I was 19, sitting on one of the ratty couches of the James Building. It was probably just as old as the building I was sitting in. I flipped through the pages of The Daily Collegian’s final print edition of the year while I waited for one of my stories to be edited, stumbling across that semester’s senior columns.
They all wrote about what it was like joining the Collegian and how she changed their lives. They found their best friends, and the Collegian helped find them dozens of professional opportunities.
That’ll never be me, I assumed.
I hadn’t found my place at the Collegian yet. I didn’t have friends, and I wasn’t even sure of what I wanted to report on. I didn’t believe I would ever become someone special enough to write a senior column — maybe even someone who would stick around that long.
When I talk to people about the Collegian, one of the first things they ask me is if I always wanted to be the editor-in-chief. No, I didn’t. I didn’t even want to join the Collegian.
But I remember it all so vividly — almost, almost like it was yesterday.
I was wandering around at the end of the fall semester freshman year, scared my life was going nowhere. I paced the halls of the Carnegie Building as I waited to speak with an adviser, tears in my eyes, unsure of how everything was going to turn out.
It was there that I was directed to Russ Eshleman, the head of the journalism department, who gave me a chuckle and told me life would get easier to figure out if I joined the Collegian. He said it didn’t have to be forever, because I wasn’t sure if newspaper writing was where I wanted to be, but just long enough to learn what I needed to be a good journalist.
That was when I was 18 and so naive, so unknowing of all of the things that would change in my life. And that just a few months later, Russ would congratulate me for my first front page story in the Collegian.
It was in Pittsburgh, right in front of the dinosaur at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, that I told my boyfriend, “I think I’m going to apply to be an editor.” I was 20 then, and the Collegian had finally started to feel like home.
Oh, how naive I was.
The only reason I decided to apply for editor-in-chief was because Maddie Aiken, the former editor-in-chief, believed in me. I told myself over and over again that I would never want this job, but a simple message saying “Hey! Applications came out — were you thinking about applying?” was all I needed.
This job is everything I was afraid of. It’s hard and sometimes so lonely. I spent many moments of this year wondering if people hated me or if I would ever be seen as “Jade, the person” again. Before I started, I was scared I wouldn’t know all of the right answers, and — almost 365 days into the job — I still get scared.
But it’s so much more than my fears. This job is probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Sure, it’s been a year full of tears, but not all of them were sad.
I think I’m the person who’s probably spent most of their year in our small, cozy office in Willard. I’m here in the morning, afternoon and late into the night. Sometimes, I force myself to get up to do work in the library instead, eat my dinner at the HUB-Robeson Center or just take a walk, because I wonder if I’ll want to remember my senior year wrapped in the same four walls. But I always find myself wondering what’s happening at the office without me, so I come back as soon as possible.
I’ve had a lot of time to spend alone in this office. When I’m alone, I wonder what else I could work on at the Collegian but, also, wishing there were people there to fill the silence. On one hand, I cherish the moments I get to spend alone because there frankly aren’t very many of them, and they offer me the time to reflect on everything. But, usually they make me feel sad.
There’s so much noise in my day. I’m running from meeting to meeting, drowning in emails and catching up with all of the staff members. Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like if I traded that noise with a day trip to Cafe 210 West, a soccer game on Old Main lawn or a YouTube video in my bed. But as the noise has started to get quieter and graduation has become more real, I’m holding onto it a little tighter.
That noise is what made me feel so loved by the Collegian — it’s created all of my dearest memories.
The print nights with the ever-so-serious discussions about what our food options for the night would be — maybe Five Guys, Taco Bell, McDonald’s or a bag of tacks and fermented carrot juice.
The time the board of editors gathered for one last hurrah over finals week for breakfast and Mario Kart at Ben’s apartment.
The time we honored our favorite person with a listening party of “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” in the office. At this point, I can’t even listen to “That’s When” without getting a little emotional remembering that spring when the seniors only had a few weeks left.
The time I turned around on press row at THON and saw Andrew’s nose bleeding.
The time it was so late at night and we were so close to tears until Shane broke the silence with “ready or not, Fortnite burger” (to the tune of “Ready or Not” by Bridgit Mendler).
The time we made room for ourselves amid the graduation photos and even gender reveal celebrations on Old Main lawn for a game of kickball — and we all woke up sore the next day.
The time we stood on tables in the summer decorating what would become our new home in the Willard Building. I was scared no one would like it.
I miss the summer, not just because there were no classes and it was warmer, but because I had more time. There was more time with the Collegian and so many more months to look forward to.
Usually, people say “it goes by so fast” and “I remember it like it was yesterday.” And, yes, it went by so much faster than I thought it would. But, this sadness isn’t because it had to have been only yesterday I was elected as the next editor-in-chief or it was the first day of fall classes. It’s sadness because it felt like this job was supposed to last forever.
I’ve gotten so comfortable with this being my life, and I’m honestly OK with that. With such little time left, it still feels like a myth. It’s like I should actually just spend my life being the Collegian’s editor-in-chief. It’s become my entire identity.
There are things I miss so dearly and wish I could go back to. God, I wish I could go back to the summer and have more time. But on some level, that’s all it is. I don’t want to relive it again because some of it was so hard to live through just once. Instead, I want to create even more memories with the Collegian and at Penn State to smile about.
I want to hear the laughter of new friendships in the office one more time. I want to watch people race on the scooter that we aren’t quite sure where it came from (if you know, hit me up) one more time. And I want to see that smile light up as I tell people how much I’ve seen them grow one more time.
There are so many pieces of me in this office.
Most nights, when I’m the last one left, I look around and I get a little sad that it’s all ending. I wonder if people will still talk about me next year like I still talk about the people who’ve left the Collegian years before me. I wonder if they’ll still remember me through the pieces of myself I leave behind and whether they’ll keep them.
It’s so weird to think that one day, I won’t know anyone at the Collegian, and none of them will know me. Right now, I feel like I don’t know anything else.
A few times I’ve looked around at a table and realized I was once the editor of maybe 85% of the people there. Many of them have grown into editing roles of their own or bigger reporting roles. When it hits me, it makes my heart smile.
At one point, I didn’t know a single person at the Collegian, and lately, it feels like I’ve touched — or have personally been touched — by every person in some form or another.
I was 21 and in the photo cave of our temporary office in Midtown Square sifting through hundreds of old photographs of Collegian staff members — from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. I had no idea who any of them were and realized they probably didn’t remember those photographs existed. But I kept them and brought them to our new office, and I even hung one on my wall.
Maybe that’s the beauty of the Collegian — she will always keep going and keep reinventing herself.
Now, I’m 22 and crying in Willard. No, I didn’t think I’d ever be the editor-in-chief, and I didn’t think I’d write a senior column. But life changes when you approach things with a little bit of naivety — when you go for the things that weren’t initially in your life plan.
Because this was the greatest thing I could have ever asked for.
It’s someone else’s chance to live out their dream of being at the Collegian, even if I didn’t realize it was mine.
Before my time at the Collegian and Penn State is officially over, I have some people (and places) I want to thank specifically for making my collegiate career so meaningful. It breaks my heart to know that not only do I have to leave the greatest college newspaper, but I also leave one of my favorite places on Earth in a few short weeks. Sad.
First, to Mrs. Collegian: I love you.
Becky: My very first partner at the Collegian. I don’t know where I’d be without you, and I’m so happy I was able to wrap up my journey here alongside you. It was the perfect way to come full circle. I’m so proud of all you have created at the Collegian as our managing editor, especially the realization that it’s OK to have fun even if you’re working. I don’t think my life or my college experience would be the same without you. I’m not gonna lie, I’m sad thinking about the future where you aren’t just a few blocks away, but I’m excited for wherever life takes you.
Andrew: OK, uh, I wasn’t really sure how to feel about you when we started as Top 3. Oops. To be fair, Becky and I knew each other before, and you were also a year younger than us. But, nonetheless, I’m so, so happy I had you here with me this year. You made me laugh in all of the moments that it felt like the world was ending, and I can’t be more grateful for that. Even though it sometimes seemed like you valued sleep more than anything else, your work as digital managing editor will forever be admirable to me — especially when you stayed up all night working on our Sandusky website. I can’t wait to see where senior year takes you.
Maddie, Shane, Lindsey: It took two years, but I finally felt welcomed to the Collegian with you three in charge. You helped guide me as a leader and made me feel comfortable. Thank you for always believing in me and giving me the greatest advice I could ask for to this day. I’m glad we keep in touch.
Megan: I’m so proud of you and so excited for what you’ll accomplish as the next editor-in-chief! I know I said earlier that most things don’t feel like they were just yesterday, but us editing alongside each other does. I’ll never fail to be impressed with how you manage to juggle so much and still fit in time for the Collegian. Remember to give yourself a break once in a while, and you can always reach out if you need anything — for advice or just to cry.
Courtney: I think it’s time you finally admit you filled the tennis ball with hand sanitizer. OK, anyways. As one of your first editors, it makes my heart fill with so much joy watching you grow. I love how eager you are to do well, and it always works. You have grown so much since your days as a candidate, but truthfully, you were always on path to be one of the brightest stars at the Collegian. I know you’ll continue to thrive next year.
Will: Hi, greatest DJ. I admire the way you’ve always been so upbeat in everything you do, even when life gets stressful. Your willingness to try new things and just have fun will take the Collegian’s digital presence far, and it’s exactly what she needs to keep going. I hope you keep your positive attitude through everything over the next year.
Phoebe: I remember Megan and I used to talk about how much you impressed us every day in spring 2021. Your drive for excellence never went unnoticed, and now it’s mostly the way you’re able to make anyone laugh. Thank you for reminding me that life isn’t all that serious and neither is journalism (sometimes).
Luke: *gets mentioned in Jade’s senior column* You are one of the most passionate people I’ve ever met, and I admire you endlessly for that. Never let go of that spark that makes you so special. Because, without fail, you always make a person feel a little bit better every time they talk to you.
Seth: You are one of the most hardworking people at the Collegian, and I hope you realize that. I was blown away by your work from your first day on football staff. I actually can’t believe you have two more years left in college to get even better — I can’t imagine your talent by that time. I’m so happy I got to edit with you, even if just for a few months.
Max: Your willingness to step up when you’re needed never went unappreciated, I promise. It’s weird to think about, but outside of Becky and Andrew, you were the longest editor under my tenure. And I’ve watched you grow so much as a reporter and leader. Please spend next year having fun — even if editing can be stressful.
Joe: I can’t imagine having a better person to work alongside as the opinion editor this year. You were always reliable and so understanding, and your work got better every step of the way. I’m proud to have worked with you and even prouder to know you. Your future is bright, and I hope I keep seeing opinion pieces from you in the future.
Lily: I feel like we grew so much right alongside one another over the past several years — even if a few of those were a little bit passive. I’ll never forget how hot and sticky your apartment in Pittsburgh was, but especially how generous you were for offering me that bean bag chair as a bed. That’s the Lily I’ll always remember for being so generous and patient, even when life tests you.
Ben: This is a little weeeeird. I like to remember our friendship in the little memories, especially laughing at the Minecraft characters in Smash Bros. in the office or the endless trips to McDonald’s. It goes without saying, but I’m always so impressed by your creativity and talent. The Collegian grows more with you.
Sophia: I meant it when I said you are endlessly patient, and it’s such a wonderful quality to have as a leader. There’s truly no question that the Collegian’s digital presence grew tremendously with special thanks to you. I’m so lucky to have led with you, and I wish I got to know you better throughout the year.
Jerry: Let’s talk about how there are still besties hanging from the office ceiling right now. I’ve honestly had most of my favorite memories of college and at the Collegian with you, and I’m so happy that I was able to meet you. You are truly one of a kind, and I hope I get to spend more crazy days and nights with you throughout my life.
Every reporter, editor, candidate I’ve had the chance to work with: Whether I mentioned you by name, I remember you, and I care about you. YOU are the reason I am the editor-in-chief, and you are the reason this job is worth doing. Thank you for everything, and I’m so excited to watch you grow.
The Collegian Board: Thank you for putting in so much of your time and heart into our student newspaper. It means everything.
Alumni Interest Group: Your passion to support the Collegian inspires me, and your hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. Trust me.
Michael: Thank you. You are the person who keeps me sane. The person who makes me laugh. The person who makes me feel safe. And the person who makes me feel loved — even through the hardest moments when I felt so unlovable. Thank you for being my greatest supporter and always being by my side — and also for all of the times you bought us candy and food at the office. I love you more than I show it.
Gary and Emily: I wouldn’t be at Penn State without the support of either of you. I still can’t believe that everything you gave me was real, but I’m so grateful it is. I’ve become a new person thanks to the help of you, and my future wouldn’t be quite the same without either of you believing in me. Thank you.
Curt: You were my first mentor, and you will probably be the greatest one I’ll ever have. You believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself. You made me love journalism when everyone was telling me to hate it. I wish there were more hours in the day to live life longer, and I wish I had the opportunity to tell you how much you meant to me. I hope you knew.
Russ: How could I not offer my greatest gratitude to the person that led me to my greatest college experience? Thank you for sitting down with a frazzled freshman that day and assuring me everything would be OK. You were right. I’ve loved the opportunity to work with you on so many of my biggest projects in college. Here’s to retirement!
Miranda, Lindsey and R’Asya: Ah, I love you guys, and I miss you so much. I hate that you graduated before me because I wish I got to experience this entire thing with you. Even if I don’t talk to you every day, I definitely think about you every day. I can’t wait to see you again.
Blue Band: You were my first home on campus, and I can’t thank you enough for the countless memories I had. I’m going to cry seeing pregame for the first time without me in it, but I’m so grateful that for four years, I got to experience something most students never will.
James Building, Midtown, Willard: To my endless homes away from home, I love you more than anything. I feel like eras of my life have been defined by these buildings — especially Midtown and Willard. Here’s to uncountable memories and friends made in your four walls. I hope you never change. (Well, the James Building was demolished lol.)
Every editor-in-chief of the past and future: Thank you, thank you, thank you for paving the way and making the Collegian what it is today. Thank you for dedicating a slice of your life to this beautiful newspaper and turning it into a place that so many of us call home. I owe so much to you. For all future editors-in-chief, maybe you won’t know me, but I’ll always be just one call away.
Jade Campos is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and was The Daily Collegian’s 2021-22 editor-in-chief until 6:15 a.m. this morning.