End of an Era?: Natty Ice Reluctantly Graduates

Right now, I’m sitting in the hallway of the third floor of Gateway Commons. To my left is an empty conference room, dark and deserted. To my right is a room filled with the sounds of chatter, laughter and the clicking of computer keys. A few people are asleep, some people are yelling, some have their headphones on, some have their faces buried in work. This room to my right is my home. It’s not a home in the traditional sense; I wasn’t raised here, my parents don’t live here and I don’t have my own bedroom. But in the last four years, this place has become more of a home for me than anywhere else.

This is the newsroom. This is the place that fostered so many of the friendships I treasure to this day. From the first day I signed up to be a writer during Welcome Week of my freshman year, to the day I was selected as Entertainment editor, this institution has given me more than I could have expected out of my college experience. It has changed my life, and my future.

Sure, it might be a little cliché to start calling these people my family, but who else could make me laugh, cry, scream, sigh and smile the way these people have?  Who else would I allow to make fun of my last name in so many ways? Who else could make me laugh at the most inappropriate of moments? Who else could make me love with all my heart without feelings of shame or guilt?

My relationship with the newspaper has been much like a happy but tumultuous marriage. Three years filled with love, frustration, arguments, late nights and even later mornings. And now I’m sad to say, it’s time for the amicable divorce.

My life at the newspaper has been measured and experienced through singular moments, mental ephemera to most people, but they are pieces that hold a special place in the fucked-up scrapbook of my brain: all the drunken nights, the chaotic camping trips, the infinite moments, the beanies lost to the wind, the Nerf gun battles on golf courses, the Lance Bass bobble head, the Truck Nutz, the awkward encounters with homeless people, the world’s largest artichoke, the oysters, the pancakes, the misspelled business cards, broken glasses, unnecessary guitars, inebriated poetry readings, crying on your friend’s toilet, watching your friend puke their guts out and laugh about it, lifesaving pizza, the night of a thousand high fives, head-banging to Andrew W.K., trying to flirt with Leonardo DiCaprio at a press conference (and failing), falling asleep on the world’s most comfortable couch, re-enacting “500 Days of Summer” in L.A., shattered lava lamps, terrible Borat impressions, peacocks, phantom merry-go-rounds, Martin Lawrence (don’t ask), Casa de Untold Terrors (aka Daniel Plainview’s playground), “Batrolling, getting lost on the way from campus to Fashion Island, terrorizing the rest of Gateway, getting stuck in the shittiest elevator on campus, going to Coachella for free, the drama, the offensive jokes, the Pillow Pets, the sleepovers, the whiskey, the love, the tattoos on our skin and our hearts — every moment now sits in a box in my brain, gathering dust like old photo albums. I look through these pages of memories and each time it is a stab in the heart, as much as it is a warm, comforting embrace. “Look at what you have lived,” I tell myself. “Look at the people who you were lucky enough to know.” God knows I am undeserving of such friendship, but God can make mistakes, can’t he?

I set out to write this article to say goodbye to a place, a thing, an institution. But it’s the people I need to say farewell to.

To Greg: The man who either speaks in a whisper or shouts at the top of his lungs — I’ll miss your terribly offensive accent impersonations, making fun of your ignorance at ’90s musical references and hearing you say things in Russian that no one understands.

To Amanda: My Tumblr-mate and Staff Thuggalo, you are the staunch defender of this paper, always and forever. I can always count on you to enjoy cats, nail polish, hot men and making fun of Greg with me.

To Michael: You recently described yourself as being a “likeable asshole, like Iron Man.” I think you said it best yourself. I’ll always have you as my Orange Coast intern buddy, fellow concert attendee, hipster asshole compatriot, photographer and drunk texter.

To Jun: You were the best associate editor anyone could have ever asked for. Thanks for always making me laugh at your comic mispronunciation of musicians’ names and for your relentless love of soccer (er, I mean football). You balanced out my scatterbrained tendencies with your obsessive organization. P.S. Sorry I thought you were a girl when you first started writing for the paper.

To Kevin: You’re in Washington D.C. hanging out with the Obamas and whatnot, but thanks for being an amazing head editor this year. When you weren’t busy being a straight-A student, being friends with former presidents and trying to cure cancer, you somehow found time to bring your skills to the New U and for that I applaud you.

To Zach: you’re a tattooed, vegan honor student who could outrun all of us. You are a better human being than all of us, and that’s pretty much it. You have such a big heart and a kind soul, and I’m sad I won’t be able to work with you next year.

To Charles: thank you for fighting off raccoons and walking me to the bathroom in nothing but your shorts and boots in the Big Sur darkness. Thank you for indulging my fashion whims and letting me rant about clothes for 10 weeks. And thanks for being the best-dressed boy ever to grace this office!

To Soraya: Our valiant News editor. You were always a silent voice of reason in an office often filled with madness, and you had to handle your fair share of drama, deadlines and difficult writers. Thanks for continuing the line of amazing news editors. I can’t wait to hear about the amazing things you’ll do in the future.

To Jessica; you may have the softest voice, but you showed us all how strong you really are. You proved to me that the expression “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is true for a good reason. Behind that sweet exterior is an ambitious, forward-thinking future Editor-in-Chief/Boss who will not hesitate to lay down the law. Hopefully you won’t need to use the baseball bat next year.

To Vinh: Your Vietnamese accent has become legendary for making as all laugh to the point of tears. But all jokes aside, you always seemed to have your finger on the pulse of this campus and know just what the scoop was. Thank you for the meat sweats.  I’m sure you won’t bring dishonor on your family.

To Annie: You are genuinely the cheeriest, happiest, friendliest person I have ever met. Nothing ever seems to get you down, and you always manage to bring everyone else up a few happiness notches whenever you were in the office. Thanks for getting “Don’t Drop that Thun-Thun-Thun” stuck in my head.

To Anna: You may be the tiniest member of the staff, but I know that if our newsroom was turned into the Hunger Games, you would easily finish us all off with your crafty ninja skills.

To Young: a.k.a the Youth Movement, a.k.a. Young Money; thanks for always being there to teach me about sports and letting me know when our UCI teams were winning.

To Ian: You were never as loud or boisterous as everyone else in this office, but whenever you said something it was always quality. You’ve got the most subtle sense of humor that always managed to catch me off guard. Also, God bless you for making the Physique Edition into reality.

To Justine: The most senior copy editor and the most affectionate drunk I ever met; I feel like I could tell you anything about myself and trust you with it. Thanks for the night in San Francisco; you know why.

To James: The other member of the Copy Corner. Whether you were fighting bears, getting caught in your garage or having chairs dropped on your head, you always managed to show up and do an amazing job. And, we could always count on you for withering comments about Jun to make us laugh.

To Priya (and Joyce and the entire layout staff): I think I speak for all editors when I say this newspaper would have collapsed in on itself without you at the helm for layout. We all relied on you and you always obliged us and our nonsense with a smile. The layout team was the backbone of this newspaper and your creativity and devotion made this paper look as good as it always did.

And to editors of years past — Traci, David (both of you), Drew, Nushin, Ara, Mengfei — you set the foundation for my life at the newspaper, and you may not know this, but you were more important to me than you may think.

As I sit here, drowning in feelings and sentiment, my back to the newsroom, I can’t believe how … normal today feels. It is the last time I’ll ever have to spend a Sunday in this office in front of this computer. All I can do is hope that the people who fill these chairs in the future are as lucky as I am.