I thought I’d accept the end of my year at The Appalachian all at once. I’m not sure how I thought that’d happen, but I figured the enormity of it would sink in after the last editing night, or the last production, or staff picnic.
But all those things are over and reality still hasn’t hit. I’m still typing this from my work computer at my messy desk. I should probably clean it out sometime soon. There are a lot of things I should probably do.
I think I haven’t let go because I thrive on finding a cohesive narrative and, really, there wasn’t one here.
We did some good things. More than anything, I’m proud of our coverage of the Appalachian football players accused of sexual assault. We were criticized for that, but not by anyone who knew what they were talking about. Any criticism of that first story stopped affecting me when my favorite journalism professor, who I respect immensely, shook my hand and told me we’d done a good job.
But I can’t just think we did a good job and have that be the narrative. Because, for one thing, everything we covered was sad and confusing and complicated. I’m glad we produced solid information on two students who may have been sexually assaulted, on another two girls who were attacked – possibly on the basis of their sexual orientation, and on homophobic insults painted in our free expression tunnels. But given the choice, I’d choose that no students were assaulted, that no one was attacked, and that the LGBT Center could paint a message for Coming Out Day without seeing it vandalized.
And beyond that, we made some really stupid mistakes too. Yes, I’m talking about the burrito thing. Do I think this one misstep erases everything else we did? Well, no…but it was a whopper of a mistake. And while I meant every word of this apology when I sent it in, I think it’s probably more accurate when I add that most of us hadn’t slept in something like 48 hours when the whole incident occurred. It has been a long, sleepless, overworked year, and we genuinely wanted to serve this campus, and we felt like the only time anyone took notice was when we made a mistake. I don’t think it’s crazy that we thought it. It’s just crazy that we chose to write it down.
In my goodbye column, I wrote about friendship, and how the lessons I took away from ed board were more related to people than they were to my career. And I meant every word of that too, and I am so grateful for the people I loved this year. I won’t forget the late nights and the long talks and all the stupid things we said – no, you are not walking home from the bar by yourself, this is ed board and we’re a family – that, really, I meant with all my heart.
But I have to remember that there are things I gave up to have that, too. I gave up being friends with the people in my classes, and staying close with the girls who got me through freshman and sophomore and junior year, and simplicity and rest and nights in my own bed instead of the library. As it usually happens, I gave up one reality to gain another.
So I guess what I took from The Appalachian, rather than one big lesson, is a better understanding of what life actually is. Life is ambiguous and dichotomous and a lot of other words that basically mean two. There’s always a yes and a no, a side A and a side B. Nothing is ever really good or bad so much as it is a story.
And with that said, I guess there is one for-sure thing I can take with me as I pack up my desk and leave this year behind: I am so glad this is the story I chose. If you somehow rewound my life back to September, and I was sitting in that office (where I’d eventually cry and laugh and do a lot of living, but where I felt uncomfortable and out of place at the time) and I was staring at those two boys I didn’t know (one who I’d never end up knowing, one who I now know better than I know myself) and I was offered this job again, I’d take it.
I’d do it all again in a second. In half a second.
I’m glad I was here.