The end of an era is approaching, and tears will be inevitable. After all, the times were good, the calls were close, the moments poignant, and the twists were unexpected. That’s right: the series finale of “Desperate Housewives” is almost upon us.
I’m not going to dignify your “You mean The Real Housewives of Somewhereirrelevantville?” No, I mean the narrative drama documenting the lives of Susan, Gaby, Bree, and Lynette. They laughed, cried, murdered, cheated, and endlessly gossiped, and I consumed the drama passively from my McBain double, recovering from late nights in the Spec office, and in avoidance of the Gmail threads where my input was anticipated. The neatly clipped lawns my virtual suburban escape; the namesake desperation of its inhabitants a vicarious foil to my own neuroses. Yes, I spent many a morning watching “Desperate Housewives” over breakfast during my time at The Eye—by morning, I mean from around 2-3:30 p.m., and by breakfast I mean a couple spoonfuls of peanut butter from the jar on my desk and two very, very strong cups of coffee. My routine took me next to class for the foreign language requirement that was bringing my GPA to a new low. Around 8 p.m., I’d head to the Spec office, at which point time entered a vortex. Leave at 4 a.m., repeat.
It’s senior column week at Spectator, and our pages will be filled with former editors glorifying the late nights and classes ditched for last-minute coverage. Don’t get me wrong: These things deserve to be glorified, if for no other reason than to validate the next generation of eager first-years. But behind the nostalgia, I think there’s a very real tension we don’t admit enough at Columbia: that college is a weird time, that managing new responsibilities is difficult, and that New York is not exactly the most welcoming place. And at some point (most frequently, the point we refer to as the “sophomore slump”), we secretly or not-so-secretly develop a set of habits and norms—sometimes coping mechanisms—that The Dude himself would tsk tsk. We grocery shop at 3 a.m. and wake up at 3 p.m., Febreeze our clothes instead of washing them, blow all our money at 1020 to the detriment of vegetable intake, and find the Internet an adequate substitute to real human interaction during meal times.
The Eye was both egregious enabler and source of stability in my new college lifestyle. Traversing the line between adult commitment to put out a weekly magazine and youthful desire to inject alcohol into any situation, The Eye office pushed our limits of drunken headline brainstorming and made possible procrastination to sunrise, while cultivating a team spirit that ensured we somehow got it done, for the sake of both the magazine and the co-editors we had come to respect. It was the first time I felt ownership over something real, a paper publication that miraculously appeared every Thursday morning after a 10-hour stretch in the Spec office the night before. Through tenuous trial and error, I learned that while the right number of Blue Moons is imperative to maintaining both my sanity and the issue’s dignity, the wrong number can quickly sacrifice both (and is, generally, very tempting). Despite the arguments of senior design and visuals editors to the contrary, there is no right number of Four Lokos for production night except an emphatic zero. From my fellow editors, I learned about the YouTube greats—Ciara’s “Ride” consistently topping the list of office music video break favorites, with D’Angelo’s “How Does it Feel” a close second—but also how to turn these greats into great pitches. And eventually I learned the way to get over my still-looming West Coast nostalgia, to survive in New York, at Columbia, was to find something I cared about and work at it. And here, the obligatory glorifying: I ditched classes to conduct last-minute interviews and speed-write emergency articles, pulled myself away from the cliffhangers of my favorite suburban drama to participate in the Gmail threads that awaited me. Everything in my schedule was up for last-minute contestation except a pre-sunrise PDF’ing on Wednesday nights.
During my tenure as managing editor, my life was a mess: my pants from the clean-ish pile on my floor, my CC response paper printing five minutes after class started, my hangover illicitly hair-of-the-dogged, and my mother’s calls ignored in favor of an escapist session swinging in Riverside Park to the soundtrack of the Smashing Pumpkins. I had no idea what I was doing, but the responsibility to lead story writers working on investigative pieces, to the associates that turned to my feigned editorial authority, provided some semblance of a structure. Sometimes working at Spectator felt like a way to package something neatly in order to hide the erratic loose ends of newfound adulthood. I may be scraping together quarters for a Chipotle burrito, but damned if that lede isn’t catchy and my name isn’t above it. To the next generation, I want to say: Prioritizing is difficult business, and sometimes you need your coping mechanisms. I would like to extend gratitude to the ladies of Wisteria Lane, brought to me by Marc Cherry and Hulu, for hosting my nutritionally deficient post-production breakfasts in a virtual perma-sunny suburbia wrought with drama, and devoid of real parental nagging (aside from that I had internalized). But college is a happily forgiving place to strike these new balances. To this end, I want to thank The Eye for giving me something to grow up for and people to grow up alongside.
The author is a Columbia College senior majoring in sociology. She was managing editor for features for The Eye on the 134th managing board.