Design by Brittany Bowman, but really by all of you.

Position(s): 2021 Managing Editor, Summer 2020 – Fall 2020 Editorial Page Editor, Winter 2020 Senior Opinion Editor

Section(s): Leadership, Opinion

Semesters at The Daily: 6

This semester did not go as planned for me, but neither has any semester in college. The last four years included me trying and failing immensely to understand a new way of living, of progressing, of learning. 

On Oct. 14, 2016, I received two back-to-back head injuries that resulted in a traumatic brain injury, requiring eight months of speech, vestibular, physical and occupational therapy. The second hit to an already-volatile, sheared and vulnerable brain evoked post-concussive syndrome, where all the “sensory knobs” in my body never turned off. For months, light, noise, touch, smell and any too-fast alteration of an environment sent me reeling. The axonal shearing that occurred affected the chemical makeup of my brain, and I developed anxiety and depression, among other psychological issues I had never experienced before. I medically withdrew from high school classes, attending school very infrequently. I had lost so much of myself, now inhabiting this new body and this new brain, not knowing how to work with it. When I wanted to do things, I often couldn’t. So I stopped wanting. 

But in August 2019, I went to The Michigan Daily’s website, clicked the “Join Us” button and applied to be a columnist for the Opinion section. I wasn’t happy with what my two years of undergrad had been so far. The characteristics I once held so close to my person had evaporated, rendering me a shell of someone who was once so eager to be involved, to be a leader, to contribute ideas and to not sink into the shadows. I no longer had the self-driven ambition that once propelled my life forward; I needed to have an obligation to others, to be responsible for something larger than isolation. When I was accepted as a columnist, I didn’t feel relief. I’ve never enjoyed writing for myself. I wanted to be an editor, in any capacity, but I was no longer at a small, cornfield-fed high school where kids drove lifted trucks with gutted deer and squirrels sliding around the bed. I was at a university with tens of thousands of students more prepared than me, walking into a newsroom with semi-arched ceilings and 129 years of history. So, my first semester at The Daily, I sat toward the end of the Editboard table, listening closely and watching how people reacted and to what. I gathered bits and pieces of others and slowly, I rebuilt myself. 

Fast forward, and I ran for summer Editorial Page Editor. When the then-academic semester EPE transferred schools, Emily asked me to be her co-EPE. These positions were so uniquely fulfilling: having access to the ‘tothedaily’ inbox; reading every op-ed or letter to the editor submission; making connections with professors, graduate student instructors, lawyers from six states over and editing the language of those with so much more experience than me. I had revived the part of me that was forced into a state of silence, mistrust, solitude: I felt the first sprigs of motivation and passion again, but was so sad to have joined The Daily so late. Somehow, I had been a senior editor and then a managing section editor after doubting my ability to even be accepted as a columnist. I had a year left of undergrad left with no idea where to go. Then, in October 2020, Jack asked me to be his Managing Editor. The lists of pros and cons were made, and despite being so unbelievably honored by the opportunity, I worried about how I would fare over the course of the year. Like I said at the beginning, no semester has gone as planned. I declined. But, the contested election happened and Claire asked again, and I think I said ‘yes’ that same night. I can say this was my best decision at this university (apart from joining this newspaper in the first place), so thank you for giving me a second chance at this wild ride together. I’ve found my purpose here, my motivation to wake up each morning, my love of reading peoples’ writing again and caring delicately for each silly little task. While everyone at The Daily has naturally had a huge impact on my life, there are a few individuals to whom I owe the most. So, now I’ll start. 

9:37 p.m. on Dec. 7, 2020. Our last night of production with Lizzy & Erin’s class of MEs. Looking at this image, it is so insane to think about how much we’ve all grown and changed over the past year.
12:07 a.m. on Dec. 8, 2020: A few hours after the above photo was taken, everyone logged back onto Zoom for one last time together. I knew I had to capture this moment, as many others probably did as well. From the emoji-Zoom reactions and the tears, you can tell Lizzy just led us all in shouting “WE MADE A PAPER!”

To everyone — Thank you for letting me be your Managing Editor this year. I am so grateful for this position and for the ability to interact with so many of you, even though I have not been as present as I would have liked to be. Last semester while we were remote, I dreamed of spending each night in the newsroom alongside Claire & Jack, getting to know all the managing section editors and everyone else who spent their time in our shared space. This semester has been very tough for me, though. October was the five-year mark of my brain injury, and sometimes symptoms really ramp up after that. In my case, panic attacks, flashbacks, headaches and sensory overloads have rendered me quite unsociable. But, I’ve tried my best to fulfill my duties as ME. Those of you who know this and can understand this, thank you and I’m sorry. Those of you who can’t understand this, I’m happy that you don’t have to relate. Regardless, thank you all for teaching me so much over this past year. You have all been such strong and powerful leaders, and the work you all have done is so amazing. I can’t believe we ran this paper as a bunch of 20-year-olds and 21-year-olds while also being full-time students, but we did. Thank you for letting me be a part of it. 

To the managing section editors: 

*** To my Elise — My sweet, sweet, caring, loving Elise. You remind me so much of my grandmother, the sweetest, most beautiful soul I’ve ever known. I have been so blessed to know you and to see you grow in this leadership position. You have brought such amazing energy to the entirety of the newsroom, and somehow you are always radiating warming, welcoming, happy rays; whichever room you enter, the mood softens. We have so many funny, silly memories (I can’t be explicit): wearing hats making a ‘fiery’ PowerPoint presentation, funny pictures, crazy stories, gossip & drama, etc. So much I can’t even remember. I know you will be the best educator ever and that your students will always feel so free and welcomed, able to tell you anything. Thank you for always being such a sweet, selfless individual. I love Arts, and I love how much I’ve learned about the arts from you and your section. P.S. Zoe and Lizzie (and Pip), this is for you too. Thank you for being the kindest, most receptive souls. I have been so incredibly blessed to know you all. 

*** Gabrijela — I think I’ll always say the most impactful thing I did with my time at The Daily will be starting Miseducation with you when we were both summer MEs. We set our own deadlines for eight-page papers and stuck to them. It was the middle of the summer and we stayed up until 4 a.m. writing editorials we’d edit ourselves, and I don’t know another person who would do that. You are one of the most beautiful, strong, talented and intelligent people I’ve met. I have the utmost respect for you and the work you do, and I cannot even imagine the things you have yet to accomplish. 

*** Liz — From the moment I met you, I knew you were one to do great things. You reminded me so much of myself, and rough times at The Daily have only worked to prove that time and time over. You are so strong, and I am so proud of you and so, so excited to see where you go and what you do in life; I know it’ll be great. Can’t wait to graduate together. Please stay in touch. 

*** Madison — Remember when we first bonded at the Opinion desk a late Thursday night with Zack over our respective organ failures? And our house fires, and Instagram posts and YouTube videos — wow, what a time. You are such a bright star, and I can’t wait to have our long-awaited wine nights. 

*** Anamika — When you walked into the newsroom the other night and sat by me on the couch, I needed your affirming words and understanding so much. I was so terrified to come back, thinking my presence would be ignored or rejected, but somehow our four-minute conversation changed the entire trajectory of my mindset. I’m sorry we weren’t able to get to know each other better, but know I have always been in awe of your leadership, eloquence and power. 

*** Lane — You’ve been so delightful to work with, and I have always loved doing Sports pages. When I was a senior editor I was so incredibly intimidated of you, always wearing heeled boots and cool pants.

*** Sophie — Thank you so much for stepping up this semester in your role. I know it has been a lot of tough nights and long hours messing around with Adobe fonts, making sure someone didn’t make the horizontal line 88 degrees instead of 90, making sure headlines are at 100% instead of 98%, more font things, redownloading every single graphic to the server and relinking them, double or triple-checking bylines, debating with me about strokes or color schemes or font families. But I think you knew about all of these things coming into this position, or at least I assumed from your energy that you did. So, I know you’re going to do great things. I am handing off my print baby to you, something I have poured hours and hours into throughout my six semesters here at The Daily. You are the future of this silly little print paper, and I am so glad you’ve been able to witness her in all of her glory these past two weeks. Keep your passion for this, don’t let it burn you out. 

*** Parth & Naitian — I don’t think there has ever been a moment when I am not fully astounded at your intelligence and brilliance. We wouldn’t ever pick favorites but wow, Web (and especially its two MOEs) has done so much for this institution. From being on call for everyone’s bugs to designing a brand new website to doing literally everything The New York Times does, I think you both are the coolest people ever. 

*** Tara & Rori — My favorite ladies. I am so very thankful to have been able to work with you and I hope our thousands of (update!!; press run changed; what’s this ad; where’s this ad; the horoscope what??, etc.) texts don’t end at the end of this week. Let’s get tea and go to brunch and talk about things that aren’t so business-y or edit-y. 

*** Kathy & James — Thank you, thank you, thank you for doing this crazy job. You have been so endlessly nurturing and supportive of me and other Student Publications leaders, through the worst times and the best. Thank you both for being a friend, a support system, an advisor, mentor, parent, listener and action-taker, all wrapped into one. You have listened to us through emotionally draining, gut-wrenching conversations; worked long hours to accommodate nocturnal staffers; dealt with all our mistakes and have been on-call if we need you. Thank you for devoting your time and energy to this place with the same vivacity we have as students. Our tenures end after a year, though. You come back to Student Pubs day after day, year after year. I cannot even attempt to quantify the impact you’ve had on so many student leaders, the strength and courage you’ve provided them in leading this organization. So, again, thank you for holding us all together. We absolutely could not have done this without you.

6:25 p.m. on April 20, 2021: This story meeting we all showed up a Zoom background representing our favorite design from the semester. Aya Salim, the then-Managing Design Editor, would be leaving The Daily for a semester with the Michigan in Washington Program. Backgrounds were to celebrate her, and any Zoom ‘hats’ worn were from the previous evening, celebrating MAE Zoe Phillips’s last story meeting. My personal favorite part is that Liz’s background consumed her hair. Additionally, summer MEs were starting to shadow academic semester staff.

Jack — What would we do without you. You’ve been such an eternally reliable individual for Claire and me and always provide such a grounded and essential perspective to any issue we encounter. Thank you for keeping my plants alive and for holding down the desk; it’s been such an honor to share it with you (even virtually). Remember when Probably pooped in the cowboy hat. Remember the old magazines you found in the desk the first week of production this semester. The door alarms, the cookie deliveries, the texts asking you to remove something from Twitter. I’m so excited for you to be a firefighter someday and know that wherever you go, you’ll do great things.

To my dear Claire — There are not many people you meet who understand so many stages of your life so intricately. Who — past understanding — can relate and parallel so many of the things that constitute our lives, personalities, quirks. We went so much of the year without realizing just how tragically similar we are. We’ve been each other’s stability, sanity and support time and time again. We’ve had so many roller coaster ups and downs, complete corkscrews and failed magnetic systems where the coaster car strands 40 people upside down, but we’ve somehow managed to run this newspaper and stand here today. I will never be able to thank you enough for the sacrifices and early morning hours you’ve put into this organization and into us, and you deserve all the thanks imaginable. You are such a shining light, and I am so blessed to know you. Without sealing this handwritten letter with a wax, rose-scented stamp, you are literally so important to me.

To everyone after — Jasmin, Paige, Aya: I am so excited for you to take on these roles in, hopefully, a brand-new environment. I hope you build and maintain strong boundaries and learn to respect yourself and all your colleagues. You will learn to trust yourself, and I hope that others respect that and trust your position. A lot, and I mean a lot, of this job is about respect. Ultimately, there is so much we can try to teach you collectively, but the biggest learning moments happen on your own time. We’ll provide you with the Google Docs on “How To Do All These Different Things,” but unfortunately, there are so many moments you’ll experience here that those before you cannot prepare you for. Above all, keep putting yourself first. If you find that you’ve stopped putting yourself first, please text me at any time.