I didn’t always want to be a journalist. Looking back, I’m surprised.

I have always been nosy to a fault; I crave political intrigue; and I’m a decent writer. For goodness’ sake, my favorite book-turned-movie is All the President’s Men (essentially a reporter's sacred manifesto), and it has been since about 9th grade.

I tried out The Chronicle O-week just as something to do, but I soon discovered that through journalism, I could realize my childhood dream of becoming Nancy Drew, with some politics and writing tossed in. I can’t believe it took me so long to figure it out.

However, I sometimes think I came to that realization too fast. If you know me or anyone else who has had leadership roles at The Chronicle, you know this organization sucks us in. Like, 60-hours-a-week sucks you in. I wouldn’t trade the hours I spent in this office for anything, but I know there are certain parts of college that I missed out on. It’s okay that I didn’t study abroad or do a thesis or go to nearly enough basketball games. What I get hung up on is that I experienced Duke as a journalist, not as a student.

For most of my four years, I was always in reporter mode. Dinner conversation among friends sometimes turned into story pitches, as did things I learned in professors’ office hours and from email listservs I joined at the activities fair and never unsubscribed from. I got an education that has prepared me well for my future, but often at the expense of my schoolwork because I always put The Chronicle first. And some of the best lessons I learned came at others’ misfortune because our (and their) mistakes were published in print and online for all the world to see, unlike a bad grade or a run-in with student conduct.

At the onset of college, I saw myself as a royal blue-bleeding Blue Devil who wanted nothing more than for Duke to ascend both the March Madness bracket and the U.S. News and World Report rankings. But for much of my time here, I was pitching, writing and editing stories that could make Duke look bad. With all the juicy gossip I know about Duke, Dean Guttentag should get a little nervous if he sees me talking to a P-frosh. (In fact, I once represented The Chronicle at a Blue Devil Days event, standing in front of a poster version of a Chronicle front page from our lacrosse scandal coverage. He wasn’t too happy.)

Despite all that, The Chronicle taught me to love Duke. Even if it seems like I was out to get the University or some of the people here, my Chronicle work was a manifestation of my love. By exposing its problems, we can make Duke better. For every negative story idea, I had a million positive ones—about research, philanthropy, administrators’ promotions or students standing up for what they believe in. And if Duke supports good journalism, that means it also supports free thought and free speech. Duke welcomes criticism, which is a luxury student journalists at many other schools don’t have.

I’m no Duke poster child, but I accomplished plenty of the things they tell you about in the brochures. I found my passion, and I got to be a leader. I learned from both success and failure. I immersed myself in Duke in my own, unique way. And eventually, I did make it to a Carolina game, on top of nearly every home football game this year. (Hell yes, Duke Football!)

My relationship with this paper, though rocky and painful at times, was the most important part of my Duke experience, and it’s how I will forever remember college. Like a break-up, it will be hard to cut off our ties cold turkey. I'll take with me my blankets that will forever remind me of the countless late nights I spent with you, and I'll give up my DukeCard access to the office. I'll stalk you on social media, and I will send check-in emails even though I know you've moved on to other managing editors. I'll see you at reunions, where we will make awkward small talk over crudités and punch. I will hopefully move on to bigger and better news organizations, but always know that in terms of journalism, you were my first love.

Lauren Carroll is a Trinity senior and former managing editor of The Chronicle. Thanks to Lindsey, Nicole and Sanette for their mentorship, to volumes 106-110 for putting up with her (especially when she was a sore loser and control freak), to Jonathan for his never-ending love and patience, and to everyone on the group text who still wanted her around even after she basically spent a year abroad in 301.