Column: I love you, and you need to eat lunch today

By Summer Hoagland-Abernathy, Senior Editor

Vivian Jones

After four positions, a pandemic and two-and-a-half years, I am saying goodbye to the Chronicle — which feels like more of a close to my college career than my actual graduation from college.

Here, I fanned my passion for text editing, which I always knew I would do, but I found something I was not prepared to love — the Awkward column. Our former news editor, Lauren Leazenby, passed her advice column on to me as she graduated, and writing it over the past year has been a highlight of my college career. And while I am passing the column on, I wanted to leave our audience and my coworkers with one last piece of advice.

Chill out.

If my time and career at Columbia has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t do it all if you are not mentally present. Prioritizing your mental health and saying “no” to a new project every once in a while isn’t going to kill you, but a stress-induced heart attack at 40 could.

When I first started my work here, I worked as a copy editor, and I would fly through fact-checking because I thought that was what was expected of me. At the same time, I missed little factual errors that other editors had to catch later. Then, I’d go to the Arc and study until midnight or later every night so I could go home to middle Illinois on the weekend to see my partner, my grandparents and my friends. And I wondered why I wanted to watch “Sex and the City” on repeat and cry all the time.

And while lockdown slowed my life for a while, it soon became a situation wherein I would say “yes” to every new project because I did not have anything else going on at the time. I would get up at 9 a.m. to immediately begin my workday, and I would go to class, do homework and edit articles for the Chronicle until 10 p.m., often opting for a sleeve of crackers over a meal. And I wondered why I had a panic attack over my soup getting cold that one time I actually ate soup (I did not finish the soup).

But one day, I said “no.” In “College Magazine Workshop,” there are assignments that you must do, but there are also a lot of side projects to take on, and I told my teacher I did not have the hours in my day for one of these side projects, and she said “OK.” Just like that, she said “OK.” And I was OK.

I tried this at the Chronicle soon after. Someone needed an article edited, and I was taking a rare lunch break after five hours of work on my laptop, and I said I couldn’t right then, and the world did not stop.

I am not beyond overworking. In fact, I am working through a lunch break to write this right now. And sometimes other people are stressed beyond their limits, and putting a little more on your workload to ease their minds can be a kind gesture. But after four positions, a pandemic and two-and-a-half years here, one of the most valuable lessons I learned at the Chronicle is how to manage my time for me — how to step away so I can be present when it matters most. Also, that I need to request to work from home under the comfort of my heat pad when I’m on my period.

I am a loyal person, so going from one workplace to the next is difficult for me. One of my first days of Chronicle training, another employee said they were entering their third year here, and Travis Truitt, our general manager for student media, joked with her that ideally, students move on to other internships by that point. I am so grateful I did both.

But when it is time, it is time, and as I am graduating in a matter of days, it is definitely time. At the same time, however, leaving all these lovely, sweet, intelligent, diligent people will still be rough.

If you’re reading this, I love you. And you need to chill out.