MATT HEINLE
Editor-in-Chief

Since this is probably the last thing I will have published for some time, I will be careful not to waste my words.

This column has provided me with an appropriate outlet to express myself when I felt it necessary, and while I appreciate that opportunity for independent thought, I would like to dedicate this last piece of space to the people in my life who have always, and will always, be there when I need to vent.

This column has been there for me for a year. You will all be there for me for the rest of my life.

I have been blessed in so many ways, not limited to the work I have been able to complete in my time here as Editor-in-Chief. I’ve watched my last full year of college fly by me faster than any of the 21 years previous, and it’s eerie how quickly the hands on the clock seem to be gaining momentum as I get older.

Two life-altering experiences have happened to me this year that will ensure that I will change for the better.

This year, I learned the meaning of hard work. Hard work, in the purest sense, is giving everything you have to something. You give so much and so freely that in the end you forget what you’ve given. If you were to ask me what was on the front page of a recent issue, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. But if you put that issue in my hands I could probably tell you what nightmares we faced trying to get it out.

The responsibilities of being Editor-in-Chief have caused me to be in such a state of hyperfocus that the only elements of it I have internalized were the circumstances that were wholly outside of myself. The rest of the experience was me, and what I chose to give to it, which was everything I had. Thus, the whole year just seems like a blur.

I think that the reason it’s been hard for me to put this year in perspective is because I gave it my all and, as with everything else in life, it’s hard to fully separate yourself from something that is truly a part of you.

For better or for worse, each of the 17 issues I published this year has been a part of me. Now that it’s over, I have only just started to take a step back and reflect on what has happened. The reason I am able to do that now is because it’s over. Only when a big part of your life vanishes, never to be seen again, are you inspired to ponder what that missing piece had meant to you. Only when that happens do you take stock of what is left in the wake of the departure and consider how valuable it is.

Relinquishing my position at The Pillar is an example of how loss causes reflection.

Saying goodbye to my grandfather, who passed away on April 13, provides another one.

My grandfather, Thomas Ford, was a wonderful person whose life had a distinct impact on my own. If he wasn’t the man he was, I certainly wouldn’t be the man I am today. In fact, if he hadn’t been such a guiding presence in my life I know I wouldn’t even be able to confidently call myself a man in the first place. I have a pit in my stomach thinking about how much more I could have given him in his time here. What turns the pit into a black hole is knowing that this realization didn’t crystallize in my mind until he was gone.

The truth is what I used in an attempt to comfort my family at the wake and the funeral.
Being a journalist, I’m pompous enough to think that the truth is one of my specialties. I told them it was the right time for him to go. He was 79 with a slew of previous health problems and hospitalizations. He was a man with nine lives who had finally used them all up. At least he got to see all his grandchildren settled in college and pursuing careers, I said. At least he was able to witness our lives beginning as his came to a close. Even though I believe this is the truth, my sentiments were always prefaced with “at least,” as if these realizations had meant nothing in the wake of losing him. The truth is; they did mean nothing.

He was that important, that loved. His death, though ultimately expected, was not easier for anyone to bear. I had to ask myself “why is that?”

The answer I came up with was that humans, as a race, are never ready to consider mortality until it becomes offended at our ignorance and smacks us directly in the face.

Mortality is a concept that is so heavy, so nebulous, that you are incapable of truly wrestling with it unless someone you have loved for your entire life is lying stiff in a box, right in front of you. It is only then that you know that you will never, ever be able to see them again.

There’s an old saying that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. I have always believed this since I was a little kid, but it’s as easy to forget as it is to believe. The components of a daily routine morph your aptitude to think about your life with gratitude into a fat, disgusting sense of entitlement.

When you lose power in a hurricane you never want to turn on a light more, never want to store something in the fridge more. But, instead, you find yourself emptying out the fridge in the darkness because you don’t have any other option. You recall while you are doing this how easy it is to take things for granted, how when something is there for you every day it becomes subject to neglect. This is certain for lights and refrigerators, and it takes on a whole new meaning when it pertains to people. Especially the ones we know in our hearts mean everything to us.

Despite the pain, going through the loss of my grandfather has ensured me that I won’t take anyone I love for granted, ever again. This column, this space in my life, is dedicated to everyone who stood by me this year. Every word that I have written is a pledge to you, and I hope that it will stand here forever in ink. So as one chapter ends for me and another begins, I promise, I will never forget you.

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