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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Saying goodbye is always hard.

So hard in fact, that I lied in bed on my laptop Monday night searching my soul to find a way to summarize the last year of my life in terms and emotions that people could actually understand.

I decided to do what I do best: tell a story.

My first time at the Alligator was strange. I was new and had never been inside the building. It just seemed like a tangle of halls lined with dingy paneled wood.

I wandered the halls for about five minutes before someone — I honestly couldn’t say who — noticed me and led me to the sports office.

When I walked in, I was greeted by former editors Adam Lichtenstein and Landon Watnick. The sports office is about a 10-foot-by-8-foot room — it is literally like working in a very large closet.

There are pictures everywhere, plastered to walls, cork board desk sidings and cabinets. But the first thing anyone notices when they see the office is our "Wall of Shame." The coveted wall that holds all of our sports fumbles (of course this pun was intended, are you kidding me?).

Whenever a writer spells something wrong/gets a fact wrong, it goes on this wall. It’s not just there to remind us that we’re human and we mess up, but that you NEVER publish fact errors.

The carpet on the floor is stained, and honestly, the room typically smells like sweat and food.

But as I stood in that old tiny office waiting for our first staff meeting of the semester, I felt at home. I knew this was a place where I would grow and learn – even if it was for only a short period of time.

While it was home, I never actually expected to meet some of my closest friends in that office.

Jordan McPherson, the current sports editor for the Alligator, is one of those friends. When I met him I remember thinking that he looked so young (which he was. Jordan is only 20 years old, he just turned 19 when I met him). He’s tall with auburn hair and blue eyes that are magnified by glasses.

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He has a look to him that tells you he’s going to be a famous sports writer one day and has a work ethic that will be the death of him if he doesn’t learn to slow down and enjoy life sometimes.

My first time in that office was the first time I really identified as a serious journalist. It changed my entire perspective and even my life.

At the beginning of the meeting, Adam told all of the beat writers – about 10 of us crammed into that closet of an office – to say our names, major and beat we were covering. When it was my turn to speak I was so nervous I didn’t know what to say. I stuttered out something like, "I’m Edennnnnnnnn. I’m covering lacrosse. Uh, yeah."

It was the hardest introduction I ever made, because it was important.

The things I take from that little office will sit with me forever. I will never forget getting sick when everyone else was sick (because in news there is no such thing as a sick day), laughing so hard that I cried and even the times I had writers pull me aside and tell me that what Jordan and I were doing was making a difference.

I have friends that I’m leaving, but I will be snapchatting and texting them daily.

If only I could express how incredible Alligator managing editor Colleen Wright is and the amazing ability she possesses to write a story that makes me simultaneously cry while laughing.

Or let you hear the deadpan dad jokes that Alligator online editor Bakr Saliq can make at the drop of a hat.

But when I think of the Alligator, I always go back to my first time there. A time when I was still learning. Now, I leave the Alligator knowing I have learned and gained as much as I possibly could.

I walk away from this job with a heavy heart (I’m now speaking in cliches), but it’s not without knowing that everything I did, everything I made and every person I edited and advised was not without its benefits.

So here’s the part where I advise everyone that is focused on becoming a journalist to work at the Alligator. Not because I worked there, but because I found people who were just like me – people that think like me and have faced the same issues I’ve faced.

So here’s to the Alligator and all the amazing writers and people that I have met, the place that shaped me and made me who I am today, thank you for being here.

Thank you for making me a journalist, and for giving me this chance, but most of all, thanks for the memories.

Follow Eden Otero on Twitter @edenotero_l

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