I’ve written 200 stories for Spectator, spent thousands of hours in the office, and sent tens of thousands of Spec-related emails. When I sat down to write this column, I knew it would be difficult to distill my entire Spec experience into 800 words, but I was still convinced I could find a narrative that neatly tied everything together. That was just one of the many mistakes that I’ve made in the last four years.
My time at Spectator, much like my time at Columbia, was filled with exhilarating highs and crushing lows. To try to run a single thread through my fractured experience here would be an exercise in futility. So please do forgive me if this column is a bit disjointed.
I have given so much of myself—too much, my parents would argue—to Spectator, but it has given so much more to me. When I wandered into the office for an open house during orientation week, I was only looking for an activity to keep me busy and help me make friends. For the first year, that’s really all it was—I certainly cared about Spec and the stories I worked on, but I was involved in other campus groups and was slowly working my way through the premed requirements.
Something changed about halfway through the first semester of my sophomore year. I was adrift. None of my classes interested me, and I was apathetic about school for the first time in my entire life. To distract myself from the emptiness I was feeling, I poured a bit more of myself into Spectator, one of the few things I was still passionate about. Still, I had no intention of running for sports editor—I was content to cash in my chips after I finished my associate year. But a 2 a.m. conversation with then-design editor Ben Cotton changed my mind. Ben, who would go on to become editor in chief, spoke about the sports section’s potential with such unbridled enthusiasm that I was inspired to run.
One of the things I love the most about Spectator, and about Columbia in general, is that conversations like this happen all of the time. I’ve had many wonderful professors who have taught me so much, but it does not even compare to what I have learned from my peers. Discussions and arguments with my fellow Speccies excited, enriched, and challenged me in ways that none of my classes have. Some of my fondest memories of Spectator are from heated editorial board meetings in which I got to watch some of the smartest people I have ever met clash over important campus issues.
It was a series of conversations like the one I had with Ben that eventually led to my decision to run for corporate board. By the end of my first semester on the managing board, I was the only sports editor, and Hannah D’Apice was the only design editor. Since they were both normally two-person positions, Hannah and I spent an increasing amount of time in the office and bonded over our mutual exhaustion. Many nights after the paper was sent to the printer at 4 a.m., she and I would walk to 109th Street, get Spicy Specials, and talk about all of the grand ideas we had for Spectator.
While these discussions helped shape the vision I had for Spec, they provided a much more important function as well. My year as sports editor was the most stressful and draining year of my life. It has never been easy for me to admit any kind of weakness, though, and because of that, I tried to deal with all of my problems by myself. But Hannah and I were in such similar situations that I finally learned how to open up to my closest friends and to lean on them when I needed help.
That was the most important lesson I learned from Spectator—that it is OK to admit that you’re stressed, that it’s OK to ask for help, that it’s OK to fail sometimes. Had I not learned that, I definitely would not have survived my time at Columbia.
Although I value this lesson and the many others I got from Spec, what I cherish most about my experience is the people I met and the relationships I formed. I didn’t know Sam Roth until the fall of my junior year and I don’t think we had a real conversation until after we were named to the corporate board. But during our year-long tenure, we grew so close that we often said the same thing or sent the same email at the same time. (We even showed up to the Fun Run in identical outfits, unintentionally.) Being managing editor was a whole new challenge, one that I wouldn’t have been able to face without having one of my best friends in the seat next to me. I still cannot believe how lucky I was to have such a thoughtful, intelligent, and talented editor in chief. Thank you, Sam, for being a wondeful partner-in-crime.
There are so many other memories, so many other lessons, so many other people that were an integral part of my time here that I could fill this entire newspaper and still not be done writing. Since I don’t have the power to do that anymore, I will simply say: Thank you, Spectator, for everything.
The author is a Columbia College senior majoring in history. She was an associate sports editor on the 133rd associate board, sports editor on the 134th managing board, managing editor on the 135th corporate board, and sports training editor on the 136th volume.