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To My Tar Heels, We’re Still ‘Not Done Yet’

During big moments, it feels like it always comes down to seconds. The last 4.7 of yesterday’s game were the hardest to stomach; buzzer beaters have not been friendly to my Heels or my heart. Those 4.7 seconds are going to stick in the minds of many when they think back to the 2016 championship game. But I’m choosing to remember the 5.2 ticks on the clock before that, when an off-balance Marcus Paige made that unbelievable three-pointer, tying a game when everything was on the line and there was still so much to prove.

If you’ve been a student at UNC in the past five years, it sometimes feels like all we’ve done is try to prove ourselves. Our predecessors made egregious decisions that shouldn’t go unnoticed, but I’d argue that current students and younger alumni have been dealt the hardest blows for poor choices that are not our own. These blows manifest themselves in simple ways. The bossman sitting across from you at a job interview jokes about paper classes, asking if you took any. Fans of rival teams scrawl “Go to class, Carolina” on giant poster boards, used as vitriolic props at games. It hurts. Just like those last 4.7 seconds did. It hurts because you know in your heart that snide remarks, just as with seconds on the shot clock, shouldn’t wholly define UNC, what it has been, or what it is.

That’s why I wanted the 2016 Tar Heels to win so badly. We all did. Of course you always want your team to win, but of any Carolina roster I’ve personally witnessed, these guys deserved it most. I’d say this loss hurt more than 2012, The Year of What Could’ve Been, when I was still at UNC.

We’ve faced scrutiny as students these past few years, but our basketball players have faced more. Here’s the thing, though: This team stuck it out. They dominated the glass, did their duty in the paint, and in plays that mattered most — like Paige’s last waltz in the big dance — they found ways to make their threes.

But it’s the character of this team that strikes me the most. Paige’s eloquence. Johnson’s passion. James’ silliness. Their strength was consistently doubted throughout the season, but they carried themselves with dignity while making us fall head over heels for their on-court charisma and press conference antics (Looking at you, Pinson). This team was one to root for. As Roy Williams said a couple of weeks back, “Nice guys want to win, too.”

In some ways, a championship win would’ve felt like a new chapter, one unmarred by criticism and the past, if only for One Shining Moment as streamers would cascade from the ceiling and each player would ascend the ladder to cut down the nets. But that’s a lot of pressure to put on a group of five guys who are all at least two years your junior — as freakish as their jump shots might be. Woe is the two-years-removed alumna who can’t let go despite having no athletic talent herself. But sometimes we have to let go.

Our lives are ruled by seconds and what we do with them. Unfortunately, try as we might, those seconds don’t always shake out in our favor. It stings. It really, really does. But to my dear boys in blue: If the way you’ve carried yourselves this season is any indiction of what’s ahead — regardless of where you might be heading — you’re still not done yet. We’re not done yet. Far from it.

The thought process behind ‘In a Blink’ video

Every day of senior year from the start of classes to graduation, I filmed 1-second clips capturing my experiences, emotions and the people and place I love. All clips have been compiled into a bigger video I’d like to call “Senior Year: In a Blink.” I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the project, so I thought I’d answer some of the most common ones.

Where did you get the idea from to film one second of every day?

Someone had tipped me off about a TED Talk in which Cesar Kuriyama spoke about what he learned from filming one second of every day of his 30th year of life.

When you’re filming days both good and bad, there’s this bit of emotional vulnerability, and to me, that is what is most moving. Is my life worth remembering? Will I be remembered by others? What do I value?

I thought if I could pull it off, I would love to create my own twist to the one-second-a-day concept by honoring a time in my life and a place I love so much.

Was it hard to remember to film every day?

Initially, yes. It took a good month to get into the habit of landing footage every day. I did have a few close calls, only remembering that I needed to film something when it was 11:30 p.m.

What I’ve loved about this project though is that it has made me more presently focused. When I wake up in the morning, I ask myself “What will I do or experience today that is worth remembering?” If I don’t really have anything that is necessarily worthy of filming or that is going to break the monotony of the day, am I really living?

It’s been a huge reality check, even for someone who prides herself on her bucket list.

How did you choose what to film?

Each day, I’ve had a general idea of what would be cool to film, but that footage doesn’t always make the final cut. Sometimes my best days are the ones that feature spontaneous footage where the result was unexpected.

Also, as Kuriyama mentioned in his TED Talk, if there is a day you have a bunch of things you’d like to film, it’s OK if that doesn’t all make it into the final video. You’d be surprised how much you can remember about any given day after seeing just a 1-second snippet.

Not all days can be good days. What about filming those days that weren’t so great?

This past year has been the most transformative of my life, so this project came at the right time to capture the changes. But with growth comes challenges, setbacks and pain. For instance, I lost my grandfather to Alzheimer’s disease in November and had a health scare of my own in April, which were both documented in the video.

On bad days, my gut reaction was to not film anything at all, and in many ways, it really gets down to our collective unwillingness to present ourselves to others as anything less than constantly happy and perfect.

Take a look at your Facebook and Instagram feeds. How often do you see people write about their fears and flaws? Publishing footage on the bad days allowed me to step away from this dominant, and oftentimes destructive, narrative.

How did you choose U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” as the song for the video?

Picking the music to go along with the video was probably one of the more challenging aspects of this project. I wanted a strong song to reflect the sentiment of the piece, and there were a lot of contenders. I had considered Bastille’s “Pompeii,” We Were Promised Jetpacks’ “Keeping Warm” and Imagine Dragons’ “On Top of the World.”

But then I as I began to think about the message of “Where the Streets Have No Name,” a longtime favorite of mine, the more it seemed to embody my experience at UNC. Bono has said he wrote this song about Belfast, Northern Ireland, where people could tell a lot about you just based on the name of the street you lived on given the gaping wealth disparities and religious tension in the region. But the song speaks of paradise, a place where the streets have no name.

There are a lot of competing interests that exist on college campuses  and you’ll figure that out really quickly working on the university desk of your college paper  but at the end of the day, we all are fortunate enough to call this beautiful, beautiful place home. There’s a reason why UNC is referred to as the southern part of heaven, and in my mind, it’s the closet place you can get to what U2 sings about in the song. Now if Bono would just pay a visit…

What’s been your biggest take-away?

There have been so many things I’ve learned. As a former social media editor, I’m really interested in how we use technology to mediate our day-to-day lives. And as a restaurant server, I’ve recently noticed so many of my customers plopping their earphone-wearing children down in front of a tablet playing a movie while everyone else eats dinner. That terrifies me.

There’s been a lot of talk about the pervasiveness and even evilness of technology, and I hate parts of it too, but it isn’t something that’s going to go away. We just have to reteach ourselves to use it in a constructive way.

Prior to starting this project, I was fearful that my iPhone I used to record my videos on would dominate my life as I aimed for that perfect shot, as many do for the elusive perfect selfie or 6-second nugget of Vine gold.

What I found, however, is that the sentimentality of the piece did not come from the quality of the shots but from the memories that prompted them. It wasn’t long after I published the video Tuesday that I received an series of messages from UNC alumni sharing their experiences as students. I even had some who told me it made them cry. It’s been really humbling to realize that the documented experiences of someone you don’t know can stir up such strong memories of one’s own past. To me, that’s just the greatest, and I’m incredibly thankful.