On Wednesday, I turned in my final two Daily Campus photo assignments: a few photos of a tequila sunrise and photos of a beautiful pupper named Tildy. With those assignments, my career as a photographer for the Daily Campus came to an end. That career was supposed to have ended a year ago.
Last year, I wrote two senior columns. One reflecting on the way UConn has handled its issues and one reflecting on how the Daily Campus has shaped my future career. Coming back this year, I’ve done a lot of reflection as well. Some of it good, some of it not so good. This is a reflection on that reflection and maybe something a little more.
If you read those columns last year, you would get the picture I was graduating for real. You’d get the idea I was ready to walk across the stage in Gampel Pavilion, collect my diploma and walk out of UConn a free man. It was such a strong idea that I had somehow managed to convince myself of it too. When I was writing those columns, I truly believed I was leaving. Except for one nagging part in the back of my head that was repeating “What if?” What if you just applied for the photo journalism grant, because you probably won’t graduate? What if you don’t make a 90 or above on at least three of your finals so you graduate? What if you don’t graduate? Some part of me knew that the nagging was right. I probably should have listened more to the nagging.
And so I came back. But, it’s hard to come back to something that you so heavily said good-bye too. Coming back to UConn wasn’t that hard. On average, college students take six years to graduate, so there was no issue there. Maybe I had a little bit of shame that I was taking longer, but that was dealt with. What was hard was coming back here, the Daily Campus.
Before I graduated, there were jokes about how I would always be found in the office. It was mostly accurate. In fact, for two years in a row, I won Most Likely to be Found at the DC and last year won Most Likely to Stick Around for an Extra Year. Fulfilling those descriptions is not as exciting as it sounds. By coming back, I became the guy who couldn’t graduate. And the newsroom was no longer really my newsroom. My era of Daily Campus people had come and gone. I was just a relic that was left behind.
That’s how I felt coming back. But credit to everyone at the Daily Campus, they wouldn’t let me keep thinking like that. They made my coming back like I never left. Sure there were jokes and laughter at my expense, but when Sunday nights came around, I was just another senior staff photographer.
Well, I wasn’t just any senior staff photographer. I was one who was allowed to run around and pursue his own stories. I was encouraged to pursue more video stories and take the lead on new projects. My editors let me write more and take more creative approaches to my assignments. I was allowed to travel to New York to cover the Meadows music festival and travel to Mohegan Sun to cover the women’s basketball American Championship. It was like a whole new Daily Campus, staffed by people who wanted the same things the previous group wanted.
I called my last farewell column a “swan song.” It was supposed to be the “death” of my college journalism career. If that was the death, then this past year has been the rebirth. If that column was a swan, then this one is a phoenix.
I’ll admit, when I first was preparing to graduate last year, I had a lot of regrets. I regretted not working harder in my classes. I regretted not covering more meaningful stories. I regretted not going on more photo adventures. And I regretted I wouldn’t be able to see where the Daily Campus would go.
Now, I don’t have any regrets.
Jon Sammis, Charlotte Lao, Liv Stenger and Nick Hampton; the four of you created a photo section that I wanted to be a part of. Our photo adventures were some of the highlights of my fifth year and my college career. To Charlotte and Nick, I know that the Daily Campus photo department will be in capable hands next year. To Schae Beaudoin, you were everything that I could have ever wanted and needed in a Life editor. Your willingness to let me try everything was awesome and your ability to push me on both my visual and written stories made them better than anything I could have ever imagined. To Emma Hungaski and Jacob Kowalski, thanks for never enforcing my deadlines and letting me be angry about random things. Emma, thanks for driving me basically everywhere. To Connor Donahue, thanks for letting me come back to Digital no questions asked. And thanks for letting me have fun with the website this year. I can’t wait to see where you take it in the future.
To everyone at the Daily Campus, thank you for welcoming me back for one final year with open arms. You all have made working here the highlight of my long, college career. I am forever grateful.