I entered college with a vague understanding of what my four years would entail. I knew there would be classes and dorm rooms and that I would probably get involved with something. I fooled myself into thinking I had it together, but the pressure of the college fair and the resulting listservs I fell victim to still plague me—Terry Wilkerson, for instance, will have his name and pre-law reminders seared into my brain despite the fact I never participated in a single law-related class or event.
To this day, I can’t remember O-Week. I’m not sure if that’s something to be pleased about, but I survived and at some point, I attended a Chronicle information session. I met the new sports editor, Andrew Beaton, who must have made a good impression, because I showed up at the sports meeting later that week and signed up for a pair of stories. (Looking back, I think this may register as the most eager point of time in my life.)
On the fourth day of classes, I had my first two stories published—a preview of the Virginia Tech football team and a student reaction piece on the lack of a tailgate party. I didn’t know it, but the day I recorded the interviews with students, I broke one of student journalism’s cardinal sins: I spoke with an athlete without going through an SID.
To be fair, I didn’t know he was an athlete, though the 6-foot-4 frame probably should have at least been a hint. I was talking with a small congregation and I turned to him, notepad and recorder in my hand, and I started with my first question. He heard me out and offered a decent answer, then he politely informed me that he was a football player and he probably shouldn’t be quoted, though he was willing to talk to me about it.
So, we sat there, for 15 minutes, talking about the football team, the tailgate atmosphere—he was never able to experience it, but he did wish students had something entertaining to do before the games. He told me about practice and detailed how excited he was for the season to start. I told him about how I was in the midst of working on one of my first stories for The Chronicle. Then we spoke about the student paper for a while before we went our separate ways.
While that may seem fairly standard—hey, I had a conversation with someone!—it was an out-of-character action for me. I have never loved talking to strangers, an odd trait for a guy raised in a town where everyone knew your name and did the same things on Friday nights. (It was actually a lot like Duke. When there was nothing to do, we went to Cook-Out.) Being a reporter, talking to strangers is kind of a required task, and sometimes those strangers are lawyers yelling at you. Other times, they’re nice football players who are willing to take 15 minutes out of their day to catch you up on campus football relations.
The player was David Helton, a linebacker who worked his way through the Duke system to lead the team in tackles two years in a row. As he continued to excel in his final year at Duke and prepared for post-graduation life, we managed to speak privately a couple times. However, this was two years after our first encounter and both of us had gone through quite a bit of life, him being a standout. But we both still remembered that first conversation, and when I interviewed him for “The Quiet Mike,” the two of us had the same ah-ha moment and before completing our interview, we shared a moment of reflection.
What was captured in my experiences with Helton was the same thing that finds its way creeping into everything I did with The Chronicle—a sense of home, of comfort. It wasn’t an escape, it was still work, of course. But I was always at ease, even when I had to be pushed to perform tasks I’d otherwise dread; I guess it helps I knew from the beginning this was the only thing I could ever see myself doing. Outside of my role as a reporter, I don’t tend to be someone who will walk up to a group of strangers and start talking and asking questions, but for The Chronicle, I was first in line.
My college home was made up of countless hours I spent face down in a decrepit loveseat in front of the only consistently working television in Flowers 301, contemplating life decisions and supplement ad sizes. It existed in the brief moments that have situated themselves as lifelong memories—covering the Final Four with great, sleepless friends, solving out-of-state murder cases at 2 a.m. (if only you could see the GoogleDoc), spending two months reporting a big story with a great partner.
Just like when I moved on from my childhood home to my third-floor room in Gilbert-Addoms, the move from 301 Flowers to (INSERT FUTURE JOB LOCATION HERE) will be a tough one. But the good part about leaving a true home is knowing you can always come back.
Nick Martin is a Trinity senior. Many thanks to Taylor, for being my support and best friend through it all; to Mom and Dad, for being my inspiration and imparting in me all you did; to Chris, for trolling me and making me laugh; to Amrith, for putting The Chronicle before pretty much everything but basic motor skills and admitting GotG’s greatness; to Ryan, for Syracuse and for being the perfect partner; to Carleigh, for being the editor, boss and friend I needed most; to Emma, for your time and friendship; to Andrew, for being a great friend and inspiration; to Dan, for instilling the drive to accept nothing less than greatness; to Danielle, for showing me how to look for the right story and for Bob Weir; to Matt, for the chili.
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