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I wish I could start this column out with a heartwarming anecdote, a poignant quote from a press conference from years past that still resonates with me or something of the sort. That would be journalistic gold. I know because that’s the format I use for most of my stories.

Just kidding.

In the past when I did not have an idea for my biweekly “Let Me ExpLaine” column, I googled motivational sports quotes or one-liners from sports movies to get the gears turning. But after talking to fellow DPOSTM-ite Nick Buchta and learning that he has been revising his senior column on an endless loop for the past four months, my usual brainstorming strategy felt like a cop out.

Despite three weeks of reflection, I don’t have a clue how to start to say goodbye to the organization that helped me become what I wanted to be: a writer, a storyteller and, for once in my life, not the biggest sports nerd in the room.

Coming to Penn, the only club I knew I wanted to join was the Daily Pennsylvanian. I had fallen in love with journalism in high school, but only had what I thought was a passing interest in sports. Sure, I read the sports section of the Wall Street Journal and Sports Illustrated every morning, but I assumed that was just normal behavior for most teenagers.

I decided to join DPOSTM on a whim, thinking it would be a good way to meet other athletes at Penn. The first article Mike Tony assigned me back in October 2013 was a recap of the men’s soccer team’s game against nationally ranked Georgetown, a game that ended in a brutal loss for the Quakers and one of the most uncomfortable post-game interviews I’ve ever done.

Looking back at the experience of writing that first story, it’s a miracle I didn’t quit the section. The version of the 500-word article I turned in that appeared in the next day’s paper was so heavily edited that I didn’t even get a byline. The message was clear: I was pretty bad.

But I was also, unfortunately for the 128, very persistent. I pitched the same column idea to the sports editors five weeks in a row until I finally wore down them enough to let me write it. Luckily that article turned out a little better and I’ve been writing columns with an actual byline ever since.

It’s a little strange to think that of the thousands of words I’ve contributed to the DP, these will be the last. And for that reason, I want to move on to the thank you’s.

To the Daily Pennsylvanian executive board, thank you for naming the subordinate editors within DPOSTM “sports editor” rather than “deputy” or “assistant sports editor.” I have a sneaking feeling that some of the internship offers I received were due to employers not really knowing that I operated under the tutelage of a senior sports editor, or that there were two other sports editors doing the exact same job as me.

To the five senior sports editors I had a privilege of working under and learning from – Mike, Steven, Riley, Nick and Will – thank you. The amount of time and discretion that goes into each day’s paper is certainly under-appreciated here at Penn, but I never took for granted the hours of sleep you lost while stuck in that windowless office at 4015 Walnut.

To the sports editors of the 131 and 132 – Holden, Colin, Tommy and Tom – and the dozens of associates who served during those semesters, your levity made all those hours writing related links and captions worthwhile. I may not have always (read: ever) understood your jokes, or been nice to you on nights when Mets games overlapped with production, but people like you are why I’m so fond of our department.

And thank you to Taylor Culliver for convincing me to run for sports editor back in the fall of 2014. My Penn experience would have been unrecognizable without that knowing nudge.

It’s pretty terrifying to think that at the age of 18 I had already set myself on a course to become what I wanted to be when I grew up. While I’m older now, there’s still much growing left to be done. I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to grow within the inches of the Daily Pennsylvanian for the past four years.

In the hallway you must walk down to exit the DP offices, a cynical staffer scrawled in pencil “LEAVE AND NEVER RETURN.” The graffiti used to make me smirk when passing it in the wee hours of weekday nights during my sophomore year. But the last time I left the office on the final day of production of 2017, those four words made me tear up. I really was leaving. Perhaps I’d return soon, but not for a long time.

So now, a final goodbye. I write this only because Memes told me not to use a quote from a movie I haven’t seen:

“Hasta la vista baby.”

LAINE HIGGINS is a College senior from Wayzata, Minnesota, studying international relations and journalistic writing. She was a sports editor on the 131st and 132nd boards. Previously, she was a sports reporter and a design associate.