Former Life & Arts editor leaves the basement for the big, scary world

Hannah Smothers

On the days I came home from school crying because I felt like I didn’t fit in, my mom always promised I would find people like me in college. I’m sure I didn’t believe her. But if there is anything I’ve learned, it’s that moms are — eventually — always right. 

Once I got past being completely terrified of them, I met those long-promised friends at The Daily Texan. 

Some of my closest friends now are the people I was most afraid of in my first few months. For weeks, I was visibly nervous around Kelsey McKinney and Sarah-Grace Sweeney, the Life & Arts editors who hired me five semesters ago. Aleks Chan was so scary to me that I avoided speaking to him at all costs.

What I didn’t know then is that Kelsey, Sarah-Grace, Aleks and the rest of the Daily Texan staff were also scared. We were all scared of failing, and, even more, we were scared of having to leave the dimly lit basement office for the real world that waited outside. 

I think that fear is part of what makes the friendships you form at the Texan so valuable. It’s a place full of people who are there for you if — and when — you fail. More importantly, it’s a place full of people who do everything they can to help you succeed. 

The basement always felt to me like a collection of supremely talented misfits, and I mean that in the most endearing way. I got the sense that, when I was in the basement, I was surrounded by people who were waiting to find a place to fit in, just like me. The Texan might have been the only thing holding us all together. But it was enough.

I’ve watched most of the people who worked for the Texan when I was hired leave the office for the last time. I’ve also seen a lot of new staffers walk into the office for the first time, looking just as terrified as I did on my first descent into the basement. Part of me wants to warn them that, if they spend too much time in this office, they’ll never be able to leave it — but then they’d miss out on all the fun.

To Kelsey, Sarah-Grace, Aleks and Kelly, thanks for helping me feel less afraid of the Texan and of life in general. To Lauren, it was an honor to work for you, and I can’t wait to read all the stories I know you’ll write. To Kat, know you are part of a weird Life & Arts family that spans several generations of this newspaper. 

To all the future staff members of The Daily Texan who walk down those stairs with tentative steps, know that there is nothing to be scared of in that basement. It will always be the safest place on campus for misfits like us.