Article Image
Rahil Kamath / Courtesy of

Rahil (left), Katherine (center), and Nima (right) pictured leaving the Spec office at 7:45 a.m. on January 30, en route to Strokos for egg and cheese sandwiches—a delirious and delicious small moment.

Over the course of 2019, I vowed to remind myself to remember. I served as managing editor that year, and each day contained so much content, crises, and waking hours that sometimes I couldn’t remember what had happened the night before. So I set out on a simple project: at the end of each day, I wrote down one memory from the prior 24 hours, something that I thought I would want to look back on years down the line. I made a promise to myself not to read them again until after December came to a close—I considered it a retirement gift from me to me.

When I finally got past the embarrassment that overcame me each time I tried to open the note that held all my memories (which didn’t happen until mid-January), I was amazed by what I had forgotten. The March 27 impromptu training session that I led using a “curriculum” I jotted down in the margins of The Marx-Engels Reader following a burst of inspiration in Contemporary Civilization. April 27, the day I became a sports journalist for a day and tailed the men’s head tennis coach around the courts at Baker with our then-budding Sports section (read: two other people). Or September 14, when I caught a glimpse of two newly-accepted staffers run into each other’s arms at the trainee welcome party as they screamed “We made it!”

These “small moments” filled the days between each of the “big moments”—the ones I had dreamed about since I first joined Spec. Moments like the morning of April 11, when I triumphantly emerged from the office at noon after spending all night publishing a multi-part investigation on the failures of Columbia’s Title IX policies. Or my last night of production, December 5, when many of my former reporters came back to surprise me, and we ate cupcakes and reminisced about years past.

I’ll never forget the satisfaction that comes from putting out an enterprise story, but reflecting on my memories reminded me of the transient moments of joy I experienced every day. And though I fail to remember the details of that curriculum, the people I interviewed at that match, or the reactions of any other trainees at that party, I am thankful that I took note of those brief instances.

Those micro-interactions—with staff, with sources, with the guy who printed our paper and always emailed me in all caps—made the past three and a half years worth it. Fleeting conversations with staffers in the hallway of the office that pushed me to think more critically, check-in texts from fellow editors that led me to take a step back and be honest with myself, story planning meetings with reporters in Joe that gave me just enough life to get through long nights ahead—those were the best parts of Spec.

Of course, not all of the small moments I chronicled were so rosy. I also captured the many clashes I had with indignant sources, the tough decisions I made that ended up backfiring, and the days where I somehow faced more crises than stories to edit. Rereading the memory from September 25 took me back to when I got into such a heated argument with an editor that afterward, I sat alone in the hallway for almost an hour with my head in my hands, wishing it could all just be over. Another reminded me that on the night before that very same trainee party, September 13, deliberations became so intense that I had to resist the urge to walk out right then and never look back.

My note stayed true to those difficult moments, too—not just to make sure I remember the reality of the pain and tears, but also to remind me of the reconciliation and growth that always followed.

I spent so much of 2019 immersed in Spec that my note had transformed into a de facto Spec diary. And each memory it held only proved that my time at Spec did not amount to some neatly packaged, picture-perfect experience (in fact, Spec is the hardest thing I have ever done). Rather, it showed Spec as an utterly chaotic mosaic of moments, each of which can pass by in an instant. Moments like witnessing the pure joy that came over those two trainees when they realized they had officially become Speccies—the ultimate reminder of what inspired me every day to spread that same joy to the people who gave their heart to this place.

I am grateful that I reminded myself to remember them.

٭٭٭


Acknowledgments:

To everyone at Spec who I had the privilege of working with: Thank you for being some of the most brilliant, dedicated, and inspiring people I have ever known. For pushing the boundaries of what journalism can be and what it can look like (shoutout Graphics!). For teaching me more about life and friendship than four years in a classroom could ever do. I would trade Zoom graduation for one last night in the office with all of you any day.

To Katherine: Thank you for standing by my side at every one of those moments—good and bad—and for being the first to remind me to see them as opportunities for growth and understanding. For being so damn quotable that in just one year I now have enough material to last a lifetime. For giving me the space and support to be vulnerable, and for always accepting me for who I am. It’s crazy to think that we went from lowkey hating each other to being the ultimate partners in crime. I am certain that I would not be the person I am today without you.

To Nima: Thank you for the undying faith you always had in me and in Spec. For having the kind of optimism and charisma that could make me smile even on my worst days. For sharing with me a love of dumb jokes and ridiculous dance moves. For always sticking by me. For getting the cream cheese. I still remember when, during our first year, Gus and Rowan told me “you have to meet this kid Nima.” Who knew how right they would be?

To Karen: Thank you for pushing me to take risks, to follow my gut, and to pursue what actually matters and let the rest fall away. For making the trek to Butler with me after late production nights, only for us to blow off our homework and stay up talking about life. For using faded Expo markers to draw out conspiracy theories on the walls of 423 with me as if it were the most normal thing in the world. For being there with me through it all. I hope you don’t forget the immense courage you have as you lead Spec forward into uncharted waters. Because of you, I’ll never need a list of memories to remember just how meaningful Spec’s journalism can be.

To Shubham: Thank you for the unconditional care that you have always given me and every person I’ve seen you work with at Spec. For showing me what true bravery looks like as you took the leap of faith into one of the most challenging jobs this place has to offer. For always listening and going the extra mile for those around you. I am incredibly proud to see how much you’ve come into yourself over these past few months—you have inspired me more than you know.

To Valeria: Thank you for teaching me to think (dare I say, perceive) differently. For challenging me to not be comfortable with “how things are always done.” For expanding my mind in ways I couldn’t have even fathomed before—like at our lunch in Chapati House, in our discussion in African-American Lit class, or on many nights around the table in 416. For being someone I can always count on to share a laugh and a good time with, and for reminding me to never take myself too seriously. I can’t wait to see how you grow, and how you push Spec to grow, in the years to come.

To Khadija and Valentina: Thank you for always having my back, even though we gave each other hell sometimes. For making Spec fun. For giving me a much-needed outsider’s (but also insider’s?) perspective when I felt like I had lost my spark. As members of my first class of trainees, you two were a part of every moment that helped transform Spec from just another club into a real family, and there’s no one else I would have rather had by my side. And thank you Khadija, for laughing in my face that night I told you I was thinking of going into consulting—I needed it.

To JJ: Thank you for being the person I could always turn to when it felt like there was nowhere else to go. For encouraging me to not be so hard on myself and to focus on the things that make me happy. For reminding me that the best part of Spec is going in the trenches, getting your hands dirty, and working on something worthwhile. For teaching me about conviction and how to hold my own, especially when I didn’t think I could trust myself. Because of you, I have become a stronger person in so many ways.

To Aaron: Thank you for never being judgemental, no matter how many mistakes I made as a reporter or a leader. For always taking the time to show me the way forward whenever I felt lost on a story or at Spec. For somehow always knowing just the right question to ask, edit to give, and call to make, and for teaching me how to discover that certainty in myself. For raising me (even if you are an emotionally unavailable father). For being lowkey the funniest person I know to have passed through Spec’s doors (sorry, Val). I can’t imagine my Spec experience without your presence.

To Catie: Thank you for taking me under your wing and believing in me when I found myself at a crossroads about my future in Spec. For calling me out when I didn’t do a thorough job on an assignment and then for turning around and coaching me through the next steps. For pushing me to tackle the most challenging stories head-on and showing me that it was always possible. Under your guidance, I grew more as a journalist (and person) than I ever thought I could—thank you for opening my eyes.

To Clara, Caroline, Michael, and all the brilliant editors who guided me along the way: Thank you for always answering my calls, texts, and emails, even when my ideas didn’t make sense and my thoughts were incoherent. For the assurance, especially in times of crisis, that it was all going to be worth it. For the nuggets of advice that I only realized were gold months after you shared them with me. For the bylines I pored over (have you read Unfunded Mandate?) as an eager first-year that inspired me to dive into journalism and never look back. I am grateful that you passed the torch on to me, and I can only hope I carried it with as much passion and grace as you did.

To April and Ellen: Thank you both for the endless love you have given me, Katherine, and Nima, as well as every Speccie who has had the privilege of getting to know you. For the kindness you showed me (on multiple occasions) when I showed up to lunch so tired that I could barely keep my eyes open. For always embodying the joy that I associate with the very best of this place. I, and Spec, owe you so much more than we could ever repay.

To Shreya: Thank you for being an ever-present light in my life, during both my brightest and darkest moments at Spec. For holding me when I cried and for rejoicing with me when I succeeded. For never getting angry when I woke you up after coming home at 3 a.m. every night. I am blessed that you were by my side last year and that you are by my side now.

To Gus, Rowan, Sabina, Ade, and every friend who stood by me: Thank you for always looking out for me, even when I was so in over my head at Spec that I didn’t always do the same for you. For showing the utmost patience when I said “Sorry I have to run to Spec” for the millionth time. And, despite all that, for putting up with Spec because of how much you knew I cared about it. Friends like you are hard to come by—here’s to many more moments together, big and small.

To Kunal: Thank you for inspiring me to embark on this memory-a-day project—it turned out to be more profound than I ever could have imagined. And for warning me about Spec when I told you I was thinking of applying. As usual, I didn’t listen.

And finally, to the Mystery Puker: Thank you for a memory I could never forget even if I tried. You pulled off the greatest heist of 2019—whoever you are, I salute you.

Enjoy leafing through our 10th issue!

Previous Issue | More In This Issue

Senior Column
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT