By Ollie Gratzinger | Editor-in-chief
I’ve found that sometimes — rarely, but sometimes — life falls into place in such a way that makes me wonder if it’s all been predetermined. Sometimes, people and places and things all fit together like puzzle pieces made to be connected, like a fixed point in time, like lines in a poem.
At the risk of sounding too saccharine, I’ll leave the purple prose at the door, but my time at The Duke has been one of those rare and perfectly imperfect somethings, and it’s going to be hard to find the words to say just how much I’ll miss it.
I joined the ranks of the campus paper as a writer in 2016. A freshman computer science major, I didn’t have much going for me; I was a first-gen college kid flying blind in a world of academia I was absolutely not prepared for. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew it wasn’t programming computers. I didn’t know what I wanted to be, but I knew I didn’t want to be as lonely as I was in high school.
And so, after meeting a few people who wrote for the paper — namely the now-newlyweds Kaye Burnet and Isaac Davies — I decided to give it a shot, because if all else failed, it was still free pizza every Thursday night.
When I wrote for the first time, though, it felt like one of those predetermined, inexplicable pieces of some celestial puzzle had slipped effortlessly into place. It was love at first sight. I switched my major to journalism within the month, and it was all downhill from there.
But that’s just the boring exposition. The real fun came later, as the Duke staff slowly morphed from a ragtag group of zealous kids into a family who would endure together hell or high water; we wrote our way through peaks and troughs, standing side by side and sharing in every jolt of excitement and every pang of sadness.
We watched the results of the 2016 election live in the newsroom on that November night all those years ago. We traveled to D.C., to Canada and to Baltimore, with the windows down, the sunroof open and the music loud. In the moments in between, there were the countless trips to Starbucks — where I’m sure I spent most of my paycheck — the stories shared over drinks, the adventures trekked throughout the city and the trusted hustle-and-bustle of a late Wednesday night. When I look back at my college days in 10, 15 or 20 years, these are the days I’ll remember, and the people I’ll miss most of all.
It wasn’t supposed to end this way. In fact, it feels a bit like I’m slapping a big the end on a story that isn’t finished quite yet. I always thought that I’d leave the newsroom for the last time in my cap and gown, after my friends and I took pictures of each other in our “natural habitat” before walking across a stage and wrapping up our college years with a neat little bow. But it goes without saying that it didn’t happen like that. Life isn’t a movie, after all.
It might seem silly, but it feels unfair to leave it like this, after four years of all the little things that shaped me as a person. I came to this paper as a starry-eyed but petrified kid, with no self-confidence and absolutely no sense of direction. But it gave me meaning. It gave me guidance. It gave me purpose, and most of all, it gave me the world’s greatest, funniest, kindest people as friends, whom I’ll cherish for as long as I live.
I will leave this newsroom for the last time in the midst of a pandemic, and I will exit it into darkness as the last of our late Wednesday nights rolls to a close. I will leave unsure about the mysteries of tomorrow and in mourning of all the things I’m leaving behind.
I don’t like endings; I skip the finales on TV shows and rarely read the last chapter of anything. Saying goodbye is hard enough when you’re allowed to say it on your own terms. Being forced into a premature farewell … it’s like my own life is breaking up with me.
But I won’t leave it bitter, either; it’s a rare and special privilege to love something enough to miss it so much. Being this newspaper’s editor-in-chief has been the greatest honor of my college career, and for all I’m leaving behind, I know I’ve gained it back two-fold in the friends I’ve made along the way. No amount of distance and no outbreak of plague can take away or tarnish the memories of the good ol’ days in room 113.
As Edward Murrow used to say, “Good night, and good luck.”