Goodbye, GA

I arrived 30 minutes early on my first day.

It was the only time in my four years at The Daily Californian that I would ever arrive early for anything. (I will probably be forever known in that office as the managing editor who started a meeting 40 minutes late because of an infamous bowl of miso soup.)

But it was my first day as a general-assignment reporter — I was a newbie, a baby, a “GA,” and I was terrified. I had no idea what I was doing, and I was convinced that no one in the office would like me. I thought showing up early would, at the very least, make a good first impression.

When I arrived, though, the door was locked and the lights were off. I knocked, but no one answered. I texted one of my editors to tell her I was outside and, 40 minutes later, someone (not my editor) finally arrived to let me in.

The office was even more intimidating on the inside. It seemed massive — much bigger than the tiny classroom in which my high school newspaper team met twice a month. There were tall cubicles that I felt like I wasn’t allowed to go into and chairs I was sure I wasn’t allowed to sit in. And the walls were filled with pictures of people I’d never seen before and quotes that I assumed were supposed to be funny or inspirational, but I couldn’t understand their significance.

The office was lived in and clearly loved, but the message it was sending me was loud and clear: You don’t belong here.

That feeling lasted all of five seconds.

As soon as I sat down, I got to work — emailing, calling, researching, writing and reporting on my assigned story. I happily skipped lunch to do back-to-back interviews, and I watched in awe as the newsroom started filling up later in the evening with designers and copy editors and writers from all the departments. It was loud, it was chaotic, and it was intimidating, but I felt right at home. And pretty soon, I started to decorate my new home with my own memories.

When I became a news editor, my co-editors and I filled the office with laughter, positive female energy and the smell of pizza at 1 a.m. We replaced old quotes hanging on the walls with our own — quotes about how much Jessica loved the New York Times food recipes and how Rory Gilmore isn’t an accurate depiction of a student journalist and how Ashley wished she could text on her Dell laptop like the rest of us did with our Macbooks.

Suddenly, the office wasn’t just a new place that I spent a lot of time in — it was a place where I loved the work I was doing and I loved who I was doing it with.

When my time as a news editor came to an end, I couldn’t stay away — I became opinion editor instead. When I finished that job, I became the paper’s managing editor. I never had to say goodbye to the Daily Cal — I just took on a new role and moved to a different corner of the office.

I couldn’t even let go when I finished my nearly yearlong term as managing editor two weeks ago. I kept coming into the office when I should’ve gone to the library to study. I sent news tips to editors. I wrote a column, and I edited this special graduation issue — anything that would give me an excuse to feel relevant again.

But now that I’m graduating in two days, it’s becoming all too real that I have to say goodbye to this office that, more than anywhere else in Berkeley, has taught me what it means to feel at home.

Home is spending the entire day sitting next to Victoria in the conference room in back-to-back meetings and watching ridiculous “Saturday Night Live” videos instead of doing our work. It’s making fun of Rina for going on a run after leaving the office at midnight and gossiping with her at the news desk. It’s the three of us laughing in Rina’s office to my Jonas Brothers playlist and having an entire conversation using only Slack reacts.

Home is sending Shannon “Game of Thrones” memes and frantically putting out fires in the office with her. It’s editing the editorial with Shayann until 3 a.m. while eating massive amounts of junk food. It’s Amber, Sophia, Amanda, Alex, Sabrina, Anjali, Danielle and Hannah yelling “@managing!” at the news desk to get my attention when we’re swarmed with breaking news. It’s Jessica and I showing up to the office wearing the same Daily Cal sweatshirt, and it’s me laughing as Ashley turns people into memes at the news desk.

Home is me getting stopped by at least 10 people on my way to the bathroom with questions about various stories. It’s my Slack notifications going off every few seconds because I’m in every. Single. Channel. It’s no one daring to sit in the chair at the head of the news desk because “that’s Chantelle’s seat.”

Home is me coming into the newsroom every day, filled with pride and love for all the people who make this paper what it is.

I know that in a year or so when I come back to visit, this home won’t look the same to me. The wall quotes I said or witnessed will be replaced by new ones I won’t understand, by people I’ve never met. But this office will always be the place where I met some incredible people and made friends that I’ll have forever.

It’s breaking my heart to say this, but it’s time: Goodbye, Daily Cal. Thank you for all you’ve given me. Thank you for turning a little freshman GA into the person and journalist I am today.

And to incoming Daily Cal staffers, all I can say is this: I hope the office at 2483 Hearst Ave. is as much a home to you as it has been for me.

Chantelle Lee was the managing editor for fall 2018 and spring 2019. She joined The Daily Californian in spring 2016 as a news reporter, becoming a crime and courts beat reporter in fall 2016, an assistant news editor in spring 2017, city news editor in fall 2017 and opinion editor in spring 2018. She is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in creative writing.