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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The Editor’s Desk: Bidding adieu

Published: October 30, 2009
Section: Opinions

This issue marks my last as editor in chief of The Brandeis Hoot, and at risk of being sanctimonious, I would like to share a few of the lessons I have learned over the past 11 months. Throughout my tenure as editor in chief of this amazing organization, I have learned that success and failure go hand in hand, and that both must be accompanied by humility. I have learned to apologize and I have learned to defend. I have learned about relationships, responsibility, patience, humor, and my own happiness.

Though my story as editor in chief began less than a year ago, The Hoot has been a part of my college experience almost from the beginning. This semester marks my sixth at The Hoot, and my fifth as an editor. I have poured so much of myself into this organization, and for better or for worse, this paper has been my identity. I was a reporter, deputy news editor, then news editor, and then editor in chief. Somewhere along the line, I forgot to be Alison, without the titles and without the bylines. There were times when I was a reporter instead of a student, and times when I was both before I was myself.

And then I had an identity crisis. Last semester, I realized that I didn’t want to be a reporter, that journalism wouldn’t and couldn’t make me happy. I spent many hours wracked with confusion and anguish about how and why I had gotten to that point. I finally had what I thought I had wanted since I was a freshman, and I didn’t want it anymore. I was angry with myself for the choices I had made. I felt like I had failed myself, and I felt like I had failed the paper.

I found myself in a place where I felt I owed so much to so many that I had forgotten that I owed anything to myself. I was worn down by the competition and the criticism. I was tired of finding validation for my work outside of myself. I was tired of feeling defined by a title, by what other people thought or expected of me. I was stuck in a place where journalism was a zero-sum game, and my self-worth was attached to it.

After receiving a particularly rude comment about a print mistake, I called my mother to share the story with her. My mother, in all her infinite wisdom, told me that regardless of the mistakes I may have made–and I have made many–that I did it is enough. My staff and I, week after week, put out a 16-page newspaper from the ground up. Short on money, staff, and technology, we made it all work. That we did it, regardless of anyone else’s opinion, has value. No rude comments can take away what I have learned or the skills I have gained or what all of my time, effort, and experiences have taught me. I realized the hard way that my validation has to come from within.

I’ve thought a lot about what I’ve accomplished in my time at the paper, and I still wonder if it’s enough. I can think of so many things I wish I’d done, so many improvements I could have implemented, so many areas where things fell through the cracks because I was only one person. Ultimately, it’s a fruitless question. Yes, I could have done more. That’s always the case. But no matter how much I did to improve the paper, it would always be true that The Hoot has given me infinitely more than I could ever give it.

Nothing can prepare a person for this experience. It is a baptism by fire. And I’ve had my fair share of burns. I don’t begrudge any of those experiences. I am more because of them.