Turns out, you can pick your family

Turns out, you can pick your family

Turns out, you can pick your family

By Arabella Breck

On my daily commute, I walk past an abandoned school. The yard has always had grass growing, but recently, bright yellow dandelions started popping up. 

These flowers were some of my favorites when I was a kid. I was especially fascinated by how the flowers changed into white, fluffy seed heads. I’m not sure who told me you could blow the seeds off the stem and make a wish, but I spent hours hunting for the flowers in the backyard, making wishes.  

Not long after my days making dandelion wishes, at the age of 12, I decided I wanted to be a journalist. I was likely influenced by my dad, who has worked as a journalist and whose work I have always admired. Once I made my decision, I went for it and had my first article published in a local newspaper in 2009. 

Fast forward to my senior year of high school, and my dream became clouded. My self-esteem was at an all-time low. Anxiety and depression made it a struggle to do the most basic things, and finishing high school felt insurmountable. 

But I started going to therapy and graduated and my therapist recommended that I apply to Columbia. With the unwavering support of my family, for which I can never thank them enough, I moved to Chicago in the fall.

At this college, I found a few people I liked—namely Kat Hassler, Blake Fortin and Connor Seivert—and they became my closest confidantes. I am eternally thankful for the gifts and lessons that have come from those friendships.     

Columbia also gave me inspiration. One of my first journalism professors pulled me aside one day after class to tell me he thought I had a knack for the profession and encouraged me to apply to work at the college newspaper. His words served as one of my first motivators to stay in journalism school and have stayed with me.    

Working with The Chronicle as a contributing writer, campus reporter, opinions editor and now managing editor has been an incredible part of my development, but I can be too quiet in my appreciation for what The Chronicle has contributed to my life, especially to the very people I spend almost every day working with. 

When I talk to other people outside the walls of the newsroom about the staff, I sound like a bragging soccer mom embarrassing her kids. The reporters, photographers, graphic designers, copy editors, advertising sales representatives, operations staff, management team and faculty advisers all have enviable, valuable skills, and they have all made my life invariably better. 

My ultimate goal has been to cover conflict zones as an international correspondent. Sometimes it is difficult to consider that career path when you have to constantly leave behind places you love. As I prepare to leave The Chronicle, Columbia and possibly even Chicago in the future, I wonder how you can stay connected to places, especially ones that mean so much to you. 

I will always be thankful for my family. My mom has been a constant supporter, as has my dad, my sister, my grandparents and my extended family in Evanston. However, at Columbia and at The Chronicle, I learned that I can find a family wherever I am. 

I am not sure exactly what I wished for on those dandelions way back when, but I know I wanted to be happy. I’m sure at the time I wanted some skipping through fields, singing-songs fantasy, but I have found something much more meaningful—understanding, acceptance, love and support.