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Courtesy of / Columbia Daily Spectator

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Call it what you want—a rash decision, an existential crisis, my total and complete unraveling— but I decided to become a mother. I am now a mother to the most annoying and pretentious little dog named Astrid. I meal prep for her every Sunday and brush her hair before bed every night. Did I ever see myself becoming a dog mom at 22? Not a chance. This time last year, I didn’t even know how to cook or take care of myself.

I was always sure of what I wanted to be. I am a journalist. I carry my little reporter’s notepad everywhere and can transcribe interviews with my eyes closed (sorry to flex). I love learning about the people and the world around me. And for most of my life, I’ve prioritized this part of me over everything else that I am.

I am a journalist, but this may be the last thing I’ll ever write for a publication.

Sometime during the fall of my junior year I realized I should stop reading and start doing. As a features editor for The Eye, I read and edited numerous articles on life at Columbia and the communities that surround us in West Harlem. With each article I read I would always ask myself the same question: Why am I not doing that? I read an article about the Cotton Club on 125th Street and wondered why I’d never been. I edited articles on student protests and felt ashamed that I hadn’t voiced my support. I browsed through photos of student performances of musicals and comedy sketches and wished that I could be on stage too.

I have so many fond memories that have been tarnished by stress and anxiety. Moments in the Spectator office when I couldn’t enjoy the spontaneity of the night because I had been up so late the night before, or when I couldn’t indulge in zany traditions like icebreakers because I thought they took up too much time. Most of all, I regret the moments that wouldn’t have happened if I had been a little more alert and enthusiastic. When I prioritized a deadline over the well-being of a writer, or when I harassed talented illustrators and graphic designers for last-minute images—these are the moments when I put being a Spec journalist over everything else. I was unbearable, a person who was consistently, repeatedly, continually tired.

This is a column about Spectator, but I’m going to write about everything I got to do after I left.

Well, I didn’t get to do anything on campus because of COVID-19. And that sucks. But I still got to do a lot in New York City. I started tutoring students in English and history. I started taking extra long walks, familiarizing myself with the cherry blossom trees between Riverside Park and Fort Washington Park. I started feeling like I was not just a college student but a member of this community of strangers, like someone on their way to becoming a legitimate New Yorker. And I’ve realized that it’s a big responsibility to write about this city and its people.

I’m still a journalist, but I need to be a lot more than that. I need to be someone who knows exactly why I’m doing what I’m doing. Above all, I need to know that I can take on the mantle of serving the communities around me. Because here’s the hard fact I’ve never been able to confront about being a student journalist at Columbia: I don’t know shit about life. I know how much caffeine I need to pull all-nighters and I know how to be vocal but discreet enough in class to make it seem like I’ve done all the readings. But up until recently, I didn’t know how to not feel constantly drained, or how to put my health and well-being first.

So over the past year, I got more sleep. I got back into reading and writing for the fun of it. I started singing again, in the shower and on long car rides. And I got a dog. When I wake up to see her fluffy little body resting by my side, I’m reminded that I am whole again. I remember that I have to take care of myself in order to take care of my dog. I can cook, I can make time to do laundry, I can talk to friends, I can smile, I can laugh and dance and feel alive again.

***

Now that the sappy part is over, here’s what I really want to say: a big, fucking thank you to all the people who put up with four years of me talking about how tired I am.

To my forever roommate Vivian, for putting up with me coming back from the office at 3 a.m., hungry and dehydrated. For listening to me talk about frats.

To Parth and Lyric, for seemingly knowing since day one what it took me four years to learn—that community and care form the basis of all our work. For showing me all that kindness can achieve.

To Sara, Skylar, Mary, and Grace, for tolerating so much of my tenure as features editor. For being the best people to write about running in Riverside Park and a headless eel on Claremont. For having the brains and brawns to steal the cut-out of Bollinger.

To Gav, for all the times you say you won’t write another lead but end up doing it anyway. For being our moral compass, always.

To Julian, our Supreme Leader, for not quitting Spec sophomore year. Thank you for all the times you’ve fought for The Eye, for all the times your conviction led to the publication of urgent and important stories. I’m so proud to call you a friend.

Here’s to being a journalist who can put herself first. Peace out, Spec.

candy chan senior column
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