Sitting up, I reach for my phone while opening up my laptop, which is perched at the foot of my bed.
It’s 4 in the morning, way too early to get up for school. But I have a feeling Octagon adviser Patricia Fels is awake and has already sent some emails.
While everyone else is sleeping, it’s time to fix whatever I screwed up on the online Octagon the night before. I’m hoping no one besides Fels has seen my mistakes yet.
Senior year ended up being significantly more difficult than I anticipated. And the leading reason for that was the Octagon.
By the second week of school, I already felt like I was hopelessly behind. There seemed to be no way to keep up with last year’s editor-in-chief Ryan Ho’s level of commitment and work ethic. And print editor-in-chief Emma Williams had completely revamped the print edition, while I struggled just to keep my head above water with the online edition.
Every time I opened my phone, I held my breath, hoping there were no disappointed emails from Fels.
Time and time again, I would sit at my desk at 1 a.m. editing a story, swearing that tomorrow would be the day I would quit. It didn’t seem possible to keep up the pace for the rest of the year.
I couldn’t even get the freshmen on staff to turn their stories in on time!
In most other activities, I stay on top of my work fairly well. But with the Octagon, so many things were beyond my control, I felt it slipping through my hands.
I had spent two years working towards getting an editor position on staff. And now that I had it, I looked forward to the day when I could pass on the job.
My classmates not on staff would always joke with me, telling me I had already gotten into college, so I might as well just quit now.
But I knew I couldn’t do that. Because it was all worth it, and, even if I never admitted it to those classmates, I enjoyed the slog.
The late nights, late stories and emails from Fels became a foundation for camaraderie amongst the seniors on staff.
I knew that when I really felt like I couldn’t handle it anymore, a text message or phone call to Emma would cheer me up. After all, misery loves company.
And now, the freshmen not only volunteer for stories, but sometimes even ask for assignments. I never thought I’d see this day.
Through Octagon I’ve learned to work in a group of peers and still make sure that work still gets done. I’ve learned the hard way when to motivate people by reprimanding them versus praising them.
And now that it’s actually time to leave, I can’t help but feel a bit nostalgic and reluctant to actually let it go.
I even researched the process to join the Daily Pennsylvanian, the newspaper of my future college, University of Pennsylvania.
I’m going to miss Grant’s humorous comments that distract the class and irk Fels.
I’ll miss the look Emma gives me when I make a dumb mistake.
And I’ll miss Fels. Her blunt feedback on my writing has been the greatest tool in allowing me to improve. And her commitment to the Octagon is what makes me wake up at 4 a.m. to do whatever needs to be done.
Being on staff has pushed me to my limits in more ways than I could have imagined, but I am grateful for everything I’ve learned.
Everything said and done, if I had to do it all again – staying at school until 11 p.m., arguing with Fels, waking up to 10 angry emails – I wouldn’t think twice about joining Octagon or becoming online editor-in-chief.
—By Aishwarya Nadgauda
Previously published in the print edition on May 26, 2015.