Every email I’ve ever sent to the sports staff has ended with some variation of “I love you.”

To some, that probably seems like an unprofessional, aggressive overuse of the term “I love you.” Under other circumstances, I might agree. But I don’t agree here, because: a) it’s absurd for anyone to limit their allotted number of “I love yous” in this lifetime, especially if you really, truly mean it, and b) I really, truly meant it.

My “I love yous” were never included on the basis of saying it just to say it. They were included because I meant it, from the bottom of my heart, every single time. 

I have so much love for The Daily, for the sports staff and for everyone who has ever contributed in any capacity to this institution. It’s kind of hard to explain why, because to a lot of people, this is probably just a student newspaper. It’s just like any other organization on this campus: It’s a creative outlet, it’s an extracurricular, it adds a little spice to students’ resumes, something fun to talk about in interviews.

Not for me.  

For me, The Daily is so, so much more. For being a student journalist, it’s a little ridiculous that I’m sitting here struggling to string together coherent sentences that accurately convey The Daily’s importance to me. It should be easy to explain, but it’s not. The only way to explain it, I think, is to explain why The Daily is a large part of the reason I’m graduating from Michigan in two weeks. 

In high school, my plan was commmunity college. I applied to Michigan on a whim, and only decided to come here after the love of my life (financial aid) came through. But when I first got here, I realized I knew no one, and I was as academically ill-prepared as humanly possible.

I quite literally hated it. Everything about Michigan was different from my little village back home — my econ class was bigger than my high school graduating class, by a lot. I knew maybe three people? The lowest-level math class you could take was pre-calculus, which was still two levels too high for me. I failed two of those exams in a row, and neither of my parents had gone to college, so I felt like I had no one to talk to about it. 

And, to top it all off, I got sunburnt at every single goddamn football game.

I was ready to transfer. I was going to go anywhere else. Michigan was not my home. I hadn’t even planned on going anywhere other community college in the first place. I did not sign up for this. 

Instead of transferring, though, I signed up for The Daily. It was kind of a last-ditch effort to stay at Michigan, and I did technically only join because I was binge-watching Gilmore Girls at the time and Rory wrote for her school paper, but that’s not important. Because when Ted and Kevin started offering to help me with my math homework, and when Avi offered to meet me at South Quad for lunch before volleyball, and when Kelly gave me every piece of advice she had, I realized that there was a reason for me to stay on campus and give it another chance. 

My rocky start wasn’t at all indicative of the life I’d have at Michigan, and that chance I took on staying has given me the best four years of my life. I flew with the hockey team to Madison and State College, and I drove to Ohio State my senior year to cover a football game with four amazing friends. We went to the Peach Bowl last December where we met Mel, and if you haven’t met Mel (which you probably haven’t), just know he makes mean peach booze slushie. 

Joining The Daily carried me through Michigan. It taught me that going out of my comfort zone and attending a four-year university had been hard, but exactly what I needed to grow as a person. It gave me the chance to start collecting coffee mugs at every school I went to, whether that was to cover a sport or for some other random, unimportant reason, in hopes that my future kids will grow up and see these mugs and not think twice about going to college.

(I don’t have an Ohio State mug, but that’s not my fault. I tried to buy one at both a hockey and football game. Their stores only carried fake buckeyes and foam fingers.)

The Daily gave me a home in a place where I felt like I didn’t have one, and now I can’t imagine having gone anywhere else. That’s why I have an absurd amount of love for these people, and why I don’t care that ending every email with “I love you” was probably unnecessary and ridiculous.

What I do care about is that everyone on this staff — every freshman, every senior, every junior and every sophomore — knows that they were a part of one of the best experiences on this campus.

At this point, it’s important to note that I tried to write this column a million times and couldn’t figure out what I wanted to say. A couple nights ago, I asked a former MSE how to best approach this column, and he said to write it for yourself — not for anyone else. 

I kept thinking about what I wanted to say. What I needed, not what anyone else needed. All I could think of, though, was how much I loved everyone, how grateful I am that I got to be a part of something so special for these four years. 

So, really, this column is just a 1,000-word extension of my senior goodbye from back in December. Oops.

In reality, that’s probably because I wasn’t really ready to say goodbye back then. I couldn’t write that goodbye in its entirety because saying goodbye meant I was done here at Michigan, and I wasn’t ready to be done. 

But, I think I am now. So, let me finish by wrapping up a few things I left unsaid:

Megan and Lauren, thanks for putting up with me (and The Daily). I can’t believe we made it through four years together even though we went in blind freshman year. I’m happy none of our fights over plastic bags and dishes ever had serious consequences. 

Thanks, Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Jarrad, for calling Michigan’s office of financial aid every day after I got accepted to find a way to get me here. Thanks, Christopher Lobenherz, for picking up the phone one of those days and helping an unaccompanied homeless youth get to college. 

Turns out, I don’t have any big-picture theme or advice to give, mostly because I’m 22 and really don’t need that kind of liability on my hands. But I do want to say thank you, and not just to The Daily. Thank you if you read a story, if you were a professor who went out of your way to help me, if you were a GSI who didn’t fail me in pre-calculus even if you probably should have.

Thank you all for being here, for being a part of this community, for reading this incoherent goodbye column. Thank you, everyone, for doing whatever it is that you did to help me get to where I am today. 

I love you. 

Laney can be reached on Twitter @laneybyler or by email at dbyler@umich.edu. She wants to thank you (obviously) for reading this incomprehensible and ridiculously emotional last column. You’re all rockstars. She loves you. 

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