Finding the thing I love too late

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“What’s your biggest regret?”

Editors retreat, Lake Tahoe, spring 2018.

We had positioned ourselves on the dock to huddle under the blankets, protecting us from the cold and the void of the lake. Looking out into the darkness was like staring death (or graduation) in the face — all you could see was nothingness.

Through games of truth or dare and hot seat, we’d begun to understand one another in ways we hadn’t through our collective work producing a paper. We felt warmed by the closeness, our shared anxieties and profound similarities. There was no moon that night, but the sky was still illuminated by millions of stars fighting their way into visibility, despite the overcast.

We poured our regrets into the night air and waited for the next voice to chime in.

“I regret losing touch with my brother.” … “One failed relationship … or another.”

The dark eyes turned to me.

I regret not joining The Daily Californian sooner.  

I’ve lived a million lifetimes in college, each more (or less) meaningful than the last. Each was a chapter in my collegiate career, but all of it, even the stray moments, felt like it led up to me submitting an application to the Daily Cal’s news department.

Everything else started dropping off my itinerary. I abandoned my brief gig at KALX, the campus’s radio station, my work at the Engineering Student Services center, even my quasi-desires to double major in political science.

I had found the thing I had always wanted to do: write and make meaning of the realities that affected and informed the people around me.

I grew more entangled, became more involved and, almost by chance, wound up as the university news editor for my last semester at UC Berkeley. 2483 Hearst Ave. became my new home.

Joining the Daily Cal was the most meaningful thing I’ve ever done. Being an editor allowed me to become a resource, a guiding figure. I loved the meetings, the emails, the headlines — good and bad — and the people.

The people.

The powerful women in collegiate journalism are forces to be reckoned with. I’m inspired and humbled by their capacity for passion and empathy, investigating and writing, and I’m above all honored to be their friend.

But one question remained with me: Did I find them soon enough?

I always feel two steps behind — I wasn’t in my high school’s nonexistent paper, I didn’t join the Daily Cal my freshman year, as many of those I’d come to respect and serve alongside had, and my resume isn’t peppered with glamorous journalism internships during the summers.

In hindsight, I wasn’t supposed to want to be a journalist at all. I grew up in an uninterested household that turned the channel away from the news. UC Berkeley, already without a journalism major, just changed the curriculum of its “I guess I’ll enroll in this instead” major — media studies — to disincorporate the only meaningful journalism-oriented class it offered. Everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned outside the classroom. This is also why we all must fiercely defend this training ground for future journalists. I want others not only to find it sooner, but to find it thriving.

The Daily Cal gave me another reason to believe that everything happens for a reason. That I was going to make my way through this despite the circumstances. And I’m so glad I did.

After three semesters of writing articles about the UC Board of Regents, campus departments and their funding (or lack thereof), profiles on new faculty members and so many crime briefs, I know that the most important things I will write are still to come, chief among them being my future selves, or perhaps my resume.

Graduation is an end, a beginning and a transition. I know it will be the certain end of many things — the end of my stint living in Berkeley, the end of my time at the Daily Cal and perhaps even the end of my academic career. I don’t know where I’m going to be in a month, but I’m comforted by the fact that, even for a little while, I sat alongside a group of like-minded peers on a dock in Tahoe — ones I’ll miss every day until fate or circumstance bring us into the same (news)rooms again.

It’s impossible to communicate four formative years in any number of words. But I know that at the end of the day, this graduation column won’t mean much. It’s not even my favorite one. But it’s a little scratch, and I’m thankful for the opportunity.

A brief, ever-unfinished list of acknowledgements:

To the Daily Cal: I’ve loved every moment of your chaos, your maddening inspiration, the people you house and the voices you illuminate. I wouldn’t be half the journalist I am today without you.

To UC Berkeley: I’ll miss your creeks and knolls. Your խառը խշտիկ buildings, your deficit. Your life-affirming cloudscapes.

To my cousins: Thank you for bringing bits of home here, and for being the most consistent forces in my life.

To the unfinished projects: I’m not done with you just yet.

To the friends I’ve neglected this past year: I miss you. Mum asks about you.

To everyone else: Fiat Lux, kids. We did it!

Ani Vahradyan joined The Daily Californian in spring 2017 as a news reporter before becoming university news editor in spring 2018. She is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in media studies.

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