Grief, love and the eight pages in between

A story of loss, and the newsroom that keeps me going every week.

Associate Managing Editor CJ Haddad collaborates with incoming Editor-in-Chief Anjali Patel during a busy night of production. (Drake Lee / Daily Trojan)

It’s been said that if you did not grieve deeply, you did not love deeply.

This past year, I’ve found out that I have loved deeper than I ever would have imagined — much more than what I am “okay” with, much more than can be sustained or expressed in a single lifetime and much more than the person lucky enough to have it given to me in turn. Even so, I will probably grieve over this person, who is very much alive, forever, right alongside the person I used to be.

Before this calendar year, I hadn’t really had a good idea of what loss looked like, or how someone in your life could come to inhabit it. I’ve found it ends up being the ones that you build some mental architecture around — anyone who you deem worth fighting with and fighting for in the hopes that they will look your way and fight for you too.

Anyone who, by leaving your life — no matter how kind their intentions may have been — realizes your worst fear before you’ve even had the time to catch your breath or remedy the pain you each might have caused.

The loss of them leaves you very naked. You miss — and continue to love — their embrace, their smile, their huge brown eyes and slight hook of their nose, the way they fold their shorts, the sound of their genuine laughter apart from their friends, their obsessive Harry Potter or flight simulator phases, their tight-knit family, the way they read your thoughts and make sense of the world around them. Everything that made them them.

The world outside of those things is cold and dry — to “protect” myself, I spend more time indoors than I used to, became the “roommate that doesn’t go out anymore,” sheltered myself, because grief seems easier to deal with at home, where I don’t have to walk past The Building Where It Happened and amble to The Self-Forbidden Fraternity Row and risk running into too many people who know me, know “what happened.”

But to you, reader, I want to tell you that not all is lost, even if you avoid and obfuscate and hide and refuse to let go. I am lucky enough to have this one thing to call my own and that I presently, deeply love — this newsroom. I’ve walked a long road as I’ve moved up the ladder here. Just like a committed partner, the Daily Trojan has seen me at my best and worst moments, and it’s never gone anywhere. I love this paper, and even more so the people I get to help run it with.

As a managing editor now, I have one day a week when the production shift’s final responsibility falls on my shoulders — sending our final eight-page document to the printer. Wednesday’s mine, which means once every section’s editors have finished their layouts for tomorrow’s paper — whether it’s 11:00 p.m. or 3:30 a.m., I am right there in the back office making sure everything is perfect for when the real thing arrives on the stands tomorrow.

It’s my favorite part of my day because then I’m able to reflect on that shift, in all of its chaos and bustle, that I spent with some of my closest friends. It was a shift where I was a person I recognized, and even admired:

Look here — Josh is teeing up a “that’s what she said” joke and threatening an arm wrestling match. Over here now — Kate and Alexa are here, laughing about their day and holding tight onto their stuffed pigs. “Where’s yours?” they tease me. Eva’s walking behind you now — the news pages for tomorrow need to be proofed. Reo’s walking to you with his computer — looks like someone needs a better source, and a writer had the balls to cite Wikipedia. 

Anjali is coming over to see if you’re alright. She also wants a companion to go to Panda Express for cream cheese rangoons before they close, she says as she wraps her arms around your shoulders. “I love you,” “I love you too,” we say each night as she heads home from shift.

Now it’s 1:00 a.m., and it’s time to send the paper to the printer. It’s just you now, (now) your whole world is this newspaper that’ll be real and permanent tomorrow. They’re counting on you to catch any last mistakes before the ink hits the tabloid sheets. Oops, “diligent” is spelled with two l’s here. This paper that was here before you and that will outlive you is ready for you to send out to the world. They’re all counting on you.

They need me here. I’d like to think they love me here, too — I certainly love them, every single editor, the world over. They are my tribe. For even the smallest laughs on my worst days or the computer games me and Kim play together to procrastinate on homework, they’re what keep me alive.

I am alive because of the people here. Each one. I am alive for the eight pages I send to the printer every week.

And I will be here, alongside the best people I’ve ever met, to guard those pages so long as the rest of my heart repairs itself, even if they hand me my diploma before that day — or the final aria of the person who will never be forgotten — really comes. Right here.

To my co-editors, I love you all deeply. I will grieve you all deeply when it’s my time to leave USC. But most of all, thank you for saving my life.

“Editors’ Epilogue” is a rotating column featuring a new Daily Trojan editor in each installment and their personal experiences of living in what seems to be an irrepressible dumpster fire of a world. CJ Haddad is an associate managing editor at the Daily Trojan.

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