On a dark fall evening I walked into 744 Ostrom Ave. for a read. It was my second time at the house and I had filed a story on a women’s club soccer player’s return from a torn ACL. As I walked up the creaky, worn-out stairs, the rest of the house buzzed with conversations bouncing off the walls.
I turned right into the sports office to see the walls splattered with old clippings. I always loved that about the old house. The asbestos-filled walls felt like a museum with a Hall of Fame and a hall of shame that writers poked fun at. I quietly took a seat while the staff was hard at work.
“Hey Josh,” I said to Eric Black. Naturally, Eric gave me a very puzzled look but was kind enough to say Josh was in another room. I was off to a fantastic start.
Eventually, Josh returned, and I sat down for a read with Michael McCleary. He asked me if I knew what a nutgraf was. I replied “no”, because what freshman does? My story was nothing special, so McCleary asked me to get new quotes and details. I stuck my phone next to my ear and listened to a 30-minute interview right there. Totally normal, and definitely not something the rest of the staff thought was super weird.
I have no idea how long that read took. It felt like 45 minutes to me but it easily could’ve been two hours for McCleary. On my way out of the house, someone on the staff asked what I had thought of the whole process.
“I know this is what I want to do now,” I replied. I walked confidently out of the house thinking I would be a sports journalist for the rest of my life.
I cannot tell you how many times I have replayed that day in my head and laughed. I was a bold little freshman, huh? By now, anyone that knows me is well aware that I don’t intend to be a journalist once I graduate. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t hate journalism. I just realized it wasn’t my thing.
But I don’t see that as a bad thing. When I was a junior in high school, one of my favorite teachers, Mr. Lucas, wrote me a letter when he left for a different school. He began with “YOU NEED TO SPEAK UP” in all caps. He reminded me that I always had great ideas, but I never advocated for myself enough to share them. He told me to take risks and come out of my comfort zone more often.
I thought about that letter throughout my senior year of high school. I wrote about it in my college application and used his message as my lede (the only quote lede I’ve ever gotten away with). I made it my mission to take risks and try new things in college.
I didn’t have another story at The D.O. for the rest of my freshman year. So much for speaking up and trying new things, but some things take time and, eventually, things began to work out.
I cast a wide net for my friends freshman year. As a result, I’ve been burnt in the past four years, but I’ve also met some of my best friends on spur-of-the-moment decisions. Whether it was a knock on a door or going to lunch with someone I only sort of knew, I wouldn’t have met some of my best friends without taking some chances.
My time at The D.O. soon took off. I returned even though I was practically unknown at the house after writing one story. Soon, I was on my first beat covering ice hockey. Eventually, I was part of the first sports staff at 230 Euclid Ave. Then, life threw a pandemic at us halfway through college.
I feel like I have to mention COVID-19 somewhere because it has completely changed all of our lives. However, I’d hate to give it any more time than what it’s already taken from us. If there are any positives to take away from the pandemic, it’s that I’ve learned a lot about myself. I dread Friday and Saturday nights when I have no plans (ironic since I’m writing this on a Friday night), but I cannot imagine having been this person in high school.
I enjoy trying new things now. Whether it’s something small like trying a new recipe or something big like choosing to study abroad where I knew there weren’t any other Syracuse students. I biked 30 km at 3 a.m. to watch the sunrise. I also bungee jumped off a crane after watching the staff duct tape my cord.
Those were risks; some panned out and some didn’t. I don’t miss copy editing a softball staffer at 2 a.m. after snow tubing with my friends. But I will miss being on the men’s basketball beat, despite the heavy workload. I’ll never forget traveling to all the different campuses, Crane doing a keg stand in Blacksburg, Virginia and Jim Boeheim calling me Roshan.
But if there’s anything I’ve learned from a topsy-turvy four years it’s that sometimes it’s best to just take a chance. The worst question in the world is “What if?” The coaches and players we cover probably ask themselves that after every loss. I think “Why not?” is a lot better.
Sometimes it won’t work out, but the way I see it, it’s better to know rather than live with the regret of not knowing. As I’m writing this, I remembered the positive results of taking a risk far more than the failed attempts. Sure, I won’t be a sports journalist, as I’d boldly predicted, but I’d rather know that now than 10 years from now. During these four years, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone way more than I did in the past, and as I enter the next chapter of my life, I’m better for it.
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Gaurav Shetty was a staff writer for The Daily Orange, where his column will no longer appear. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @Gaurav__Shetty.
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