Opinion | Columns

Less of a Profession, More a Way of Being

I never really had a group.

In elementary school, I read the Baby-Sitters Club and imagined that someday I would have a collection of friends to pal around with, people who would always call me when they were going out, who would know all my secrets.

But it didn’t happen for me, at least not in the way I used to hope it would. I had friends in high school, but they did different things and lived far away from each other. We hung out, but we didn’t get too close. By the time senior year came, I just went to school and waited for college.

Columbia, I thought, would be different—but in the beginning, it wasn’t. Of course, I met a lot of interesting, smart people, but they somehow found common ground with each other that I didn’t quite understand. I spent the first weekend as an undergraduate back home on Long Island, daydreaming about transferring.

I decided I needed an activity, so I signed up to write news stories for Spectator. My training editor appreciated how much I needed a friend, and accepted the job willingly. Maggie taught me to be a journalist, and also made me hopeful that I wouldn’t be spending my four years working alone in Cafe 212. She brought me to Saurin Park and invited me to join study groups.

I remember watching Maggie and her (seemingly cooler, older) friends go around in a circle one day playing word games (name things you’re glad to be done with! Name all the newspapers in Alaska!) with a mix of envy and awe. They seemed comfortable in a way that is possible only if you’ve been pushed to your limit together—these were Speccies, and I liked them. Slowly I started making my own friends at Spectator, helped in part by an enthusiasm for playing (or more accurately, being pretty terrible at) touch football and a willingness to try a few beers the night before my first final (“Never say no when your editor offers you a drink,” an older reporter once wisely advised). In December, I accepted an editor position, and then, a year later, another one. I liked the energy that I could muster only when I was trying to sniff out a scoop and the freedom from boredom that working at a daily paper provides. Mostly though, I fell in love with the staff.

There is something magical about finding people who share the habits you once thought were your own little oddities to hide. I once sheepishly admitted to someone that if I find an e-mail account open on a public computer, I can’t help but read a few messages, especially if I don’t know the person. He looked at me surprised. “Why wouldn’t you read them?” he asked. Another friend and I started planning a dangerous countries world tour one night, pricing out plane fares to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran.

As journalists, we figured, we should try and see as much as we could firsthand.
Working at the paper wasn’t always easy. I would sometimes come home from 2875 Broadway frustrated and exhausted. There were moments that broke my heart and mistakes that I ache to go back and fix, coffee dates I shouldn’t have forgotten about and friends I should have called back.

In the end though, I can’t imagine college any other way, and I don’t want to. Spectator was where I learned how to interpret my corner of Columbia and Morningside Heights. I learned that being a journalist isn’t so much a profession as a way of being, a hunger for knowing things (first, preferably). It is an existence that suits me better than most other modes of participating in the world.

These are gifts from the paper that I wouldn’t trade in for anything.

But what I’ll miss most, and what I treasure, are the passionate and intelligent people who I now count as my group. I don’t feel as cool as I thought I would, but I am more lucky than I could ever have imagined.

The author is a Columbia College senior majoring in urban studies. She was an associate News editor on the 129th Associate Board, a deputy News editor on the 130th Deputy Board, and the managing editor on the 131th Managing Board.

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