It was midday on a boring Wednesday in April. I had just sat through a class discussion in Vilas Hall, and I was making plans to get lunch from my favorite State Street spot immediately after. The day was as mundane as it could be.
As I was heading out of the building, I thought I would stop by The Daily Cardinal office. The door is wide open most times. Yet, this time, the door was firmly shut.
Most days, I would walk by, but this time I went in. A break from the mundane.
Sure enough, there wasn’t a soul in sight. Perhaps it was to be expected. It was only the previous evening that editorial staff spent hours electing the Cardinal’s management team for the next academic year — a grueling passing of the baton that makes our paper special but also makes for a pretty empty office in subsequent days.
I sat in the same spot I did the previous evening, the couch feeling as malleable as a bean bag. I then proceeded to look around the room. I was all alone, yet surrounded by history. By plaques, newspapers, trinkets and a stray baseball bat. By echoes of trying times and cheerful celebrations. I imagine this is what FC Barcelona great Andrés Iniesta felt like when he sat on the Nou Camp pitch all alone at 1 a.m. after his last game for his boyhood club.
I could not help but think of what is to come and what once was. I am headed full speed towards graduation. This layover at the office is only a temporary detour from mundaneness. A life of working a mundane office job to pay the bills awaits, wherever in the world I may be.
That doesn’t mean I am not excited about life after graduation, despite all the uncertainty I’m contending with. It’s just that the Cardinal is a dreamer’s dream, and nothing in the “real world” will feel the same. At the Cardinal, I could roleplay as an eminent, possibly pretentious thinker. A columnist, sports reporter, science writer, poet, satirist, food and music critic all rolled into one.
My writing ranged from rhetorical to deranged, average to award-winning, but I was free. In a few weeks, my access to freedom will expire. I will probably start my own blog at some point, but it won’t have the same readership or 131 years of history attached to it. It just won’t feel the same.
I wanted to add some music to the moment, so I started playing “Get You Down” by Sam Fender. Then, I walked into our newsroom — affectionately called the “news womb.” I once had the choice to become a news writer. I chose not to. I have occasionally wondered if I made a mistake. For all my laboring like a workhorse, I lacked the visibility I thought my efforts merited. Maybe being a news writer would’ve earned me more visibility.
I remember feeling frustrated, particularly during the height of the pandemic. Perhaps it was just my insecurity. Sometimes, my innate competitiveness came in conflict with my desire to find a home at the Cardinal. I treated elections like promotion opportunities and lost four on the bounce. I even contemplated stepping away at one point. Work and home simply don’t mix. There was a lot of pain.
I will disagree with a few of the election outcomes till I die, but I also think the elections are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I signed my name with a permanent marker on the whiteboard in the room last year. Seeing my name with some of my friends’ is all the visibility that really matters.
Fender’s song continued blaring in my ear, and I heard the words “I catch myself in a mirror/see a pathetic little boy.” I joined the paper in 2019, when I was still 17-years-old. When the pandemic hit, I was 18. In many ways, I was a pathetic little boy. I lacked tact. I burned bridges with immaturity and impunity, even as recently as last year when I was, supposedly, a man.
The song came to an end, and by this point, I left the newsroom and returned to the couch in the main office. My stomach told me it was time to leave the office and get lunch. I turned off the lights and shut the door behind me, but this detour from the mundane stuck with me. Here I am, a few weeks later, writing about it.
I didn’t want to sugarcoat my time at the Cardinal as I’ve done in the past. This is an honest reflection. My tenure at the Cardinal has spanned different roles, roughly 80 bylines and several editorial board pieces. There have been countless fun print nights and memorable events. There have also been grueling night shifts and tears shed.
Overall, a mélange of good, bad and ugly — that’s what I think love is. Sometimes I joke to myself that I’ve never been on a date because I’m in a committed relationship with the Cardinal. Maybe there is some truth to that.
In a few weeks, an era will end; such is the nature of a student newspaper. A non-stop revolving door reliant on the passing of tradition.
It’s been a privilege to stand on the shoulders of giants. I don’t know when, if ever, I’ll return to the office after graduation. Maybe someday when my hair is all gray.
Until then, I hope current and future Cardinalistas remember, in the words of Liam Gallagher, “you only get to do it once.” Whether you’re padding your resume, devoted to the paper or both, make the most of every moment.
I know I will treasure my time at the Cardinal for life. The good, bad and ugly. All of it.
Anupras Mohapatra is a former opinion editor for The Daily Cardinal and currently serves on the Editorial Board. He is a senior double majoring in Computer Science and Journalism.