The highs and lows of college publications

Photo by Dani Sisson Student Publications

A blue unicorn stares at me from the corner of my desk, approximately four inches tall with a light pink and ivory horn protruding from its foam head, seated on top of a white binder that houses momentos and documents from past editors of the Technique. 

This nameless creature has served as my companion during the late nights spent in room 137 of the Flag Building, the home of the Technique. 

At first glance, those unfamiliar with the space might take a peek into room 137 and see trash — countless stacks of yellowing newspaper pile up against one wall while a pop-up Trojan-branded hamper full of broken water guns and a collection of random hats sits in the opposite corner. 

If you are brave enough to walk through the door and turn around, you will be confronted by a collage on the wall featuring pictures of past staff members as adolescents in their awkward prepubescent stages. 

I accidentally purchased the blue unicorn over a year ago when I was the Managing Editor, and in an attempt to get rid of the unusually soft stress toy I handed it off to the Editor-in-Chief. 

My predecessor then placed it on the corner of her desk, where it still lives to this day, and it became yet another coin in this treasure chest of a room full of questionable but sentimental knick knacks. 

This unicorn, albeit an inanimate toy, has sat by me as I have typed away into the early hours of the morning, immersed in an investigative piece or sweating while rushing to submit a homework assignment by midnight so I could then return my focus to editing the paper. 

It has quite literally seen my blood, sweat and tears more than most others who have the luxury of leaving the office before me. 

So while some may peer into our office and scoff with distaste at the mild chaos and disorganization, I look at it now — on the very last Wednesday night I will ever spend working on this newspaper as the Editor-in-Chief — and I see a historical archive. 

Traces of everyone that came before me live on in this room, many of them likely to be forgotten or misplaced as we relocate to the new student center in mere weeks. Some have already started to sort through the items left behind and discard what they believe to have no value. 

A few hours before sitting down to draft this, the new Editor-in-Chief of the paper was elected and confirmed by the Board of Publications. By the time this gets printed and distributed to the rest of campus, my successor’s name will be public knowledge, and I will officially have one foot out the door. 

It is a bittersweet moment, and I can’t help but wonder if the pieces of myself that I’m leaving behind will one day be misplaced and forgotten, too. 

It is also bittersweet in the sense that I have spent most of this semester counting down the days to when I get to pass down my responsibilities to a successor while investing the last few remnants of my college career into this paper, and now that the time has come, I’m not sure I know how exactly to let go. 

Do I just close the door to the office tomorrow afternoon after submitting the paper one last time and hope that I’ve been the leader this paper and its staff deserved? Or will I turn back a few weeks from now and regret not doing more?

As I sit here in my editor’s office and watch the clock approach 4 a.m., what I do know is that I will curse myself in a few hours when I wake up for my 7 a.m. work shift and blame myself for procrastinating. 

But in reality, I could not force myself to write this “swan song” earlier because I knew these words would be the last of mine to ever print in this paper. More than that, how could I possibly condense the last four years of my life into half of a page? 

We’re living through more history than most anticipate in a lifetime ­— surviving a pandemic, wars erupting and the overall chaos of the world makes the woes of running a paper seem minuscule, yet I cannot find the words to encompass all that I have done and felt in my time here.

As Riverdale’s Archie Andrews poetically put it, “You haven’t known the triumphs and defeats, the epic highs and lows of high school football.” 

Similarly, I simply did not know the epic highs and lowest lows of being Editor-in-Chief until I one day found myself entrusted with this entire publication. 

However, it is not too far off from many other Tech students’ experience; there are moments where you will feel small and under qualified because trying to manage a staff of 25 will feel like there’s 23 too many people you hired but also not enough, and surely, the previous board must have made a mistake in electing you. 

On other days when you watch your staff pour their hearts and souls into stories that matter, stories that would otherwise go unheard, you will feel like you are on top of the world and your half-empty cup will overflow with pride and admiration.

In this way, it also feels like I’m leaving a toxic ex behind. Not because I feel wronged by this experience in any way, but because I knew from the very beginning that I would be investing myself in a relationship that would not last forever, into something that was never mine to keep.

I’m leaving that relationship with the knowledge that I did my best, and perhaps there were some things I could have worked on given more time. 

But, I will never regret being in the relationship itself, and traces of it will shape me for years to come.