I remember coming to Penn State football games with my family when I was little and always looking at a copy of The Daily Collegian.
The Collegian was probably one of my first introductions to journalism as a kid, and I always remember being astonished to find out the newspaper was run entirely by students.
As soon as I decided I wanted to go into journalism, I knew I wanted to work for my college’s newspaper because of these vague childhood memories I had of looking at a newspaper I knew was made entirely by students.
The Collegian wasn’t the first newspaper I wrote for — and it won’t be the last — but I have a strong feeling it will always be the newspaper closest to my heart.
I’m a big sap, and sentimentality is a huge part of who I am. I came to Penn State because my dad came here, and I can’t walk past Lions Pride on College Avenue without reminding myself he lived in the apartment upstairs when he was my age.
There are many, many, MANY memories from my time at the Collegian that I hope to forget. I’m not going to rehash them so I don’t have to relive them when I look back on this years from now, but there were many nights I wondered if it was worth it.
Because of my inherent sentimentality, I know when I look back on my time at the Collegian, I will remember it fondly. The experiences I’ve had here compare to none other.
Something I have noticed throughout this year, though, is I am very prone to focus on the negative and complain about whatever I possibly can. As the year progressed, I found myself getting better and better about being positive and enjoying myself as much as I could.
I give a lot of the credit for this to the people I surround myself with. The most important lesson I have learned this year — one I have needed to learn for a long time — is to focus on the good, and to only keep the people in my life who bring me joy.
Collegian culture is something that has changed a lot, as the culture within any organization would, and as it should.
I can confidently say I am leaving the Collegian at its all-time high since I’ve been there. I used to dread walking into the office — scared and intimidated by those older than me. I also used to dread the tasteless jokes I’d hear from toxic staffers I wished would leave me alone.
This year, we set a new precedent for what Collegian culture is, and I have no doubt it will only get better in the hands of its newest leaders. The Collegian is a safe space where anyone should be welcome and not fear intimidation or exclusion, and I say that with every ounce of pride and confidence I have.
I have been so immensely lucky and privileged in many ways this year. I had three, and at one point, four paying jobs with little free time. Thankfully I managed to escape free of a coronavirus infection, and I’m now fully vaccinated and optimistic for what’s to come.
Even better, I managed to land a job at a newspaper amid a pandemic — which I am starting remotely during my last finals week (literally on Monday). As soon as I find a place to live, I’ll be moving to Colorado to report on local government, education and environment for the Summit Daily News.
I can’t help but think my experience at the Collegian is what landed me this job — a job that feels like a dream come true. I’m one of the few graduates I know who has secured a full-time gig, and I couldn’t be more thankful.
The thought of being on the opposite side of the country from everyone I love (except for of course my fellow Colorado kid and little sister Caroline) kills me. It’s bittersweet, because I know Maddie, Shane and I did everything in our power to prepare the next generation to handle the Collegian. I just didn’t think we’d be leaving so quickly and I’d be going so far away.
Before I go on to thank every person who has ever spoken to me at Penn State, I first and foremost must thank the Collegian:
Thank you for teaching me countless life lessons. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share the voice and stories of dozens of Penn Staters. Thank you for giving me the privilege of teaching those younger than me about what meaningful journalism is. And thank you for bringing some of my best friends and best memories into my life.
For the sake of fitting this in the paper, I’ll try to keep the rest as short as I can.
To my parents, Walt and Terry, my sister Caroline, and the rest of my family: Thank you for supporting me in every way possible throughout my college career. Thank you for brainwashing me into being a Penn Stater for life, and thank you for understanding when I couldn’t talk because I was so busy with my 1,500 responsibilities. I couldn’t have done it without you. To Caroline in particular, thanks for letting me share Steven (Editor’s note: Steven is our cat).
To Maddie: Thank you for believing in me and giving me the chance to do all the amazing things we did together this year. You are so dedicated, caring and diligent, and I truly wouldn’t have wanted to do this job under anyone else. I know your future in journalism will be bright, but do everything you can to enjoy the well-deserved time off you’re about to have.
To Shane: Thank you for keeping Maddie and me in check when we were at our absolute worst this year. You have a gross ability to remain calm when I am on the verge of a mental breakdown, and you kept me grounded so many times this year — something I’ll always be grateful for.
To Lauren: Thank you for being my best friend and sticking with me through all my insanity and late nights in the office. I will cherish our many nights out and nights in sipping wine with Steven and Maddie more than anything else this year. There’s no two people I’d rather suffer through Taylor Swift for.
To Elena: You have been my biggest cheerleader all year, and I could not have gotten through this year without your undying love and support. Thank you for always being there when I need you no matter what.
To Jade: I have never known anyone who works as hard as you do or anyone who does it with as much passion. As soon as I met you, I knew you would achieve great things, and it has been such an honor to watch you grow into the leader you are today. Thank you for trusting me as your boss, because I wouldn’t be surprised if you were mine someday. Don’t forget to give yourself a break once in a while to call me.
To Becky: I had to write your shout out last because I truly don’t even know where to begin. You have grown to become not only one of the most talented editors I know, but one of my best friends. You have also been the greatest force of positivity in my life this year — you never hesitate to remind me that everything will be OK and that nothing actually matters that much. For all of this, thank you, and please take good care of the paper. There is no one better suited to take over and no one else I’d rather pass the reins to.
To Andrew: You are such an anomaly to me, because I’ve never met someone as talented, confident and mature as you are, but also so lighthearted, goofy and loyal. The Collegian is so lucky to have you for two more years, and I have no doubt you will take it to new heights.
To Lily: I am so grateful to know I have a friend for life after meeting you. I have been so impressed watching someone grow from the shy photog who never came to the office into the leader and artist I know today, and I can never compliment you enough for your dedication and patience. I am so incredibly pumped to see what you do in the future, as I have no doubt it will be amazing.
To Jerry: Girl, you know there’s nobody else I’d rather have replace me as the bisexual French bitch of the office (though James gets to be the resident diabetic). You are by far the kindest person I have likely ever met, and even though there were many times I’ve wanted to throw Maui at you for taking 10 years to do a read, the Collegian is a better place because you are a part of it. Don’t ever change.
To Megan, Andrew, BOTH Bens, David, Jake, Jes, Gianna, Carson and everyone else at the Collegian I’ve had the honor of leading this year: Thank you for making my job so easy. You are some of the most talented people I’ve ever met, and you all deserve so much credit for doing such an amazing job in this shitshow of a year. I love you all, and thank you for making the Collegian what it is.
To Brittany, Faith and Liam: Thank you for securing yourselves as lifelong friends long before I ever got anywhere close to Penn State. Being so far away from those I care most about is so hard, and you guys make it so easy to catch up after months of not seeing each other.
To Jess, Lauren and Ellie: I can’t see a photo of any of you without tearing up thinking about the memories we all have together. Thank you for sticking with me through our amazing adventures, and thank you for keeping in touch across three time zones. We’ll be back in Paris before we know it.
To Melissa, Nikki, Mack and Chris: Thank you for tolerating me talking about the Collegian nonstop and for always being there to talk about concerts and music with me. I can’t wait for the day we can reunite at a show or festival.
To Libby: You have been one of the only constants through my whole time at Penn State despite us being two of the busiest people I know. Thank you for always making wasting time feel so worth it — I’m lucky to have you as a friend.
To the Federal Taphouse: Thank you for not only paying my rent, but for bringing me so many incredible friends and memories. Serving anywhere else just won’t be the same.
To Russ Esleman, John Beale and Michelle Bixby: Thank you for being my greatest mentors and helping me become the person and journalist I am today. Having your continued support is one of the greatest gifts Penn State has given me.
Lindsey Toomer is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and global and international studies, and she served as the Collegian’s managing editor until 6:15 a.m. today. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @lindseytoom.