The independent news organization of Duke University

Losing balance

senior column

One particularly late night in The Chronicle’s office early in the spring of my junior year, I turned to my friend Amrith—then the editor-in-chief—and asked what him what he thought about balance.

He wasn’t caught off guard. This was one of countless questions I asked Amrith over the course of the hundreds of hours we spent together that semester. His answers to my questions about Duke basketball, how to fix the printer and how to navigate InDesign didn’t stick with me. But a lot of his other answers did, and this was one of them.

Chuckling a little bit, he looked at me and said something along the lines of, “I don’t think balance really exists.”

In the moment, I didn’t accept that response. You have to understand—Amrith has a superhuman dedication to The Chronicle. Truly, it cannot be matched. Having just returned from a semester abroad, I was unwilling to have my dreams about the perfect work-school-fun-sleep balance so easily crushed. 

Like so many Duke students, I spent the first two years of college fully convinced I could have it all — if only I was organized and efficient enough. Being the news editor that spring showed me that I couldn’t. And that was ok.

Because balance, it turns out, can be overrated.

Spending 40+ hours of the week working on the newspaper meant I didn’t have as much time to spend with my friends or on my classes (shoutout to Elle and the rest of my group for getting me through Stat 101). But some of my best Duke memories are from that crazy spring, when any sense of the rhythm I’d established in college was lost.

Instead of doing my homework, I conducted countless hours worth of interviews. Instead of going out on Wednesdays, I edited articles as I listened to jazz at the Mary Lou Williams Center. Instead of sleeping enough, I saw the Chapel when campus was absurdly, beautifully quiet.

It wasn’t always fun, but it was fulfilling, and somewhere along the way, I realized that I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. For a long time—since the fifth grade, to be precise—I’ve said I wanted to be a journalist. But as an underclassman, I was scared to commit too fully to it lest I fail at other things. Then junior spring was like a boot-camp in commitment—and, sometimes, at failing at other things—and I came out on the other side ready to do it again.

So this year, I kept writing. I traded in some of my hours at The Chronicle for hours at The Raleigh News & Observer, and left 301 Flowers to travel the Triangle covering Hillary Clinton and President Donald Trump’s campaigns—watching and writing about everything from Clinton’s speech in Raleigh on the eve of the election to Trump's on Inauguration Day. Even on the hard days—like the ones when my phone’s GPS was broken and I ended up hopelessly lost on North Carolina’s backroads—I knew there was nothing I would have rather been doing.

Over the course of dozens of articles this year—about everything from a refugee family in Cary to gentrification in Durham—I’ve learned more about North Carolina than I did in the three years that preceded it. I’ve loved every second of it. And after graduation, I’ll be lucky to keep doing the journalism that I love in Washington.

The point of all this? I’m not exactly sure—I’ll have to live a lot more years to write a great column that delivers advice with any measure of certainty. But what it boils down to, I think, is this: if you’re lucky enough to find something you love, hold onto it. We sometimes receive the message in college that you have to be good (or at least a little good) at everything. But I don't buy that anymore. Amrith is pretty much always right, so take his lesson to heart already and go ahead and embrace the lack of balance.

Rachel Chason is a Trinity senior. She served as news editor for The Chronicle's 111th volume and was the co-editor of Towerview, The Chronicle’s magazine, this year. She would like to thank Amrith, who will forever be superhuman in her eyes, Gautam, who was the best co-editor of Towerview she could’ve imagined and who should really quit his cool tech job and be a journalist, and Elle, who was a loyal Chron reader and unofficial member of 301 Flowers. She’d also like to thank The Chronicle’s devoted commenters, who keep the whole office grounded (and laughing).


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