The independent news organization of Duke University

Figuring it out one year at a time

In many ways, my experiences at The Chronicle over my four years here have been a metaphor for growing up.

You know the pattern, the typical indie movie progression: you view life with rose-colored glasses until your heart gets broken and you realize things aren’t so simple—or easy—after all.

I still remember one of my first times walking into the office as a wide-eyed freshman. For my first story, I was charged with covering a Duke Student Government meeting. I didn’t even think to bring a notebook—I just figured I’d remember what was said at the meeting off the top of my head. In the end, it took me about five hours to write a story about a DSG meeting that probably didn’t even take that long, but I loved every minute of it. As I churned out the last few words of the story, I turned to that year’s managing editor and told her I was simply looking for a campus group to “adopt me.” She told me The Chronicle would be glad to help.

So I was adopted by The Chronicle that year, and it was a whirlwind mentorship. Quickly a few hours a week in the office turned into one night a week, three nights a week and eventually every day. I would ask professors if I could get an extension for an assignment because I had “stayed up all night finishing an article in today’s paper.” I would get up early every morning just so I could run to my dorm’s newspaper basket to get the fresh Chronicle with my name printed on the front page (on good days). I was in love with the whole experience, and, like a child, I thought nothing of the consequences.

But life did get hard. My commitment with The Chronicle started to take away from other obligations, like friendships. As I gained more leadership sophomore year, I also gained more responsibilities. Friends began to take cues from my repeated “Sry, can’t do dinner” texts, and stopped asking me to dinner. I felt like sophomore year was moving by without me and all I could see was the view from 301 Flowers.

My impending junior year brought with it big decisions: did I abandon going abroad for The Chronicle or did I abandon The Chronicle for the former? Ultimately, after running for editor and losing (remember the heartbreak I mentioned?), I became Opinion Editor, but not without reservations. For anyone who has read the petition against Jonathan Zhao, you’ll know that the job is an incredibly difficult and an incredibly public one. As opinion editor, I began each morning with one eye barely cracked open, scared to look at the emails in my inbox. They ranged from the simple—“I’d like to submit a guest column, and how do I do that?”—to the truly scary: “Who do you think you are? How dare you publish this column? I’m never reading The Chronicle again.” As with anything, I got used to it. The emails stopped scaring me and started being the norm. Getting thicker skin was a gift. It was trial by fire, but I finally didn’t have to brace myself for the onslaught of cruel emails in the morning. They were just there.

In the spring semester of my junior year, I decided to (finally?) abandon The Chronicle and go abroad to Rome. At the risk of sounding cliché, it was one of the best experiences of my life, and with increasing returns. Each day at Duke that sucks a little is made better by knowing that there was a time when I could walk two minutes from my home to the best gelateria in Rome (in my humble opinion). I felt now that The Chronicle had finally set me free.

All this led to my senior year, when I was convinced I would only write for The Chronicle, as opposed to edit, and spend as little time in the office as possible. But my former co-editor convinced me to come back to work for Recess, the arts section, and here I was again, giving up one or two nights a week because, well, “Chron.”

Maybe this was the way my college career was supposed to go. The Chronicle felt like an ex-boyfriend that wouldn’t go away no matter how hard I tried. “The one that got away”…and then kept coming back. "Could I ever shake this place?" I wondered. But over time, something happened. I started to actually look forward to coming back to the office again. I started meeting younger staff that inspired me. And, through it all, I kept my love of journalism, which is the greatest gift this place has ever given me.

Now that I’m a graduating senior, I think I’ve finally achieved the relationship I wanted with The Chronicle all along: one of tacit acceptance. Now I feel that we can look at each other—as much as the “anthropomorphic newspaper” persona I’ve made in my head can look at me—and say, “Okay, we’ve been through a lot together. Some nights ended in tears, some nights ended in laughing so hard there were tears, but either way, I can look you in the eye and say I’m glad I met you.”

Honestly, from a newspaper with such a complicated history in my heart, that is all I could ask for.

Elizabeth Djinis is a Trinity senior and former Recess Managing Editor (as well as Opinion Editor and Local and National Editor). She would like to thank Georgia Parke for being the best “Chronbestie” ever, always screenshotting the good Snapchats and making MERP a way of life. Thank you to Tom Vosburgh, who always kept the office interesting. And thank you to Rachel, for being the coolest new friend ever! Thank you especially to chronpeeps of yesteryear: to Lauren, Nicole, Sophia, Elysia, Bri, Eliza, Scott and many others who showed me what it was to be an upperclassman and a person. 

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