Wow. It almost feels weird writing this column. I’ve dedicated at least one day (and usually more) to this newspaper every single week this past calendar year.
Even summer. The brutal, tough, grueling, hot summer it is in Gainesville saw me at my highest production at the Alligator.
And I wouldn’t give it back for anything. Not a single minute.
You see, I want to be an anchor on TV one day. Preferably ABC or ESPN, but I know that’s a tremendous dream. Because of that, I have to leave the Alligator, but it’s not without a ton of nostalgia.
When I came in here as the women’s golf writer, I told myself, “It’s got to be sports. I’d rather write sports than report just regular news for the rest of my life.”
After about six weeks, my tune changed. Writing for a newspaper sucks. Like it seriously sucks. It’s draining and taxing and censoring, and you feel like your true voice is never heard.
Your bosses ask you to be more creative then shoot you down when you become too creative, athletes and sources are sometimes damn near impossible to get access to and, honestly, it just eats a lot of your time.
Being an on-air presence for news is clearly where my role is carved, even if it is just regular old news and not sports.
That’s why I commend those of you out there who work at a newspaper. You have an iron will, a burning passion and a work ethic that would make Dwight Schrute envious. I tip my cap to you.
I tip my cap to all my coworkers - without you, I’d have never stayed as long as I did. There were times where my patience was pushed to the edge.
Around April of 2018, some of our top editors at the paper told me I was a bad reporter because I wanted to publish a longform feature with an anonymous source (a source, I might add, that was vital to the story).
I felt so humiliated and disrespected. Those two editors are going to be extremely successful in their lives. But there should be no pride taken in stepping on others to get where you are.
I nearly quit on the spot. Oh, I was so close. The only reason I didn’t was because my sports editors stuck up for me in a way I’d never been defended before. Without them, there was never a chance of me staying. And without my coworkers keeping me up, I’d definitely have been out the door.
But the story doesn’t end there.
I stayed over summer and had a blast as an assistant sports editor with my boss Mark Stine and the summer staff. I got another feature story about a soccer player’s battle with cancer and absolutely crushed it.
And, finally, I stayed on one final semester to cover men’s basketball.
Physically and emotionally drained, it is my time to leave. I’m going to miss this place a lot. A whooooole lot. But this is the right time for me.
And for you, dear reader, you’ll know when the right time is. When the right time to leave a place or join a place or take a leap of faith.
You see, you have to find your place in this life. Don’t let it come to you. Go find it. Go adventure and seek thrill and experience new emotions that put you out of your comfort zone. And when you find what’s right for you, you’ll know.
I promise you.
To everyone that’s followed along my brief year here, thank you.
Thank you alligatorSports. Thank you sports staff. Thank you for teaching me what it really takes to be a writer. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I can’t say it enough. Thank you.
The next step of my journey awaits.
A multitude of thanks
I have way too many thank you’s, so I decided to put them in their own section.
Thank you to the aforementioned Mark Stine for keeping me sane and showing me how to constructively criticize.
To Dylan Dixon, my former boss, thank you for teaching me that anything you believe in really is worth fighting for.
From Justin Ahlum, I learned the balance and bond of friendship and roasting.
From Alanis Thames, patience and how to be a damn good writer. My mentor, Ethan Bauer, taught me everything I know about journalism - without him, I would never have written a decent story.
Dylan Rudolph, Sam Campisano and River Wells - thank you for always keeping me laughing, I’m going to miss working with you no matter how much you roast me.
To Tyler Nettuno, who’s going to be a hell of a writer, thanks for being a great partner on the basketball beat, you made my life so much easier.
Brendan Farrell, Victor Prieto and Evan Lepak, keep your incessant knowledge of sports up, you never know when it might come in handy.
Bryan Matamoros and Kyle Wood taught me that making friends doesn’t take lots of time and that another one is always just around the corner.
To Jake Dreilinger, I always hate how opposite our minds think as it makes for some serious debate. From Jake, I laughingly learned patience, and how to handle people you disagree with (and I mean this with all the brotherly love I have).
To Skyler Lebron, thanks for teaching me to take risks when your gut tells you to.
To the summer news staff, thanks for showing me how fun it can be to work at a newspaper. You guys made it easy to show up to work even on days that I really didn’t want to.
Bailey LeFever, you might not work at the Alligator anymore, but I never would have made it as far as I have without you. Thank you for always knowing how to keep life light.
Morgan McMullen, one of the best bosses I’ve ever had, taught me a plethora of things. But, most importantly, he taught me that you can always go back and correct wrong turns in your life. Morgan, no matter how much I make fun of your age, I’ll always admire the path you took to get where you are.
Finally, I learned from Mari Faiello that you can always change the perception of yourself. Relationships can always be mended, and friendships can always be continued.
And thank you to all of those out there who have collectively made me a better person. Without all of you, I’d have never had a chance in this field.
Chris O’Brien was a sports writer at the Alligator. Follow all of his wacky adventures on Twitter @THEChrisOB.