that’s a great question. Life?
Dear 420 Maynard,
It’s 3:18 a.m., and I have class in 7 hours, so you know you must be important. I have written four years worth of articles, reviews that I typed up hours before our weekly Sunday meetings and B-Sides that I’ve literally sacrificed my arm for. But I owe so much to you.
It’s funny to me how the early morning makes everything seem all right. I walked through the Daily parking lot at 2:54 a.m., carefully avoiding scrapes of ice and snow, to shuffle through empty Ann Arbor. It was so quiet, so still, the specific kind of quiet that only exists because the world hasn’t awoken yet. It’s the same kind of quiet that always instills in me this feeling of peace, of finality — of total contentment with that finality. It’s the quiet that I breathed in as I walked away from Nick the morning before I left for Paris last summer. Somehow, everything just feels right. Like I said, final.
Which is why I think that attending tonight’s attic break-in at 420 Maynard was so important for a lot of us — it provided closure. We huddled among the absestos and wires and wooden planks like a family around a campfire as Andrew read aloud the letter that 2011 EIC Stephanie Steinberg left. It reminded me of the last fire at band camp senior year. A moment of reflection, a moment to look around at everyone who has made your experience what it was, and to acknowledge that they, as you will, soon be gone. Only Tao and Sean were with me — among people I consider myself close with — but that was enough. Tao got sentimental and brought us in for a long, group hug. It was surprising, but even the smallest family is still a family, no matter how long for.
What I loved most about our tour through the attic was seeing The Michigan Daily’s legacy — decades of writers climbing this rusty ladder to make their mark, to validate their existence and their contributions to a paper that we all call our baby. How big can one family be? There were yellowing newspapers from 1994 pinned to wooden beams, and scrawled across the ceiling desperate pleas to “Remember us.” But it was so goddamn sad because that specific message was written by the news editor of 1992. 1992 — the year I was born. None of us tonight remembered her or him. None of us even know who that editor’s “us” is or was. Even the permanence of marker on wood can’t guarantee that your memory will last. In reality, it’s not permanent at all. But I left my name anyway, just one writer hoping to be remembered within “125 years of editorial freedom.” Maybe Akshay or Natalie or John Lynch will amble their way to the attic one or two years from now — even Karen, when I’m long gone — and see my name, point and awe. Hopefully, they’ll remember. Hopefully, it’ll mean something.
John Bohn, one of the last writers to leave the attic, stood far down one plank. Just stood there, staring forward. I wonder what he was thinking. I like to think that he was trying to take it all in, the first and final time he would do so, just like me. I want to remember this night, because it means so, so much. I’ve built a life here at the Daily, no matter how exhausting or annoying or time-consuming or brief. It gave me a reason to be proud of who I was when I desperately needed to feel that again. It’s where I learned to recognize my talent, to see myself as someone who could do something. Where Jamie Block told me, on my second day, that I was “really good for a freshman,” where Jennifer Xu praised my talent, where I endured drunken and sober 12-hour elections, where I learned to be a leader, to be creative, to be vulnerable, and to eat days and days of Noodles & Co.
That first day, September of 2010, Jamie Block asked me where I saw myself ending up. I told him, “I want your job.” Though I didn’t quite make it, I am so astonished and proud of what I’ve done at the Daily and what I’ve made of myself. I could never have imagined how quickly these years would have zoomed past — through Jamie, through Sharon Jacobs, through Leah Burgin, through Kayla, and finally Akshay and John Lynch — only to leave me scaling down an attic ladder, back to the newsroom at 420 Maynard and out the door, never to return as “Brianne Johnson, Senior Arts Editor.” Will I recognize the newsroom the next time I walk in — buzzing with a whole new staff; a new generation of the Daily family? Am I prepared to let go? I don’t know.
But I suppose I need to be. I leave the Daily to you, new generation. New SAE’s. The next family to etch their names into the Daily’s walls, an eternal and literal part of the Daily’s foundation. Now, I’ll be nothing more than another name in the attic, and years from now, just as the 1992 News Editor who’d asked the Daily to remember them, I’ll be a part of the Daily’s history, forgotton only until the next, young senior reads my name on that wall.