Balk: Appreciate your time at NU, and all the people who make it special

Tim Balk, Gameday Editor

It hit me like a bullet train. A week early, actually.

At halftime of Northwestern football’s penultimate home game of the season, I snuck out of the press box and into the upper deck. I stood in the frozen slush and looked down at Ryan Field, soaking up the back end of four years, unsure whether I was sniffling from the cold night air or from nostalgia.

I’m not graduated yet. In fact, I have a full quarter of classes to go.

But as I approach the end of the line at this publication — I’m tapping out after Winter Break — it feels like a de facto graduation. Some time around winter of my sophomore year, the first quarter I spent on The Daily’s edit board, classes became background noise. When the paper finished publication at the end of the quarter, I felt pretty sure the quarter was finished, finals be damned.

That all might sound pretty bonkers. And it probably is.

But it’s about more than just printing newspapers that languish away on those pathetic little dining hall newsstands. It’s about home and family and all that warm fuzzy stuff. (Is this about to get unforgivably kitschy? Of course it is; you’ve stumbled your way into a senior column, mate.)

As a sports reporter, I covered more than a dozen games from the Ryan Field press box and many others across the Big Ten, dropped by Welsh-Ryan Arena from time to time, and had the chance to talk to some phenomenal student-athletes and coaches. So maybe that’s why I nearly teared up at the Purdue game.

But I still have yet to sit down and reckon with peacing out to Norris, a place where, in my prime, I ran the The Daily’s Opinion Desk as I watched the Yik Yak haters pile up. (Pour one out for the Yak.) And where, later, I pretended to be a Managing Editor for two quarters, once forcing the whole staff to watch a Bionicle movie.

Home, they say, is where the heart is, and Norris never could have felt like home if not for the people who work here.

There are many wonderful people at Norris, from the folks who always say hello each night as they help clean up our newsroom to the baristas at Norbucks.

I’ll also always owe a special debt of gratitude to Charlotte Taylor. She’s been dishing out pizza on the ground floor as long as I’ve worked at The Daily. The warmth she exudes is stronger than the oven at The Kiln.

In my five quarters on The Daily’s edit board, I could always count on her to keep my spirits up on a stressful day with a simple smile and greeting. What I didn’t realize, at least until this fall, is that she brings her cheerful attitude to Norris despite a two-hour commute from her home on the West Side of Chicago. She doesn’t get home to her family until 1:15 a.m, often working six days a week.

But when I asked her recently if she likes her job, dealing with NU students all day, she said she loves it. She said feeding people gives her joy, reminiscing about making Thanksgiving dinner at Dearborn Homes on the South Side, where she grew up and where her mom still lives. She’ll be back there Thursday for the holiday.

And with Thanksgiving around the bend, I’m trying to take a moment to appreciate this special place, filled with people like Charlotte and many others who go to great lengths to make it feel like home.

Among these, of course, are my phenomenal peers at The Daily, who have become my on-campus family. Who joined me in traversing hundreds of miles of Midwest roads to reach far-flung motels and cover football and basketball games. And who inspired outrageous late-night debates about em-dashes or whether the word nonconference should have a hyphen.

When all’s said and done, it’s worth trying to appreciate each day here, even those stress-filled, sleep-reduced, Winter Quarter days. All the little moments, and all the people you share them with.

Because this school is filled with people who want to lift your spirits.

And because it won’t be too long before you’re just a washed up senior like me, looking around and taking stock of how lucky you’ve had it — and all the memories you’ve made.

Tim Balk is a Medill senior. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.