I never knew I’d find a second home. I guess it waltzed itself into my life the moment I timidly walked into the advanced journalism “pub,” sitting down next to the only other freshmen who had been accepted onto staff that year, a tall, ungainly-looking boy with a brilliant grin and a girl who looked almost as innocent as I.
There are many such moments in life, those singular epiphanies that force one’s acknowledgment that something is at play of a far greater magnitude than what can be distinguished at first glance. But as climactic as it may seem now, there really was no defining moment when each new wave of Falconer staffers became a part of my family. Maybe it was the thrill of a 2:30 a.m. layout night, or perhaps it was the staffwide panic-induced bonding at the beginning of each month when we frantically solicit business advertising to support our newspaper, but somewhere and somehow, the three rooms of the Torrey Pines journalism staff— the computer lab, the classroom, and most of all the publications lounge, fondly dubbed the “pub”—morphed into a home away from home for me.
Falconerds love to joke that our pub is a magic portal. Usually it leads to the fantasy world of Narnia—or whatever my mind happens to dwell on when questioned by inquisitive outsiders. Yet as I’ve ventured deeper into its depths for the past three years, I have begun to realize that indeed our pub is a portal, and on the other side lies not a figment of C.S. Lewis’s imagination but an infinite dimension of the printed word, one that is as inspiring and as passionate and as real as the human experience—and the wondrous nuances of staff life that I have come to cherish.
It is to the pub that an embodiment of all the athletes, the thespians, the nerds, and the rebels is somehow attracted, like butterflies to a field of wildflowers, united by our mutual passion for writing, our eye for design, and most of all, our devotion to our monthly publication.
With its one wall of reflecting windows facing the exterior, the pub is a near-perfect mirror on the outside world. Sitting within this curtain of invisibility, I can see the figures of other students and teachers gliding across the silver screen as though in a silent film sequence. A girl stops, glances at her reflection in the mirror, and checks her hair and makeup; her eyes look straight into mine, yet she cannot see me. It was this mesmerizing sense of omniscience that first seized my fantasies—the moments in so many others’ lives which I can witness as a journalist, whether spoken and written in words or captured and expressed through images.
It is in this familiar yet enchanted place that I have conducted many of my most enlightening interviews over the years. True, there is glamour in the notion that journalists serve as the “gatekeepers to the news,” and the opportunities I have been endowed with on a daily basis, from phone conversations with officials in the governor’s office to conferences with teen movie stars, are tantalizingly unlike any of the experiences offered to the typical high school student. Whether it is with a hot air ballooning agency struggling with increasingly strict restrictions each year or a homeless man searching for a purpose in life, interviews have led me to witness firsthand the beauty and pain of each individual’s story. It is incredibly humbling, and incredibly ironic that the resounding majority of the people I have spoken with I will never meet again, yet even as a stranger I was given the chance time and time again to share in their lives, to believe, to empathize. At first, I drank in this newfound perception and sought to shine the spotlight on the individual through my writing, struggling to freeze these transcendental moments I witnessed into the monochromatic ink of newsprint.
But it was not until, in the comfort of the pub’s couches before a quaint tea-table and accompanied by a seemingly undepletable jar of Twizzler licorice candies, I was swept from the once pain-free bubble in which I dwelled into a whirlpool of emotions, that I began to realize that the quintessence of the human existence could never be captured in mere syllables. Reaching out to the parents of a student who was killed by a tragic prescription drug overdose, it was in the pub that I first learned to be sincere, to trust, to live, as the old couple’s optimism shamed the petty squabbles that had governed so much of my life until then, optimism that, though marred by regret, anger, and despair, effulged an irrepressible hope. Until that moment, I had naively believed my existence, and the existence of those immediately around me, to be that of an ethereal bliss. Never before having personally experienced sorrow so close to home, I was struck deeply by the family’s story—not only by their son’s passing, but even more by the unselfish willingness of his parents to share with me their most profound pain and most insightful reflections. Now I reach out to every soul in the sky, cry until my tears can fill an ocean, laugh until I doubt I’ll ever breathe again.
Even when I walk out the mirrored doors of the pub for the last time next year in June, I know I will look back upon the portal, and, if it is 2:30 a.m. on a starlit Wednesday morning, the green glow of the LED sign at the door will blink fondly once more in the distance: PUB OPEN.
It will always be open.
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