Making new friendships beyond the media suite

David Matos, Former Arts & Life Editor

Like many seniors graduating in a few weeks, I started my first year pre-pandemic in the fall of 2019. Life was very different back then. I was 100 pounds lighter, I tried to play it straight and doctors exclusively wore surgical masks in the operating room.

When I started college, I had two objectives — to make friends and be gay.

My first semester of college was rather mundane. I had just come off four miserable years at Catholic all-boys high school where the slightest suggestion of my queerness could’ve gotten me physically hurt by my peers. As a result, I didn’t have many friends in high school. Though not much has changed, I was the quiet, gay, chubby kid with a bad haircut and an underbite.

In my senior year of high school, I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and lost over 100 pounds. Going into my first year at Quinnipiac University, I wanted to relish the moment and free myself from the real-life horror show that was my high school experience. However, in my fall 2019 semester, I didn’t take advantage of my newfound freedom and instead took on old habits. I kept to myself, did my work and was now the lonely, gay, skinny kid with a bad haircut and an underbite.

In the spring, I contacted the former Arts & Life Editor for The Quinnipiac Chronicle, Jessica Simms. I was an active member of my high school’s newspaper club, and I’m a journalism major after all, so the fact I waited this long to join the Chronicle was mad.

I wrote my first article dedicated to my favorite television show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Although looking back, I formatted the article more like a press release than something worthy of a print publication.

However, this was still a significant milestone for me as someone who was publicly closeted for years, getting to write about something so prominent in queer culture. I wrote one more article, this time about Jeffree Star. This was before the internet publicly exposed him as being a racist. However, this continued my trend of making small attempts at being unapologetically gay and writing about queer topics.

My plans for world domination quickly stopped when the COVID-19 pandemic stole the spotlight. In the spring 2020 semester, Quinnipiac sent everyone home for what I thought would be just a week or two but quickly turned into a full year.

During my time at home, I gained back all my weight, developed an eating disorder after discovering Uber Eats and stopped writing for the Chronicle for no other reason than my self-pity.

Though classes and the Chronicle were still virtual in February 2021, I connected with the former Arts & Life Editor Emily DiSalvo and rejoined the Chronicle. I started writing every week for arts & life, quickly becoming a staff writer. Once editorial board applications rolled around in April, Emily encouraged me to apply for the associate arts & life editor position.

I was hesitant at first because, at that point, I had only written around four articles. But, I took her advice, applied and landed the 2021-2022 semester position thanks to former Editor-in-Chief Michael Sicoli, who trusted me.

In the fall of 2021, I was a junior and finally back on campus. This was when I met Neha Seenarine, the associate arts & life editor at the time, and former Arts & Life Editor Ashley Pelletier, two people I now consider friends.

Over the last year, working alongside Neha as the arts & life editors and Zoe Leone as our associate has been incredible. Neha is one of the best people I’ve come to know at Quinnipiac, and though she may not realize it, she’s the first person in my life I called a real friend. It’s genuinely not every day you can work with your best friend.

Because of my faulty experience making friends in high school, connecting with others was challenging. However, Neha made me feel comfortable, and like I could be myself from day one. I remember walking into the media suite on my first deadline day, and she greeted me with open arms and a smile despite having never spoken a word with me.

We then walked to our classes bonding over our love for Britney Spears and the rest is history. She’s someone I can always text, laugh with during Tuesday’s deadlines and gossip over a sangria before our weekly g-board meetings. While there’s much of the Chronicle I will miss, sharing my time with Neha every week is what I will miss the most. She made my time at Quinnipiac and the Chronicle all the more bearable, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that.

I came to college wanting to find a friend and be proud of my identity as a gay man. Now, I’m leaving the Chronicle with seven articles that fall under the LGBTQ+ category, the last of which is about gay sex, and friendships with my fellow graduating peers that I foresee lasting beyond the media suite.

Because of the Chronicle, I’m more unapologetically myself than ever as I type this with my acrylic nails and a poster of Ariana Grande glaring over my shoulder.

Even though I might still resemble that gay chubby kid with a bad haircut — but in blonde — and underbite, I think my freshman-year self would be proud of the person I’ve become.

Congrats to the current Arts & Life Editor Zoe and the Associate Editor Jacklyn Pellegrino; I know you will both kill it in your new roles.