I’ve sat down to write this column countless times.
And each time, my fingers hover over the keyboard, my mind slips into a montage of every Spectrum related memory I have and inevitably, the tears begin to fall.
I am terrified of this column, and all that will follow it. Afraid that — as the fervent columnist I’ve become over the past three-and-a-half years — anything less than the perfect piece would do an incredible disservice to the time I have spent in this windowless cave, and that writing it will mean I’m really leaving.
But despite my best efforts, my time at UB and The Spectrum is coming to an end.
I came to UB as a poster child for “eldest daughter” and “gifted kid” stereotypes, clinging to my high school identity of team captain and honor roll student, feminist and political activist. The traditional “finding yourself,” in college wasn’t in my future. Nope, I already knew who I was.
I came to The Spectrum as a second-semester freshman and a journalism novice. I wrote seven-line long paragraphs, had never heard of a nut graph and did not want to be a reporter. I wanted to write columns and edit articles — jobs where I’d only need to visit the office twice a week — and nothing was going to change my mind.
But from the moment I took (and failed) that first weekly content quiz, I knew I was going to be a little more involved with The Spectrum than I had initially planned.
And now I keep a pair of Squishmallow slippers tucked under my desk in the newsroom.
The Spectrum office — cordoned off behind Campus Tees in the Student Union — is a dungeon. Its infamous lack of windows has undoubtedly left more than a few students with an impressive Vitamin D deficiency, but I’ve grown accustomed to the woosh of the SU air conditioning unit shutting off at 11 p.m.
And it’s home.
I’ve experienced every emotion possible in that room: happiness when landing a post-graduation job, despair when being broken up with on a production day, pride in successfully printing my first paper as editor in chief. The thought of walking out the double-doors for the last time is heart wrenching.
And this deep, relentless grief I feel having to leave an organization I hold so dear to my heart would not have been possible without the friends I have made along the way.
Jacklyn, I miss you. As a meek sophomore, I was admittedly terrified of your strong will and unwavering desire to report the news well, but quickly, I became enamored by it. You taught me more than you could ever know — journalism-related or not — and for that, I am forever grateful.
Anthony and Grant, I am so incredibly proud of you. I have watched you both grow into intuitive and diligent journalists, and sensitive and compassionate people. This job is hard, and each week will present challenges you can’t possibly predict, but you are ready. Take a deep breath and trust yourselves. I can’t wait to see everything you accomplish.
Jenna and Kara, keep it weird. Your charming personalities and ridiculously funny senses of humor kept me grounded when I thought I’d implode this semester. You both bring such a positive and eclectic energy to the office that I hope is never lost.
Julie, you have been a friend to me when I needed it most. I’m kicking myself thinking about how long we were passive acquaintances, now knowing first-hand what a sweet and caring person you are. P.S. send me your business card after law school in case I ever need it?
Kayla Estrada, when you first joined the staff, I remember saying to Justin, “She reminds me of myself when I was a freshman.” I have so enjoyed watching you grow as a columnist and a reporter. Keep writing. Although sometimes it may feel like you’re balancing the weight of the world on your shoulders, know that you are capable of such great things and I will always be cheering for you.
Ryan, thank you for keeping me grounded during every mental breakdown or hours-long editing spree. You have seen me at my lowest and loved me anyway and I am so grateful for that. I love you more than Abe.
Justin Weiss is one of the most incredible people I have ever had the honor of meeting. He is hardworking, kind, reliable and all of the other positive traits I can only try to emulate. Justin, leading this paper with you has been one of the most fulfilling and exhausting experiences, but it was worth every long night spent in the office and every trip to the Alfiero Center to decompress over hot chocolates. You are the heart of The Spectrum and one of the best friends I’ve ever had. I love you platonically.
These people — and so many others — have taught me so much, from keeping me up to date on all the slang the kids are saying these days to deep and candid conversation surrounding personal experiences. I wouldn’t be the person I am today had I not sat in on that first ENG 394 class freshman year.
I thought I knew myself when I got to college, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. The journey isn’t over yet — it’s only just beginning — but here’s what I do know:
My name is Reilly Micaela Mullen.
I’m from Rochester but I don’t like garbage plates.
I still don’t like reporting, but I could be convinced to conduct an interview or two.
I’ve accepted a job as the assignment editor for WROC News 8 in my home city.
I struggle with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and ADHD. I still haven’t quite figured out how my brain works, but I will one day. For now, I will continue trying to build routines and regiments, and taking care of my mental health.
I don’t know what the future has in store for me, but I trust that, with the knowledge I’ve gained during my time at UB and The Spectrum, I can handle whatever it is.
Thank you to The Spectrum for giving me a place to get to know myself.
Reilly Mullen is the editor in chief of The Spectrum and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Reilly Mullen is the editor-in-chief at The Spectrum. She is a senior majoring in political science with a journalism certificate. She enjoys Dunkin’ iced lattes and Scrabble. A former web, features, news and managing editor, she is a columnist at heart but has covered everything from UB Football to breaking news.