Senior column: Signing off

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Maya Hernandez

“It’s made me believe that even in the tough times, late nights and seemingly unwinnable situations, it’s important to take a step back, take a breath and have some fun.”

Herding two of my classmates through the main campus hallways we had never explored would have made any morning stressful, but adding the task of walking into the newsroom made it almost unbearable. I was terrified. I couldn’t stop contemplating what they would think of me.

What if my application was rejected? What if I wasn’t talented enough? What if they didn’t like me?

If only 14-year-old me knew that what I was so anxious about that morning would end up being the best decision of my entire high school career.

If only I knew that at 15 I would attend my first week of summer training and fall absolutely in love with photography and spend the next three years on sidelines, in stadiums and on stages. That the senior with pink hair that seemed so intimidating on my first day of class would become my mentor and introduce me to the world of graphic design.

That one day complaining about not wanting to learn design would be funny because now it’s not only a passion project but a job and possible career. That the two girls I sat next to would become some of my best friends for the next few years.

If only I knew that at 16 I would become the publication’s design editor. That I would consider staff to be my family and form unbreakable bonds. The shy girl who sat in the corner during my first year on staff would eventually open up to me, and we’d stay to work on the paper until it was dark outside everyday. That all of the extra time in front of the computer would pay off, and I’d win one of the highest awards I could.

If only I knew that at 17 I’d be going into my third year on staff as managing editor. That the idea of having to walk out of C108 for the last time in a few short weeks was already a heartbreaking thought. Many of the people I considered family either graduated, left staff, or have been stuck at home because of a pandemic. I’d have to find a way for staff to become a family again, make a fantastic paper, and stay organized completely online; the long hours spent making the transition would be exhausting. But none of that matters to me; now I have hope because although it once seemed like just another class, newspaper ended up meaning so much more than that to me.

It’s made me believe that even in the tough times, late nights and seemingly unwinnable situations, it’s important to take a step back, take a breath and have some fun. It’s made me grow into a content optimist after walking in as a confused, scarred little girl. When I joined I dreaded going to college, thinking that it would just be more nights spent unhappy because class and work and life can be way too overwhelming. Now I’m excited to find a new hobby and explore a city with new friends. I used to be scared to grow up, but now I know that even if things don’t go according to plan — or if there is no plan — everything always works itself out and that if it doesn’t, it’ll at least make a great story.

If only I knew that the decision to fill out a single piece of paper would help me in so many ways, I don’t think I would have been so scared. The late night Zoom calls, countless iced coffees, new traditions and genuine happiness that that piece of paper would bring me would cancel out the stress, burnout and fear that almost defined my high school experience. I wish that 14-year-old me knew that change doesn’t always have to be scary because sometimes all it takes is one stressful day to start the best years of your life.