I walked into Cane’s without the slightest clue of what I wanted to do with my life.
I’m sure the vast majority of freshmen experience similar anxiety, but this was a true moment of crisis. There I was in late April, walking through Monroe Park (pre-renovations) from my dorm in the OG GRC (RIP), asking myself what I had done with my inaugural year of college aside from drink and smoke away my social anxiety.
Friends from high school and roommates got me through the year, for the most part. I hadn’t found a family or a cause I felt passionate about.
I had swipes to burn, so when a stranger asked if I could swipe them Croutons I obliged without giving it much thought. This tiny gesture of kindness (or indifference, full transparency) changed my life forever.
As I waited for my VCU card back, my swipe-ee struck up a conversation about our futures. I said I loved to write, and Bryant Drayton, the sports editor at The Commonwealth Times, overheard us. Bryant, whom I’d never met before, told me I should write for this paper I didn’t know existed.
Bryant gave me his number, and 108 issues over 3 1/2 years of the CT later, I’m left with a resolute belief that fate or God or centricity in the universe in whatever capacity it exists overheard my yearning and distress that night. I found my family and passion at the CT, and the loved ones and experiences I’ve gained here will be a part of me till I’m six feet under.
For any student reading this who isn’t sure what they want to do with their life — find the thing that “blows your fucking dome,” as Sarah King, my first executive editor, put it to me. Do what you love with who you love, fuck a paycheck and social status.
I came to VCU, mostly, in search of an abstract concept of freedom, diversity and inclusion (bravo, administration, your branding has been impeccable). My sister, a photography major at the time, showed me around when I was a junior in high school. I felt something sitting on the rocks of the James after our tour of campus that I’ll never be able to explain — a sense of subliminal belonging, seemingly out of nowhere.
Believe in meaning in the universe, no matter what the world throws at you. Persist through the bullshit and you will find your passion.
A note to journalists and prospective writers — freedom of the press is under siege. Now, it is more important than ever for people who believe in unearthing the truth to throw themselves behind the fourth estate. Democracy Dies in Darkness. We need YOU, young journalist, to be the difference you want to see in the world.
I can never express the extent of my gratitude to Bryant and Sarah enough. Sophia Belletti, my co-sports editor and eventual executive editor, became a cherished friend over the years.
Caitlin Barbieri has become one of my best friends and a beloved emotional support system in just a semester here at the paper. Shaun Jackson, you are our queen, thank you for holding us all together emotionally. Katie Bashista, I’ll see you at Rolling Stone, you are so talented and compassionate. Jessica Wetzler, you’re too good for Harrisonburg, but I know you’ll love it and go on to do big things. Nia Tariq, you’re an amazing journalist and dear friend — can I be a guest on your talk show? Georgia Geen and Saffeya Ahmed, you have been everything to this paper this semester and I can’t imagine better journalists and leaders to leave my beloved CT to. Our advisors, Allison Dyche, Mark Jeffries and Jacob McFadden, you guys rock — thank you for everything you do for us.
Design staff, photographers and illustrators — we are so lucky to work with you amazing, talented people. Ryan Rich, Jeffrey Pohanka, MP and Andy Caress, you’ve dealt with a lot this semester and continued to produce a beautiful paper. Thank you for being amazing coworkers and friends. Thank you for not killing us when we keep pushing deadlines back. Even though Erin, our photography editor, yells at me a lot, I’ve always known it was with love and born from a desire to make our paper the best publication it can possibly be.
Thank you to the cleaning staff of the Student Media Center for dealing with our bullshit. Thank you Fadel Allassan for, well, being Fadel. You are the backbone of the CT.
This is the family I found. Go find yours, dear reader.
I am forever grateful to the nameless student who asked me to swipe them that fateful day my freshman year. You’ll never know it, but when you asked what I wanted to do with my life, you set me on the path toward my future and helped me find my family.
In the timeless words of the great Sarah King,
You gotta jump in to swim – Mac Miller