After a tumultuous and strange first semester at Boston College as a nursing major in the Connell School, I decided to start writing for a campus publication in January of my freshman year. I had been the online editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper, an experience that left me in love with the news but burnt out from the constant barrage on my time. I needed a break, and my 17-year-old self had thought that the only way to do that would be to switch passions entirely, from words to needles. It didn’t work.
So, I emailed the editors-in-chief of all of the campus publications and told myself that I would work for whichever one got back to me first. That was the editor-in-chief of The Heights, who directed me to the news editor. Since then, I spent a year as a staff writer, a year as head news editor, a year as editor-in-chief, and finally, a semester as a columnist on campus issues. It has been the hardest thing I have ever done, and the best.
Let me tell you a story.
On Monday, Jan. 25, 2015, Winter Storm Juno arrived at BC. That night, Governor Charlie Baker declared an official state of emergency, so the editor of the New England Classic declared an official University-wide snowball fight. Members of the editorial board realized quickly that nearly all the stories we had planned for the Thursday issue would have to be scrapped. We met in the room of the assistant metro editor in Vanderslice Hall and discussed the best way to cover a storm that would shut down the University for two days and become one of the largest storms in Boston history. In total, Juno dropped 20 inches of snow on the area. By mid-February, nearly 80 inches of snow had fallen.
That was the start of a series of blizzards that were as welcomed and persistent as a cold sore. With it came a Groundhog Day-like cycle that precluded any sort of joy. I was knee-deep in news, and the blizzards kept coming. Two weeks after Juno, Baker declared another state of emergency. This time, the blizzard struck on a Sunday, and the newspaper worked long into the night before the snow day was declared.
That winter was extremely cold. And we never had class. But we always put out a newspaper, even when we were trapped in the office for hours, and walking home meant traversing between two, 10-foot walls of ice-cold snow on Stokes Lawn. Together, we were in the trenches.
In the ultimate cliché, there are too many people who are important to me to thank in this column. But know this: Everyone I have met in McElroy 113—from my first day sitting in the biz office writing a news article, to my final production, teary-eyed over my last-ever front page—has changed me in some way.
Each Thanksgiving, the Heights staff writes what they are most thankful for on the editorial page. This past year, I wrote this: “I’m thankful for the drop in ‘Hannah Hunt,’ the drum solo in ‘In the Air Tonight,’ and the people who will always celebrate both with me.” I still am.
The top-down Jesuit structure of BC demands that students impose meaning on their life before they even have a developed sense of self. A flier for Halftime urges me to figure out what I want to do before I realize I hate my first job. Instead of wanting me to fail, and learn from it, BC wants me to succeed right out the gate. Everything about this school is set up to spit out well-adjusted, but not well-rested, curious men and women. It is a hard narrative to avoid, and harder still to realize that you may not have succeeded in it.
Graduation is right around the corner for me. It’s the light at the end of the tunnel that sometimes seems like a bright spot of sun and other times like the flash that apparently comes right before death. I sometimes wish I had taken more time in the last four years to breathe. But most of the time, I think that there is more I could have done. I wish I had done both PULSE and Perspectives, I wish I had been nicer to my roommates, I wish I had done the readings more intensely and made the friends I have always admired from afar. I could have been everything, but I wasn’t.
That notion of everything can come in the small spaces instead of in the big, sweeping expanse of four years, though. The feeling of accomplishment, of knowing a place and how you fit into it, of pushing yourself and doing almost everything you wanted to, can come in the 3 a.m. headline re-writes and the 11:05 chicken fingers. It can come in Chocolate Bar lattes, matching black turtlenecks, and the pulsing drums before the tumultuous middle of “Hannah Hunt.” For me, it came in all of those things, and in the people who walked home with me from Heights production, in a blizzard, after a 12-hour work session, with snow stinging our faces and catching in our eyelashes, and stars winking at us from above.
Featured Image by Abby Paulson / Creative Director