I don’t mean the resume line. Love the process — the grit and the grime, the chilly walk back — that comes with it. You think I’m crazy for spending so much time at the student newspaper. I think you’re crazy for enjoying Python or differential equations. I hope we can both agree to keep pursuing that certainty: the beauty and dignity of a job well done.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.