There’s a bench on the north side of campus, covered in graffiti and constantly surrounded by empty liquor bottles, cigarette butts and the occasional pair of underwear. It’s hidden, tucked away in a patch of trees on a detour path you’ve probably only ever taken if you don’t fear murder — or if you work for The Daily Californian, in which case you fear nothing, because you feel nothing.
The bench is about halfway between my Southside apartment and the Northside Daily Cal office. I’ve passed it at least once a day for the past three years.
It’s ugly, and it appears vaguely as if it’s always wet, which was particularly concerning when we were still in that drought. But every time I pass it, I think about love.
I fell in love approximately 100 times during my time at UC Berkeley. With a person, with a class, with a newspaper, with a fraternity, with a bench. I came from a beige Texas suburb to a glistening city on a hill, and I’m still in awe of the view from up here.
When Andrea Platten, the Daily Cal’s former managing editor and the most capable and glorious woman I’ve ever worked with, asked me to write a senior farewell column, I immediately said no. I completed my degree in December, and the days I’ve spent in Berkeley since then have felt voyeuristic — like I’m just lurking, living in the periphery of everyone’s final semester. Although I’m walking across the stage with all of my friends and enemies in a week, it still doesn’t quite feel like my graduation.
Nothing much has changed for me since I took my last final. The biggest difference is that instead of sitting at the Daily Cal office for 12 hours a day making about as many dollars, I have a full-time job that (inexplicably) pays me actual money. But I still live in my same grimy college apartment with my roommate and my cat, Danny Devito. I still go to Kip’s trivia every Tuesday night. I still subsist primarily on Taco Bell and microwaved mac and cheese.
Basically, I’ve been living in deep denial.
It wasn’t until all of my friends’ farewell columns flooded my newsfeed that I panicked and realized my mistake. So I’m here to say thank you and goodbye, deadlines be damned.
It’s easy to romanticize Berkeley. You can hear, feel, see and smell the history everywhere you go. But it’s not the university itself — which, time and time again, pumped me for money, pitted me against my classmates for a limited number of passing grades and took away my chicken fingers — that I love. It’s all of you idiots.
It’s the editors before me: Chloe, Kimmy and Melissa, all of whom I will fear and love until the day I die and who taught me how to be a leader with convictions. It’s Sophie, telling me I was going to be a news editor despite my continued protest. It’s my managing editors, Katy, Suhauna and Andrea, who know more than all of us but are kind souls who let us believe we have a shot in hell at beating them in an argument, if only for a moment. It’s Holly, a genuine ray of light and one of the best-hearted people I know. It’s Josh and Rosie, who are two of the coolest people I’ve ever met and who still talk to me despite my taste in music. It’s Bo, my soulmate. It’s Karim, my nemesis and very good friend, who was born to run this publication.
I’m indebted — literally — to UC Berkeley, but I’m more indebted to all of you. I don’t know who I would be without you. Probably a bitch.
There are a lot of things I never experienced in college: I never ran for student government. I never got kicked out of a dining hall for being too drunk. I never actually sat on that bench.
And that’s OK. Life is long, and I feel good about the things I’ve learned here, the things y’all have taught me.
When I reminisce about my time in college, I eventually won’t think of it in terms of discrete moments — when I had to drunkenly interview a police officer on Halloween because a riot broke out on my street and I had to investigate, when I stood on Sproul for eight hours a day begging students to care enough about student journalism to give us 50 more cents or when the people at Northside Cafe were the only ones who noticed my haircut.
I’ll think of it in terms of the people who made the long hours and tears and threatening emails and dead-end stories worth it. I’ll think of you.
Just kidding, I hate you all.
Michelle Pitcher was the summer and fall 2016 editor in chief and president. She joined The Daily Californian in spring 2014 as a news reporter before becoming assistant news editor in spring 2015, university news editor in fall 2015 and Ink Initiative campaign manager in spring 2016. She graduated in December with a bachelor’s degree in political economy.