Let’s get together and do something cool.”
How many times did I hear that from Malik Rahili and Justin Perry in the four years we’ve been friends, and the four years we’ve been working, in whatever capacity, for The Appalachian? A lot.
Of all the things I’ve done in college, the best things I’ve done is meet those two guys, walk into Club Expo the first week and sign up for student media.
And sure, you can keep telling me that journalism is dying and print journalism is already in the grave and the market is horrible and nobody in journalism is happy. That’s OK. Admittedly, 95 percent of the time, all those things are true. But then, in that other five percent of the time, when Malik, Justin, myself and a host of other truly incredible people would get together, we would do the coolest of things.
I’ve been thinking about the past a lot lately.
And as my mind goes to memories of the SoCon basketball tournaments where sketchy things/stains were found in cheap, old hotel rooms and a SoCon football championship that included storming the field and hurdling over the players’ bench, the Sun Belt move that involved trudging up for a “no comment” in the snow, redesigning the paper once, twice, three times, and the incredibly long hours in the newsroom where we churned out content and worked our asses off, I realize that we didn’t do it for anything as self-righteous as the future or for class or even for the readers. We did it for each other.
We did it because we felt obligated to never let each other down. Because if you were to say student media was about putting out a product twice a week, selling ads or winning awards, you clearly never worked in that crummy old office. It was more than that. I hated leaving that place midway through college but I needed a change. And it brought me two of the most important experiences of my life: the Charlotte Hornets and the Department of Sports Information here at Appalachian State.
But just as it was the right decision to leave, it was also the right decision to come back. For four years, Malik, Justin and I talked about all the things we would change if we were in charge. And then we got the opportunity. No, it wasn’t always easy. In fact, it rarely was. It was the hardest semester of my college career and I’ve never got less sleep or stressed so much, and yet, it was all completely worth it.
We worked on creating a better relationship with the department of communications and got more journalism students in the door; we shifted from a newspaper to a news magazine in order to emphasize storytelling over “filling a place on the page”; we passed down a lot of knowledge to a young group that will take over after we’re long gone; we tried to make the place everything that was great about when we were the newbies in the newsroom, and only ever tried to improve it.
Maybe we were successful, maybe we weren’t. Maybe people read us, maybe they didn’t. That was honestly never important to me. Because to me that wasn’t the point. We did it for each other.
And I’d do it all again.
Endings are never easy and I don’t know how I want all of this to end. I know what maybe the next two years look like, but it will be different without everyone. And then after that, who knows? I just keep thinking that something should signal the end, something meaningful that signals the completion of four long years, like in my favorite TV show finales. But that’s not how real life is. And that’s OK.
Because to actually quote my favorite show “Scrubs”: “The truth is, you should consider yourself lucky if you even occasionally get to make someone, anyone, feel a little better. After that, it’s all about the people that you let into your life.”
And those people just deserve the utmost amount of thanks I can possibly give. In no particular order: My family, Malik, Justin, Chelsey Fisher, Michael Bragg, Stephanie Sansoucy, Paul Gates, Allison Dyche, Mike Flynn, Ryan Bower, Ben Winterrowd, Kelsey Campbell, Dan Butler, Josh Rosen, Mike Cristaldi, Jerry Snow, anyone who’s ever worked for me ever and anyone else I’ve shared a laugh with.
You are all the greatest, weirdest, funniest, most talented, inspiring group of people that I have ever known and for that, I thank you.
I know this all has to end and it’s never good to live in the past too long. But maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll all meet up on Christmas one year with our full-time jobs and our families. And as we’re sitting around laughing about the stupidest things imaginable again, making the same old inside jokes that now our wives ponder divorcing us over, and the times that we spent in room 217, we’ll crack open a few beers and once again say, “Let’s get together and do something cool.”
I know I’d be down.