Glad I grew up

About a month into my first semester at UC Berkeley, I walked into The Daily Californian for my first day of work as a news reporter. And damn, was I starstruck.

I watched in amazement as my editors swiftly reported on breaking news between classes and bites of lunch. At the nearby design desk, the design editors were hunched over three iMacs, meticulously putting together the layout for the next day’s paper. And a few doors down, I remember catching a glimpse of then-editor in chief Kimberly Veklerov in her office, looking very important and dignified as she read over something at her desk.

It was a real, live newsroom. And that evening, as I penned my very first article in the grotty, careworn offices at 2483 Hearst Ave., I felt more like an adult than I’d felt in college so far.

Four years later, many of my fanciful illusions about the Daily Cal are shattered. After a year as the paper’s editor in chief and president, I know more about this paper — its history, its finances and, of course, its mistakes — than I’d like to. More than once during my term, usually when things were especially difficult, I found myself nostalgic for the feeling of entering the newsroom for the first time, that mixture of freshness and innocence and excitement. But I know that I’ve grown up. And honestly, I owe that to the Daily Cal.

Many of my peers and relatives see my work at the newspaper as a highly intensive hobby. When I was home for Thanksgiving last November, an old classmate from high school jokingly asked me if I was still doing “that writing thing.” But at 22, I’ve served a yearlong term as the president of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a six-figure operating budget. I’ve learned how to craft a sternly worded email response to just about anything. I’ve sat on two boards of directors, and I’ve made decisions and solved problems that kept me up at night. I learned how to do taxes, conduct interviews, understand the fine print in contracts and answer the phone politely when angry readers of the Daily Cal repeatedly call me after hours.

Most importantly, I’ve learned about accountability — about what it means to be responsible for something larger than yourself. And I think this a very fair price to pay for feeling a little older and wearier than I did at 18.

The truth is, they don’t teach you these things in college. Some students arrive on this campus much older than others, forced to grow up too quickly by circumstances out of their control. Most of us figure it out at some point, through trial and error, but others will probably graduate without a clue.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend I feel like an adult now. But when I think about post-graduation life, with all its unknown variables and looming unpredictability, the Daily Cal is the biggest reason I feel confident about facing it.

So, to the Daily Cal — thank you for these four years. I told myself before I started writing this column that I wasn’t going to make it all about you. But it seems only fitting that, just as you’ve had a stronghold on my four years at UC Berkeley, this last hurrah is yours.

To Jessica, Cassy, Pressly and Chantelle — you were the first people at this newspaper who made it home. We were a powerhouse team. Thank you for the memories.

To James and Marie — I had no idea what I was doing my first month as editor in chief, and it always felt supremely bizarre when you asked for my advice and guidance. Thank you for helping me grow as a leader and a person. More importantly, thank you for your trust.

To Chantelle, Victoria and Shannon — this year wouldn’t have happened without you. You made this organization something to be proud of every day, every week. Thank you for making my job feel a little less impossible.

To Julia — you were the best roommate I could’ve asked for. Thank you for washing my dishes and making sure I was breathing and eating when things got rough at work.

To Mark — I don’t know where to start. You forced me to relax when I disappeared into myself. Thank you for loving the Daily Cal as much as I did, even though you had no obligation to.

To my family — thank you for being my biggest supporters. To this day, you’re prouder of everything I’ve accomplished than I am, and that means the world.

And finally, to my 18-year-old self, who came into her first day of work at this newspaper with a full heart and even fuller dreams — I still miss your innocence, but I’m glad you grew up.

Harini Shyamsundar was the editor in chief and president for summer 2018, fall 2018 and spring 2019. She joined The Daily Californian in fall 2015 as a news reporter, becoming a lead higher education beat reporter for spring and fall 2016. She went on to serve as an assistant news editor in spring 2017 and as the university news editor in fall 2017. She is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in cognitive science.