The Culture is Lit, and I’ve Had a Ball

Dear New Paltz Oracle, this is a love letter.

I am a firm believer in the notion that everything happens when it is meant to. You can’t rush an order of dharma, you can’t force your foot into a shoe that doesn’t fit and you shan’t resent something that is or isn’t happening. So while I could lament over the first two years of my college career that I didn’t spend at New Paltz, and consequentially didn’t spend as part of The Oracle, I know that I stepped into that orange office right on time and would much rather focus on the days since. 

It was September of 2018 and my life was changing. I arrived in the valley of punk hippies, artists of genres that are still being named, people sharing dreams, dope and debaucheries, all flying on the wings of hope at the foothills of Shawangunk Ridge. Being around all of that positivity and acceptance turns into motivation and courage within bright-eyed Hawks. And so, into The Oracle office of yore I waltzed. 

I was met by none other than The Rachael Purtell, who at the time did not disclose to me that she was the Editor-in-Chief, hence why I didn’t immediately bow in her presence. But she did take the time to write down all the information I needed on a piece of paper that I would eventually leave in my pocket and put through the wash. I managed to swing along despite this rookie snafu and eventually made my way into her good graces. 

Working with Rachael was like having a flame lit under me: not hot enough to make me dislike working for The Oracle one bit, but enough to keep pushing me to be better. As anyone who’s had the pleasure of knowing Rachael, she’s like no other; she’s the glorified HBIC from all the best scandalous sitcoms come to life. You either want to be her or you hate her (because you know you never can), and she revels in knowing that. There are a few things I learned from getting to work with Rachael, but the biggest impression she left on me was one of integrity. She taught me to never sacrifice my voice, power, determination and quality of work. I had jobs before The Oracle, but I can honestly say that Rachael was the first boss I ever truly liked and wholly respected. Without her taking a chance on me and adding me to staff, I wouldn’t have discovered my passion. 

The next time I reported to the office, formally, was during my first meeting with the whole staff of strangers. I was nervous and feeling quite out of place not knowing a soul in there yet when the Features Editor chair whipped 180 degrees and the brightest smile greeted me. It was Jake. Ever since that first semester, I had something of a guardian angel in Jake. From giving me my first stories, encouraging me to interview for his beloved Features section — and then showing me how the f*ck to even do anything on InDesign and always, always, walking me through cutouts — to creating new pages with me in my beloved Arts & Entertainment section, and leading our motley crew family as the token Editor-in-Chief he is today. Getting to know Jake was like eating a cinnamon roll: peeling sweet layer after layer and meeting the warmth in the middle. The ideas, voice and beliefs Jake possesses are as neat and thought out as anyone’s could be. Every time a story headlines, from pop culture to politics, I knew that he would have a smart, or at least entertaining, take on the matter. Jake, I know that you are too humble to accept all the loving praise that we have for you, but I also know it’s impossible for the sun and stars to see just how bright they shine. I’m forever inspired by how gracefully you lead The Oracle, and forever grateful to have found such a joyous friendship in you. 

There are a number of Oracle OG’s that made their way into my heart. I have to say that the one who dug in the quickest was Kelsey. First sitting at the copy desk, not knowing anyone, it was Kelsey who struck up a conversation with me as if we had been friends for years. There is nothing that could describe her more than that interaction. As notorious as she is for writing the longest, most fruitful stories, she is just as passionate as a person and as a friend. I have always felt like our souls must have known each other in our past lives, as much as I know that we’ll be friends for the ones to come. I’ll forever be in your crowd and rooting you on, Kels. 

The Great Madalyn. Where do I start — or rather where can I start? There aren’t many if at all anyone that quite excites, entices and enchants me as much as Maddy does. To put it simply, she’s that b*tch. Maddy is the type to face any adventure, any danger, any stranger or any door to wherever that presents itself and say, “why not?” From having a brilliant, beautiful mind and the courage to do things like perform in burlesque shows for crowds of strangers, she is a walking wonder. If there’s anyone I want in my corner, it’s Maddy because she’s down for whatever — loyal, and absolutely fearless. Underneath the badass shell, however, is the sweet and soft Maddy that comes out for anyone and everyone who needs it. She always knows what to say and how to be there for people. She stands up for people and causes, whether it be in the hard hitting stories we wrote at The Oracle or in her personal life. Maddy, of your many qualities I admire, I love that you are wholeheartedly unapologetic, and in knowing you, I’ve felt inspired to be so too. 

I can’t forget the people I started my time at The Oracle with, and I’ll always remember the day I was sitting in the office, starting to hear the click-clack of heels approach as I turned my head toward the door and through it walked a lilac dream. It was Nicole Zanchelli. I can’t remember exactly which PG-13 obscenity struck my mind, but it was something along the lines of, “Oh, damn.” This was fitting because after reading every lede Nicole has written I would think, “Ohh, damnn.” If there was a stock image of what a journalist looks like it would be Nicole, and not only for her style. Truly the hustler of the story-chasing game, she racks up more stories week in and week out than Kobe scored. Her determination, hard work and creativity speaks for itself. What I do want to say a few things about, however, is how Nicole is full of so much more than she’d ever let on. Seemingly quiet to the hasty onlooker, Nicole always has the voice that’s missing from a room. In almost every editorial, up would go her hand and out would come polished ideas that the rest hadn’t even thought about yet. She always takes the cube that people are looking at and turns it in her hands, revealing new sides to ponder on. In our friendship, Nicole is always the soft ear and the solid shoulder; she hears and sees you without judgement, then tells you to pick yourself up, stringing together the pieces you let fall out of yourself. Nicole, I can’t wait to see everything you accomplish. 

Now, if there was the male version of that stock image of a journalist, it would be none other than Max. The emblem of the News section, the mascot of our organization, the embodiment of the justice-seeking, truth-spilling word, is Max Freebern. His level of passion for what he does is unmatched by anyone I’ve ever seen. If I or anyone was ever to waver in our purpose, all it would take is a talk from our Oracle dad, and just how, unbeknownst to him, poetically and admirably he speaks of writing. Besides his journalism prowess, however, Max is someone I like to refer to as one of the few nice guys left, and getting to know him has been a pleasure. I admire how comfortable he makes everyone feel with his warm glow of a demeanor and conscious effort to be as open minded as possible. He is the sweetest and gooeyist, with a witty sense of humor. You’re a total gem, Max, keep doing you. 

 The class act of Oracle men doesn’t stop there, however, because I have yet to mention Matt. I have no office favorites, but I think hands down the one who brings everyone a chuckle on a daily basis is Matt. The beautiful balance of professionalism and camaraderie that he displays has been such an enjoyable facet of our semesters together that I don’t take it for granted one bit. I have been lucky beyond measure to have someone so dedicated and hard working as him by my side. His voice is always calculated and thoughtful. I can only hope that I come across people half as delightful as you, Matt. I’ll miss you and your quips.

For someone who infamously doesn’t get sentimental — or rather, doesn’t show it — Nikki managed to touch my heart regardless. Nikki is the perfect example of that character in a chaotic office comedy who can’t be bothered by everyone else’s sh*t. She is invaluable, however, because there is no one else I would trust with editing as much as I trust the last word of Nikki. She does her part, but I like to believe over the years she’s done more. Slowly and surely we bonded in different ways, our favorite way being over drama. She’s funny as hell, though I know most of the time she’s probably laughing at the rest of us. I cherish the times I was lucky enough to hang with her outside of those awful orange walls. Nikki, good luck and I hope you get everything you want out of life.

Another editing ride-or-die (get it? Because you ride horses), Rachel, it has been a pleasure to work alongside you. You’re one of the nicest, most thoughtful and hard working people on staff. I wish you the best of luck in your last year and beyond.     

The following are people that I met along the Oracle ride and I couldn’t be more thankful for them joining our family. Our stories, our paper and our friendships have flourished with each and every one that I sadly have to say goodbye to now.

To the dark horse of our staff, Jared, you pleasantly surprised me with almost everything about you. You’re the neatest and nicest with a sick taste in music and a string of knowledge coming out of your noggin like a clown’s colorful handkerchief. I admire how you stay true to who you are and I’ll always ask you for song recc’s.

To the go-getter, Susanna, I’m so happy to know you. You grab each room you walk into without even knowing it. I’m at awe of how you manage so many things at a time and you may not think that you do a great job, but trust me, you leave people speechless. You kick ass and take names, and I’m forever grateful for our messy, messy memories. Never change. 

To the sweetest Shy, you already know that I refer to you as a pocketful of sunshine. From your electric smile to the way you stay true to yourself, it has been a pleasure to work with you, laugh with you, and make memories with you. You are funny and kind, and always persevere. I wish you all the best in everything you go on to tackle. 

To the truly wittiest and most sarcastic person I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy, Dani, your mind is endless. I really hope you become famous for something, whether it’s writing books or stand up, or what have you, because you’re truly a star. Underneath the dark humor and disillusionment, you’re such a selfless person. I’ll always enjoy the things you have to say and hope you never stop saying them. Thank you for helping make the A&E section what it is today. 

To the best cohost of a radio show that tragically only lasted three weeks, Ethan, I am delighted to have ever been in your presence. The way you constantly strive to be better, grow and be there for people is beautiful. Not that I’m biased or anything, but you have the best taste in music on staff if I may say so myself. I love our memories together and hope we can make more some day. For the time being, keep being you because you’re a gift in peoples’ lives.

To the one ever glowing with love, peace and positive vibes, Amayah, your beauty flows out of you from your words, your thoughts, the way you embrace people and the way you live life. It’s always been a joy to have you on staff, to attend a show with and even to simply talk about life and all its complexities with. I wish you nothing but blessings to come.

To the tea drinking and best punny lede writing staffer, Morgan, I’ve truly enjoyed every day since you’ve joined. You bring joy and creative ideas to the office, and I wish you more platforms to express them. 

To the hopeful romantic, Emily, you’re a sweet little joy to have in life. You believe in yourself and your values so ferociously it’s inspiring. The way you carry yourself and treat others kindly is one of the best things about you. I’m grateful for having become friends with you and I hope you achieve everything you dream of. 

Lastly, I wish this could have been in physical print. We at The Oracle deserved better, but with the hands that we were dealt I couldn’t have been more proud of what we accomplished. I’m saddened that this is the last piece I’ll write for our beautiful paper. Thank you for letting me in the first place. Thank you for reading my good ones, the mediocre ones, the risky ones and of course, the emo ones. Thank you for letting me know I have a voice and people want to hear it. 

For the last time, I’m signing off after all.     

Mahnoor Ali
About Mahnoor Ali 46 Articles
Mahnoor Ali is a fourth-year English major with a concentration in creative writing and a minor in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. This is her third semester with the The Oracle. Previously, she has worked as Assistant Copy Editor and Features Editor. Her favorite stories to both read and write about are Culture, Entertainment, Lifestyle, and Columns, with an appreciation for News and social issues.