There’s nothing sadder than the final page of a book.
When you’re a storyteller, the final chapter is always the hardest to write. When you’re the reader, it’s always the hardest to finish. And that’s what I’m tasked with here.
I’ve never been good at goodbyes. I’ve developed a pattern in my life of avoiding them. It’s easier than confronting the fact that, when it’s really goodbye, the story is over. This, I suppose, is the final page of my book of thousands of words I’ve written in this paper.
To most of you reading this, I am just another name in the paper. The faceless byline of those stories you might remember but that will fade into the background of your “college experience” in time. Sometimes I was Jessica, other times I was Jess. I was a senior reporter, the Enterprise Editor, and even once an Associate Sports Editor.
To all of my peers at Penn, it has been my honor and privilege to tell just some of your stories.
Thank you to all the Penn Administrators I crossed paths with, for teaching me the value of persistence and not taking no for an answer, and for inspiring me with creativity and a healthy dose of contempt for your authority when necessary.
To my friends of the 130 and the 131: your mentorship and guidance has meant so much to me as a journalist and a leader over the last four years, and your friendship has meant even more.
To the 132: we spent far too much time together, patched up more than our fair share of catastrophes, and shared an excessive amount of embarrassing stories. I’m lucky to still call some of you my friends.
To my successors on the 133: the job never gets easier, but it also never stops mattering. Keep the faith.
Finally, to all the other amazing people who work at the DP, but never get the recognition of their name on the masthead: you’re the smart ones, and you make everything else possible.
The truth is, all of us want to matter in some way. We all come with a story, and the greatest joy in life comes in sharing our own stories and feeling as though it’s made a difference to someone.
We, at the DP, like to treat this place as a job. We spend about 40 hours per week, stuck in a windowless office full of stale air and sleep-deprived staffers, straining our eyes over computer screens and bickering about things like inch counts and deadlines. We give ourselves homework that is more overbearing than our actual homework.
And we do it all in the hope that, by trying to tell everyone else what matters, we, ourselves, will matter in some small-but-discernable way.
A very wise professor once told me that the ultimate goal is not a good job, but a good life. This place gave me a good job, and maybe, just maybe, helped me figure out how I might have a good life.
The goodbye I say now is to the job, not the life. The life lies ahead of me, as it does for all of my fellow graduates today.
That’s where this story ends. It’s the end of the job at hand. For now, at least, I’m no longer a student, no longer an editor, and no longer a semi-permanent resident of 4015 Walnut.
As writers, we have a tendency to want to make everything somehow grander than it is — everything should be a statement. As a journalist and an editor, it was quite literally my job to make everything into a newsworthy, clickable statement.
But the meaning I found in this story doesn’t come in the final chapter. It came instead in all of the short, passing moments along the way, injected with life lessons and that all-important “meaning.”
Those late nights of walking home past 2 a.m. taught me that friendships and passion can drive you in a way that sleep never will. The overwhelming sense of urgency you get with a 24-hour news cycle taught me that nothing is more important than my own mental health.
The constant stream of corrections and too-often mistakes that found their way into the paper taught me how to confront failure head-on, and how to pick myself back up again.
Middle-of-the-night interviews and edits while I was in Paris taught me the importance of staying connected to the people who matter; living through and reporting on a terrorist attack there reminded me of the importance of living in the moment.
As a journalist, I met and learned about the lives of people I never would have crossed paths with otherwise. Most important of all, this job reminded me that every single one of those people has a story.
The stories I have told in the past four years will stay with me forever. Thanks to all those who were a part of that. Now, what’s next?
JESSICA MCDOWELL is a College senior from Hockessin, Del., studying political science. She served as enterprise editor on the 132nd board. Previously, she was a senior reporter and summer news editor.
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