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Sunday, February 25, 2024

The Independent Florida Alligator is a choice. You either make it fully conscious of how much it will demand from you or maybe because you’ve heard it’s what you’re meant to do — without necessarily knowing the ins and outs of taking part in a student newsroom. 

But sometimes you’re just lucky. Sometimes you don’t think you’re deserving of a place, yet you try and get it. That was my case in Summer 2020 and again in Fall the same year. I didn’t think I did my best or enough. And I genuinely never thought I’d come back. 

A couple of years later and with a few more experiences to draw from, I gave it another shot. I wanted to edit. I wanted to be there for people in the same way others had been for me. Even when the opportunity to rejoin as the paper’s university editor came to me, it was only after April Rubin told me I could do it, that I decided to take it — I wanted to give back.

Thank you, Makiya Seminera, Isabella Douglas and Alan Halaly for taking a chance on me. And thank you to the fantastic humans on my desk for making every single Sunday not less exhausting but definitely much more fun.

Two semesters later, I couldn’t be any more fulfilled. You are the ones to judge how good of a job I’ve done, but I’ll give myself credit for doing it despite how much 19-year-old me thought she never could — despite how many times my blood sugar was too high or too low to let me think clearly, despite how many times I mispronounced words and feared I wouldn’t be taken seriously, despite how many times I needed to check the AP Stylebook because I forgot health care is two words.

All of this to say that whether this is your first or your last semester, you’ll continue learning to live and act with the fear of failing or not being good enough. Every round of edits will make you a little humbler, a little more vulnerable, but also a little better, a little wiser.

Believe it or not, The Alligator has kept me sane. I know not everyone shares the same experience, but the paper became my safe space. It is a constant team effort and while we don’t all face the same challenges, somehow we look at each other’s eye bags and relate. In this bubble, we all know Sundays are sacred and words matter.

Since I left Nicaragua in 2017, I’ve gotten used to walking into spaces and feeling out of place, but The Alligator has been an exception. Maybe it’s because we’ve all been misfits at some point or because I’m just kinder with myself now, but it feels such a privilege to work and be surrounded by people who inspire you, who support you and for whom your existence makes a difference. 

Although it is normal to see The Alligator as a hierarchical place, and all parties not always agreeing, I look at every single member of our staff — from the past and present — and see beyond their bylines. I see incredible humans, all driven by dreams, passions and one too many societal expectations, but also full of stories and interests of their own, those that make every minute spent together more meaningful.

Truth is, it’s hard to spend so much time with people and not develop affection, not develop pride for how beautifully they write, how hard they work, how vulnerable they can be, how much they care. 

I might be ready to stop responding to messages, sleep a little more and go back to caring about my classes, but I can’t say I’m ready to let go of my bagel dates with Alan Halaly and Veronica Nocera, Christian Casale’s sometimes justifiable stubbornness, Siena Duncan’s healing hugs, Alissa Gary’s expressive eyes, Claire Grunewald’s infallible schemes, Jiselle Lee’s unmatching energy and all the different hats one can wear under the same roof.

I’m leaving this place knowing I’ll miss it with every fiber of my being. And in all honesty, I’ll probably forget which stories we worked on, but I won’t forget how much I grew with you. I’ll treasure every time we shared laughs and tears, every time you asked me for advice, to be your reference or listen to your dilemmas. I’ll treasure even more all the times you listened to my silly stories, talked me out of going to nursing school and encouraged me to keep trying. 

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My time here is over, but I’ll continue looking forward to seeing all the worlds you’ll conquer.

Full disclosure: I’m writing this scared I’m being too cheesy or forgetful of people and remarkable experiences. And I’m also thinking about how much I’m telling rather than showing, but if you made it this far: Thank you. Thank you for giving meaning to my existence — for allowing me to be my best, my worst and everything in between. 

Aurora Martínez was the Spring 2023 Digital Managing Editor of The Independent Florida Alligator.

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Aurora Martínez

Aurora Martínez is a journalism senior and the digital managing editor for The Alligator. When life gives her a break, she loves doing jigsaw puzzles, reading Modern Love stories and spending quality time with friends.

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