Today, I went to my last meeting at The Michigan Daily, which has me thinking a lot about my first. 

It was the fall of freshman year, and I went to The Daily’s mass meeting planning to join the news section or maybe arts. Growing up, I wasn’t exactly a sports fanatic. I went to high school in downtown Chicago where we didn’t have a football team. I’d never been to a professional basketball game, and I really only went to Cubs games for the hotdogs.

But the sports section lured me in. There were probably 20 guys sitting around a desk that was covered in a seemingly random assortment of crap — tons of discarded sheets of paper, a toy Transformer, an empty fishbowl. The bulletin boards were covered with old press passes, notes and edited stories that had accumulated over the years. They said they were the most fun section, and that was all I needed to hear.

When I signed up, I thought The Daily would be a fun little extracurricular. I had no way of anticipating all of the different things it would mean to me over the course of four years. 

But at times, I didn’t think I would spend four years on the section. I didn’t love Michigan when I first got here and even contemplated transferring. It was the sports section that made me fall in love with this school. There’s something about The Daily —not just the work of it, but the people, the culture, the physical space — that makes you feel like you have a purpose. 

At times, it’s been my biggest source of pride. It’s been the home base I raced to after my last class, a place I refused to leave until 2 am when games of euchre had run their course and 50-cent Cokes had lost their appeal. 

At other times, it’s been the source of hair-tugging, fist-balling, snot-nosing frustration. But even those times don’t seem so bad now that I’m saying goodbye. 

As a Sports Writer, beat member and, finally, Managing Sports Editor, The Daily has taken up different amounts of my time and consciousness, each of which has made me into the person I am today in different ways. I have loved and cherished each one of these roles, but none have made as big of a difference in my life as the weeks following that first meeting. The weeks that made me stay at Michigan.

I’ve tried to pinpoint what it was that originally drew me into the Daily, but there was no single factor. It’s a blur of 2 am sledding trips, walks to softball games, jumps in the river, a sense of confidence and a passion for something I knew I was good at. And every softball game I covered and every late-night Denny’s run I went on made me feel like I was part of something bigger, something important.

My co-MSE, Kent, has had to remind me that we’re never going to be satisfied with what we say in these final columns. There’s no word that encompasses the feeling of complete commitment, complete acceptance, complete love that I’ve found here. Any attempt I make at summarizing this experience will be, at best, an inaccurate approximation. At worst, it’ll be really fucking cheesy. 

But anyone who’s ever been on the sports section will know the feeling I’m talking about. It’s in all of that seemingly random crap covering the sports desk. It’s in NYPD runs and chair monkey games and road trip stories that aren’t funny to anyone outside of the section because they just wouldn’t get it.  

And, as anyone who’s graduated could probably tell you, it’s really hard to give that feeling up. 

Last fall, I was interviewing Daily sports alumni, and I asked what it was like to go back to the newsroom after you graduate:

“Some of my best memories in college were made because of The Michigan Daily and you step into it and you kind of get echoes of those memories,” someone told me. “You look over to the design desk or the statement desk and you see the people who you cared about and you loved when you were there yourself, but then you blink and you realize that the person who’s sitting there isn’t the person your mind imagined was sitting there — it’s someone completely different, making their own memories. It’s bittersweet.” 

Today, at my last meeting, I finally understood what he was talking about. I looked around at all of the new people that had joined the section since my tenure ended in December, talking about all of the inside jokes and funny stories that had happened this semester. 

And it was bittersweet. It isn’t my section anymore. It’ll keep growing and changing and evolving long after I’m gone.

But it’ll always be there for the next freshman who walks in and decides to make it their own.

Former Managing Sports Editor Lane Kizziah can be reached on Twitter @KizziahLane.