If I had a brick for every time I’ve said “never” in my life, I could reconstruct the University of Florida campus from scratch.
“I never want to go to UF.”
“I like writing, but I would never become a journalism major.”
“I would never write for The Alligator.”
Today, I’m two weeks from graduating from UF with a journalism degree as I pen my goodbye column for The Independent Florida Alligator.
I suppose foresight has never been my strong suit.
When my toes touched down on UF’s terracotta pathways for the first time in August 2017, I carried a much different vision for my future. I was going to be a lawyer. I figured history would be a great major to coast through college with, as it was always my strongest subject in high school. Like I said before, I never wanted to go to UF and just wasn’t high on college in general — I had a negative attitude and was looking for the most in-and-out experience possible.
My vibes weren’t immaculate as a freshman either. Standing at 5 feet, 9 inches and pushing the scales to 145 pounds after a good meal, my frame sparked a lot of McLovin comparisons. I didn’t have much confidence in myself, and a lot of what I said and did hinged on public perception.
I wanted to be taken seriously, I didn’t crack too many jokes and smiling wasn’t my thing.
It was easy to hide the cloud I cast over my head in Rainesville, but I was miserable during my first semester to say the least. I wasn’t being true to myself, and I wasn’t chasing any of my passions.
It was time for a change-up.
So, I marched into the CJC PATH office my freshman year and changed my major to journalism. I axed the law school idea. I decided to take life less seriously.
But the most life-altering decision I made during my college career was joining The Alligator as a sports writer summer 2019.
And although I had no previous reporting experience and clowned my way through my first two years of college, I somehow got hired.
COVID-19 aside, these past two years have been nothing short of an adventure. And while I could say my time at The Alligator will be memorable because of the sports I covered, interviews I conducted or clips I collected, I can’t say there’s a shred of truth to that statement.
When I’m asked about what it’s like to work at the best student newspaper in the country, I’m swift to gush about the writers who breathe their heart and soul in the sports section. My friends.
Late-night copy-editing shifts with the “coys”, grub runs, Milly Rocking to the SpongeBob soundtrack, watching River Wells burn down The Bull, spouting wise cracks and many more moments and memories with the best student journos around comprise my Alligator career in my mind. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I could pen a feature-length thank you to every member of The Alligator I’ve crossed paths with over my six semesters at the paper. But because word counts are pretty popular in this profession, I’m gonna have to stick to just a few.
To Sam Campisano and River Wells, my first bosses on 2700 SW 13th St. I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand why you guys hired me two years ago, but I’m forever indebted to the both of you for it. You two opened the door to so many friendships, experiences and adventures I would have been without had you not called me back that summer. Sam, LFGM, and River, keep rocking.
To Joseph Salvador, my other half and Danny Trejo with a press pass. There isn’t another person I would have wanted to have as a hiring class partner. You made it clear who was the better writer between the two of us very early on during our time at the paper, and I couldn’t be more proud of the person you’ve grown to be.
To Evan Lepak, my boy. There isn’t any other way to describe you than one of my best friends at The Alligator. Thanks for embracing my antics as much or more than anyone else. Keep grinding up in Indiana.
To Tyler Nettuno, the big brain of The Alligator. Dude, you cracked me up more times than I’ve been quote bagged. Outside of being one of the smartest, most well-read people I’ve met at UF, you’re also one of the nicest. Let me know when you’re trying to grab a whiskey sour or two.
To Mari Faiello, my work mom. I’ve disappointed you more times than you or I could count, yet you chose to love me anyway.
To Graham Marsh, Duke of Duval and Prince of the St. John’s. Thanks for always matching my energy and teaching me how to fend off cheetahs. Go Jags.
To Christian Ortega, Grethel Aguila and Declan Walsh. You guys are the best editors I could have ever asked for. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being so understanding and loving during some of the toughest periods of my life.
To Payton Titus, our young star. It’s hard to find words to express my amazement at seeing such a talented writer develop and mature at such a torrid pace. Keep making us proud.
To Kyle Wood, thanks for walking so hybrid reporters could run.
To Ryan Haley, thank you for being you. You’ve developed so much as a writer, but I’ll always remember you for how great of a human being you are.
To Faith Buckley, my twin. I wouldn’t want to pass the HR nightmare torch to anyone else. Don’t let the flame die out.
And to anyone reading this. Never say never. You might surprise yourself and trip into the best decision of your life.
Dylan O’Shea was a Staff Writer for The Independent Florida Alligator.