"Spectrum means family, family means forever"

The Spectrum

I didn't like it here at first.

In fact, I tried to leave. Before I even finished a semester at UB, I applied to transfer to the Coast Guard Academy.

I remember walking around campus thinking, This is the hardest thing I have ever done.

I don't know if I was homesick or depressed, but I certainly wasn't happy. I felt like I had lost my bearing on who I was. I was not myself.

It took me nearly two years to find myself.

When I first started at The Spectrum, I was arrogant. As an engineer, I tend to look down at those not in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. Before I got to know the staff in the newsroom, I thought journalism was easy.

Things have changed so much since then. I can't imagine my life without journalism or The Spectrum anymore. Even as I prepare to enter a job as an engineer, I don't want to stop writing.

But I didn't totally buy into journalism at first.

It wasn't until my second semester on staff when I got to cover the baseball team - baseball is my first love - that I really started to buy into journalism and writing.

I read a piece by former editor in chief Matt Parrino at the end of my first semester on staff, titled "The X Files," about current UB basketball player Xavier Ford.

It was the first big piece that I invested a lot of time into reading. I realized how big of an opportunity I had in front of me. I didn't want any of the new staff writers surpassing me and becoming an editor before I did. I had finally found something on campus I really yearned to be a part of.

Over the next two years as an editor, I learned the most important thing I have ever learned. Don't be afraid to mess up.

I was constantly concerned with how professional I came across to everyone I interacted with. If I said something stupid in an interview, or mismanaged my time and showed up later than I had wanted to a game, I would beat myself up over it until I had an opportunity to redeem myself.

Then last fall, I had an epiphany: This is all a learning experience.

Making a mistake didn't matter as long as I didn't do it twice. From that point forward, everything became more enjoyable.

I spent less time stressing and more time learning. I made mental notes on my mistakes instead of mentally berating myself. I committed myself to learning in everything I did.

At some point during my career at The Spectrum, the people and the publication became a part of me. The newsroom is a special place, and it will be the most difficult thing for me to leave in Buffalo.

The people around me, the people who work just as hard or harder than I do every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, have been through hell and back with me. There have been late nights, dark times and long winters. They've become my family.

We've pushed each other to think critically about everything. In the process, we all became not only better journalists, but people. I've never been around a group of people who cared so deeply for each other.

Last week, I spoke with former wide receiver Alex Dennison for a story about graduating athletes and their plans after college. Dennison will be a graduate assistant at Illinois Wesleyan University in the fall and during the interview he explained why he wants to become a football coach.

Through his personal experience and his friends' experiences in college, he saw 18-year-old boys enter college expected to leave as 22- or 23-year-old men and how difficult that is to do without a father figure. Most student-athletes, and students in general, are away from parental figures they have relied upon previously during college. They need someone to model their adult persona after.

The Spectrum provided that for me. The people I have worked with closely over the past three years aren't just my friends, they're my role models and support system.

The number of people at the paper who have touched my life is too high to name in this column.

Every morning over the past two years when I have woken up on a production day, I was excited to come to the office. Every morning I woke up the last two years, I had a reason to get out of bed. That's a testament to my coworkers.

My roommates often question why I spend so much time in the newsroom when I don't have to. The answer is because it feels like home.

I never rush out of the office. Why would I want to leave the place where I learned the value of hard work not just for my professional life, but my personal life as well?

Although on its surface, The Spectrum is just a job, it has become so much more than that. The people I work with here I see nearly every day of the week outside the office. I've spent more time with them as friends this year than I did as coworkers.

One of my favorite sayings is, "Be absolutely determined to love what you do." At The Spectrum,I found a group of people who embody that saying.

I don't know if I will ever find a workplace as enjoyable to walk into and as hard to leave as The Spectrum office has been. I don't know if I will ever work with such a talented and dedicated group of people again.

I do know The Spectrum and every member of this staff will forever hold a special place in my heart.

email: ben.tarhan@ubspectrum.com