Friends Forever

Two decades after we graduated, we’re learning about life from our Gateway friends all over again

By Sarah Chan, ’03 BA, and Jhenifer Pabillano, ’04 BA

November 10, 2021 •

In the early 2000s, The Gateway offices were a grubby, windowless warren in the basement of the Students’ Union Building, where 20-somethings in bootcut jeans made two newspapers a week. The newsroom walls were papered with movie posters and band stickers sent free to the entertainment section. The photo lab, with its faintly acrid smells, hid at the end of a long corridor in the back. In the large meeting room, a circle of vinyl couches and drooping second-hand loveseats was ringed by giant bookshelves bearing bound editions of Gateways going back to the early 20th century.

It was functional and sort of gross, and for both of us — arts writer Sarah and news editor Jhenifer — it was home. Those rooms were filled with the wittiest people we knew. People like Dan Lazin, ’05 BA, the ebullient nerd whose speech was peppered with footnotes; Kati Kovacs, ’04 BSc(Spec), the astrophysics student who wrote a legit astronomy column that peeked into her social life; Leah Collins, ’05 BA, an enormous-brained pop-culture expert; and Neal Ozano, ’03 BSc, imprinted in our minds as a celebrated genius of words and humour.

Every week, 10 editors and countless volunteers would fight, laugh, cry and produce print newspapers on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Outside work, our lives were filled with each other as well. Scattered in and around Whyte Ave, there were parties, outings, romances and intrigues, part of our collective coming of age. And then, as people do, we moved on. The Gateway was a bright, youthful moment of the past. We were graduating to bigger and better things.

Or so we thought. Twenty years on, as we hit our 40s, our attendant mid-life reckonings brought renewed clarity. Growing up had been about moving to the next big thing, exploring the world away from our roots, finding the “real” people we would spend our lives with — funnier, better versions of our youthful trial runs. And while we did achieve great things — graduate degrees, families, world travel, flourishing careers — we realized we missed our Gateway friends.

So, in deepest pandemic times, we reached out and brought those intelligent and insightful people back together to write again. We emerged with Midlife, a book of essays about growing up, flailing in a nebulous direction and discovering you are the only person you are ever going to be.

In writing, we reunited the community of our younger days, and we realized we could lean on each other as grown-ups, too. Mostly, we discovered we were more than the definitions loaded onto us by mid-life. You don’t have to explain yourself to people who stayed up all night with you to put a newspaper together, the people who knew you at your most creative, the people you saw wearing ridiculous Halloween costumes at the Power Plant. They’re your friends for life, even when you’re not trying. You can never leave them behind.

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