March 6, 2007

The fruits of the road less traveled

Today is my birthday, and often birthdays represent new beginnings. This is the final issue of my yearlong term as editor in chief of the Chicago Maroon, and the end of a major constant in my life over the past four years. That’s because there has never been a time in my college career that I’ve not worked here. Turning 22 is such a miniscule change compared to readjusting to a non-Maroon life—a suddenly more normal life.

I say that because being a Maroon editor means saying “See you later” (in my case for four years) to a normal life. Each week means little to no sleep two nights a week, 30-plus hours of work (in my case), and accomplishing extraordinary feats with the craziest, but most genuine, on-point, intelligent, dedicated, prescient, witty, fun, and, in many cases, talented people on this campus. It means relinquishing inhuman amounts of time and energy in a literally underground space. For most of us, it’s a humble labor of love. Sure, we’re proud ofourselves—in fact we’re often obnoxiously opinionated—but we’re not in it for the glitz. It’s almost like being a superhero. The Maroon is like Batman’s bat signal in the sky, and we’re eagerly reporting for duty. Maroon editors are like rock stars, but only the real kind—the ones known just for their music.

Most normal people would hate working at the Maroon. Unless you feel that special buzz from over-dedicating yourself to it, it can be draining, depressing, and unhealthy. You need to know yourself well to work here. It’s not your average picnic, but if you’re in the right place, it’s one hell of a feast.

If you are in the right place, it means you’re having constant discussions about major campus issues, expected to voice your opinion in and out of board meetings, and never bored. It means bearing the colossal duty and constant challenge that comes with the unsigned editorial—communicating to the University community in the best way possible. For those who thrive on challenge—physical, intellectual, or interpersonal—the Maroon is the ultimate candy store.

Working at the Maroon has been by far the best decision I have made in my college career. I’ve learned so much from choosing to go to that office at least three times a week for hours on end for the past four years. A lucky few have had the honor, pleasure, and privilege of editing this cherished paper—and that makes the Maroon a road very little traveled. From my first year, I’ve walked this road less traveled, and it’s hard to imagine that I might be nearly as fulfilled as I am had I not chosen the Maroon.

After our most recent election for my successor, when everyone left the office, I stayed and sat in silence at my desk. My staff doesn’t know this yet, but looking around the near empty room, I began to tear up. I was surprised—I knew tears would come at some point near the end, just not that early. But these were not tears of sorrow. It dawned on me how much time had passed since I began, and how so many faces have come and gone through those doors, all connected by the endless blood, sweat, and (no pun intended) tears put into this paper. These were tears of celebration for what had just passed and acknowledgment of a new chapter—a growing pain, so to speak, but bittersweet.

As one of my favorite poets, Robert Frost, who hails from my home state of New Hampshire, once said, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I—/I took the one less traveled by,/ And that has made all the difference.” I hope this doesn’t sound trite, but without the Maroon, I doubt I would be made of the weathered fabric I am today. This has been a humbling, refreshing, and most challenging honor, and I will miss it dearly.