‘Almost dreamlike’: Farewell, for real

Photo of Mallika Seshadri

I’m speechless.

How could I possibly explain in 750 words what our little home on 2483 Hearst Ave. means to me?

The office smells like ink. The couches are worn. It’s littered with pieces of paper — a front page with a typo in the headline from 1949, scribbles staffers sketched on lined paper, hundreds of infamous wall quotes commemorating embarrassing words we uttered.

But each little scrap in this office has its place, and they collectively tell the story of hundreds of student journalists. I’ve come to realize they tell my story, too.

I remember strolling into the office for the first time for my interview. The place felt large. Everyone seemed to know what they were doing. Thinking about the advice I had been given, I handed my editor a copy of my resume. I tried to be professional. My editor laughed.

While I anticipated rejection, the news editors decided to open the doors and let me in.

As I started writing, things began to shift. The reporters who exuded utmost confidence felt more accessible. I started cold calling sources, got the hang of fact checking and somehow felt my fears dissipate.

Maybe I had a place here after all.

After spending a year as a reporter, I became a news editor. I realized I find editing therapeutic. I found a love for mentoring and supporting reporters as they come into their own. I learned when to be an ally and when to hold institutions accountable. I discovered I didn’t just have a place at the Daily Cal. I had friends here, too.

I started enjoying adventures with my fellow editors: sprinting across the street to Brewed Awakening for a cup of coffee moments before its closure, watching “Parasite” with the arts department and taking late night drives to look out over the glistening Bay Area skyline.

That sense of belonging vanished my sophomore year. We dispersed, anticipating an extended 2020 spring break. Joke’s on us.

While I knew we’d be back together eventually, that “someday” felt illusive. Almost dreamlike. The office’s newspaper smell faded from memory, as did the ink on its print pages.

It felt like our time together had been erased. Like our story had been smudged.

When the office finally reopened to editors, I entered through its doors not as a news editor, but as the paper’s managing editor, serving as one of three students with the ridiculous responsibility of overseeing a nearly 300-person staff in our early twenties.

I felt like a freshman all over again — the anticipation and excitement mixed with self-doubt and trepidation. It felt odd sitting in the managing editor’s chair at the head of the news desk. I didn’t dare for several weeks.

That imposter syndrome lasted until the bitter end. But I once again felt my fears dissipating, even as the millions of slack messages barraged me each day.

I once again found I had a place here. I no longer feared being wall-quoted and having my silly remarks put up for everyone to read. I was bound to say something stupid eventually. Probably to the mayor.

As we returned to the office, I remembered I had friends here. The unconditional ones whose shoulders I’ve cried on, the pals I’ve clumsily played “soccer” with at 2 a.m. during game day production, the far-too-patient angels I’ve pranked (sorry, not sorry).

The long, vibrant and chaotic production nights grew familiar once again, like the ripped-out pages were being slowly taped back together. The color began to reemerge.

We had unknowingly and unwillingly said goodbye in spring 2020, but here we are again two years later. Leaving 2483 Hearst — for good, this time — is difficult. Not difficult. Painful.

But thanks to the organization I now struggle to leave, I could not feel more ready or excited for what lies ahead.

To the best partners in crime I could have asked for — Jasper, Lisi and Connor: There is no way I could have made it through this year without you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your unwavering friendship, support, love and patience.

To Sakura, Amanda and Alex: You were the ones I looked up to from the very beginning of my Daily Cal journey. Thank you for mentoring me, for the pick-me-ups and for nurturing the paper in the way you did.

To the editors and staff members I’ve worked with: Thank you for putting up with my antics and for letting me serve as your ME. Truly, you are the reason my time at the paper has been so meaningful.

Mallika Seshadri was the 2021-2022 managing editor. She joined The Daily Californian in fall 2018 as a general assignment reporter and was the lead higher education reporter in spring 2019, a deputy news editor in fall 2019 and the city news editor in spring 2020. She also served as the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee chair during the 2020-2021 year and sat on the editorial board in spring 2021, fall 2021 and spring 2022. She is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in political science and global studies, as well as a minor in journalism.