How do I say a proper goodbye to the place where I spent 90% of my college career but had the final two months ripped away from me?
I expected my last day at The Daily to be filled with laughter and tears as the seniors cleaned out their desks and sat in the wooden chair in our adviser's office one final time.
I didn’t expect to be saying goodbye from my apartment living room.
When I rushed to leave Norman the Thursday before spring break started, I didn’t think it would be the last time I would see my friends and coworkers.
I lost my grandfather the Friday spring break started. In the middle of mourning his loss, it was announced that classes would be online the remainder of the semester. My senior year at the university I had dreamed of attending since I was 5 years old was basically over.
Now, I was faced with mourning two losses. The confusion and pain of losing a grandfather, who was my only father figure, and losing time at OU and The Daily has been extremely overwhelming.
But it’s been The Daily that has gotten me through it.
Knowing I had projects I needed to finish, a magazine to help finish and various other duties kept my mind busy and focused.
It’s also been the people, who over the past four years have grown to become some of my best friends.
They’ve picked me up from a car accident, helped me move apartments, let me crash at their place, checked on me throughout the past semester, helped me create content I’m incredibly proud of and ultimately brought laughter and happiness into my life.
But now it’s time to say the dreadful goodbye to the past four years. But first I want to reminisce a little.
When I joined The Daily in August 2016, I had no intention of ever leaving the visual desk. My first two years of college were filled with covering Baker Mayfield's final season, Trae Young's only season, a women’s gymnastics national championship, David Boren’s retirements and James Gallogly’s inauguration.
I became the multimedia editor my junior year. This is where I feel I really flourished as a journalist. With this job, I created at least 30 special project webpages, took a spin at writing, continued working with visual and created an in-depth investigative podcast.
Uncovered: The Lovers’ Lane Murders podcast has been one of the best things I have ever created at The Daily. I teamed up with Kayla Branch and Will Conover to investigate a pair of murders from 1970 and the investigation that lasted until the early '90s.
Our work resulted in a five-part podcast that has received numerous awards and has been listened to over 65,000 times (and counting).
But that’s not what made the project so special. It was the bond created between the team and hearing how much it meant to the families of the victims and the original investigators.
I’ll never forget the day before its launch. We stayed in the newsroom until nearly 5 a.m. working on it. The nerves we felt when it launched seven hours later were high. The eight-month-long investigation and all the late nights were worth it in the end, and they created memories I’ll cherish forever.
The Daily has also given me the opportunity to cover a College Football Playoff game and two NCAA women’s gymnastics national championships, and I captured Maggie Nichols' college career from beginning to end.
Not only have my photos appeared on the front page of the newspaper and the cover of Crimson Quarterly, but I’ve also had a story on the front page and wrote the cover story for the spring edition of CQ. That’s something I never expected to happen.
It’s crazy to think I’ll no longer spend a whole day in the newsroom, eat an absurd amount of Runts candy in Seth’s office, sit at the desk I’ve had for the past two years or hear the click of The Daily’s metal door again.
If high school senior Paxson saw who I am now, a photographer and a writer who will be moving to Washington D.C. in the fall to get a graduate degree in photojournalism, she would think it wasn’t true.
But it is. My dream college exceeded all my expectations. And I have The Daily to thank for it all.
Thank you, OU Daily. And thank you to all the friends I’ve made along the way.
So how do I say goodbye to all of this? I don’t. Instead, I say, “See you soon."