Last Words

Aysha & Shelby say goodbye to The Journal

The Editors in Chief reflect on their complicated journeys with The Journal.

Aysha Tabassum, Editor in Chief

When I first stepped into the Journal office, it wasn’t nearly a perfect fit. The floors were covered in a respectable layer of dust and the couches reeked of cigarette smoke. I’ve now spent three years here, losing sleep over all the ways we could be better, wanting to take a breath. 

Now it’s nearly over, and I’ve never been more terrified.

Never again will I brace myself for comments telling me they’ve heard enough about being Muslim or queer or whatever else I’m complaining about. Never again will I hope the anonymous commenter—or, if they’re bold, emailer—will know the intersection of my student house. Never again will I grit my teeth and hope my work is making this wannabe-Ivy-League just a bit warmer.

Never again will I be without colour. 

Never again will I hear Shelby’s latest earworm invading my office, her door across the hall refusing to stay closed. Never again will I smile to myself while listening to the second-years downstairs, hoping they’ve found a home where I’ve made mine. Never again will I see Sydney’s coffee cups stacked high on the news desk, each half full and diligently addressing the fruit fly housing crisis. 

Never again will a place tear me apart like this student paper while still assuring me, constantly, that I am wanted, needed, and loved.

This is the place where I sobbed on my office floor after my first real heartbreak, where I laughed harder than I ever had before even when it hurt being so far from home, and where I learned the world will always move forward and I’ll be there to see all its beauty.

The Journal and everyone in it insisted on loving me back, always, even when that wasn’t the case beyond 190 University Ave. I’m going to spend my life trying to honour that.

Matt and Raechel, I owe you the world for pulling me back in when I was lost at sea. There was a voice in my head that kept me doubting myself until you two decided to replace it with words of encouragement. I never knew how it felt to have a team behind me and my terrorist ideas until you showed me kindness.

Shelby, my dialogue sister, thank you for your relentless trust in me and in us. Thank you for always having my back, even when you didn’t fully understand. Most importantly, thank you for being one of the few who actually took the time to listen.

Vol. 150 editors, this is a magical place where you’ll work with some of the most hardworking students on Queen’s campus. Make sure they can lean on you, and always lean on each other. 

To Asbah, Clanny, Vio, and the whole boardroom crew—I’ve been waiting desperately to leave Queen’s for four years, but I can’t believe I’ll miss out on seeing what you do with this place and beyond. Thank you for inspiring me every press day. You are exactly who I was fighting for, before I knew you, and I know you’ll take up that fight with grace and compassion.

I’m tearing up now, using my last press day to avoid my last commerce class, coming up on a month filled with lasts. If there’s anything The Journal has taught me it’s that there will be more love and light to come. 

I’m excited to go anywhere I want, but this will always be home. 

Aysha is ready to live in colour.

Shelby Talbot, Editor in Chief

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt proud to be a Queen’s student.

When I was just six years old, I resolved to attend Queen’s for my undergrad. Twelve years later, my parents were moving me into my room on West Campus, 150 kilometres from home.

After a term and a half of struggling to carve out a place for myself, I took a chance and applied to work for the campus paper.

I’ve never felt more unprepared than I did before my Journal interview; I sat on the bathroom floor of Loco—ew—staving off a panic attack and Googling, “what is an Editorials Editor?”

I will always be thankful I managed to earn a place on the Vol. 148 masthead. 

I’ve had the pleasure of learning and growing from tremendously talented and accomplished peers throughout my three years at The Journal, and it's been an experience like no other to have been able to develop so many beautiful and important stories. 

On the morning Aysha and I received the call that we would be at the helm of Vol. 149, it felt as if a tightly stretched balloon just below my lungs had finally burst. I was hopeful for The Journal we would create.

I began my term as Editor in Chief on a difficult note, to put it lightly. 

I knew leading this paper would be some of the hardest work I’ve ever done. I knew this was an old institution with a long and recent history of awful impact. I also knew this would be a beautiful opportunity to work with someone I respect dearly to make this paper better.

Never had I been more smacked in the face by the realities of this campus, though, than when community leaders—including our very own Principal—demonstrated they were perfectly comfortable turning a blind eye to an onslaught of vitriolic, hateful attacks and threats aimed not just at The Journal, but at two students. 

Student journalism is an incredibly vital mechanism. 

Without the diligent, thoughtful efforts of students who make time to engage in this work, the community would be missing a platform to amplify their voices, ideas, and concerns. 

All we ask for in return is compassion and respect.

In moments leading this paper when I felt genuinely afraid, I couldn’t help but think back to my younger, hopeful self who wanted so desperately to come here. 

I am not proud of an institution capable of such apathy and cruelty not just towards me, but towards so many marginalized members of its community.

What I do feel proud of is the work Aysha, our staff, and I have achieved this year at The Journal, and the impact we hopefully leave behind. 

To my family: Thank you for believing in me, supporting me, and encouraging me. You gave me the confidence I needed to get to this point, and I wouldn’t be here without you. 

To Serena, Jess, Rohini, and Daniel: You are the secret supports that propped up this volume, because you propped me up. Thank you for listening to every moment of frustration and excitement, for always lending me an ear and advice when I needed it.

To Raechel and Matt: When times were tough, your continued support meant the world to me. On days when it felt like this institution was crumbling, I recalled your kind message to me and Aysha in your own Last Words, encouraging us to carry on. Your hard work and example made this paper a place I wanted to lead.

To Aysha: I’m always in awe of your strength, your talent, and your courage. You have extended me such patience and generosity—sometimes more than I deserve. Thank you for being a genuine friend and supporter as I’ve grown into someone I’m proud to be.

While I have a complicated relationship with my time here, I cannot thank our staff enough for helping me to find something to be proud of. You are all so talented, thoughtful, and kind. Your work has made this paper a better place, and you have in turn made Queen’s a better place.

I could never regret my time as Editor in Chief. But I’m also ready to move on. When I lock up the Journal house for the last time, I’ll know that it’s not really goodbye—I’ll carry everything I’ve learned here with me.

Shelby is ready to let this paper go. 

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