Farewell column: Still crazy after all these years

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I promised myself I wouldn’t cry while writing this, but I can feel the saltwater in my eyes, and I haven’t even finished the first sentence.

I know it’s time; I’m just not ready. I guess that’s why I’ve been putting off writing this, even though the words have been piling up in my head. I close the page, put it off for another day, week, month. Maybe if I don’t write it, it won’t end. But I know I don’t have to be ready — saying goodbye is never something you’re ready for, it’s just something you do.

How do I bid farewell to a friend? To a family? To a passion so deep it causes unnerving frustration but also fits of laughter and tears?

The Daily Californian has taken me to Seattle and Tempe, Columbus and Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and up and down California — but I never really needed to go anywhere. In college, I had a place where I slept, and then I had the office (where I also occasionally slept). Eshleman was all I needed. Hearst too, to some extent, because it’s the people who matter, not the place.

Four years I spent at the Daily Cal (and boy is it scary to refer to my time there in the past tense). During the first week of my freshman year, I applied to be a sports reporter, eventually becoming an assistant editor, two-term sports editor, opinion page editor (though I like to pretend that didn’t happen) and two-year beat writer of football and men’s basketball.

I met athletes and coaches, gained experience and contacts. More than anything else, though, the Daily Cal gave me something to care about and people to care about it with.

Colleagues became friends, and those friends became family. They gave me love and support and comfort, yes, but they also called my bluffs and would not accept sufficient work but instead demanded my best. They kept me in line and gave me hope and inspiration. That’s not easy.

I don’t mind that my two seasons covering the football team coincided with Zach Maynard’s as starting quarterback. I’m gratified to have gotten the opportunity at all, to learn from the best and train the future. I got everything I could have ever gotten out of this organization, heartfelt moments but also heartaches, much like Cal football itself.

And like an old blue, I can pine for the good ol’ days, waxing nostalgic of the way it used to be or should be. Or could still be. Not a place where opposing views aren’t heard and ingenuity blurs into complacency but one synonymous with communication, accountability and vision — from the top down and the bottom up. A place bursting with integrity and, yes, innovation. Lots of innovation.

Yet, I think my lament is healthy. It’s good to have something to care that much about.

That’s probably what I’ve learned most over the last few years: acceptance. As much as I tried, I can’t do it all or change everything. I tried my best, but sometimes there’s nothing that can be done. I’ve had to live with that, stomach it, swallow it.

I’ve made mistakes along the way, as we all have. I put too much trust in some people and not enough in others. I worked too hard and unfairly expected the same from others. I agreed to serve as the summer opinion page editor. But I have no regrets, no reservations.

I think of the Mount Rushmore of former editors at the sports desk and hope I’ve made them proud. I think of my two assistants — who put up with me being a perfectionist but unable to decide what to eat for dinner — and hope they know I’m proud of them. I couldn’t have done it without you two.

There is something special about our department, something ingrained in that desk. We don’t eat our young, but rather, we nurture them. The ones that stay with it leave with an enduring bond.

A poet once wrote that “medicine is magical and magical is art.” Well, writing has been my art. It’s had the power to heal and comfort, to empower and inspire.

To the readers, I hope I served you well. I hope I’ve been known for more than the corny endings to my stories and the Paul Simon songs I use for headlines. I won’t get to do that in the real world.

To my parents, I thank you for understanding that writing articles was a higher priority than studying and going to class.

I’ll miss the meetings, unbearable as they often were, and the thrill of just making deadline. I’ll miss the backroom, with its overflowing glasses and people. I’ll miss the smell of the air on a Game Day and the feel of the ink of a Gameday.

Some people, after graduating college, wish they could have done something one last time — maybe lie on Memorial Glade on a sunny afternoon again or hike to the Big C at sunset.

I wish I could go back to the sixth floor of Eshleman, stroll to the back of the newsroom where the sports desk once lay — the best spot — sit down on the comfiest chair in the office and go to work.

Life won’t be the same without you.

Jonathan Kuperberg is looking for work. If you have a job, contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JonathanKupe. But actually, I’m serious. Hire me. Please.