Column: The Chronicle allowed me to go beyond my limits and now it’s your turn

By Isaiah Colbert, Opinions Editor

Ryan Brumback

In the documentary “David Bowie: The Last Five Years,” Bowie said artists should not work for other people and that it is terribly dangerous for an artist to fulfill other people’s expectations.

“If you feel safe in the area you are working in, you’re not working in the right area,” he said.

The music legend went on to say artists should go a little bit out of their depths, and when they do not feel like their feet are quite touching the bottom, they are just about in the right place to do something exciting. To say the past five years has been uncomfortable is an understatement, but I have worked to reach my own expectations, and I can say I have done some exciting things along the way.

After taking a year off from school after quitting my editorial student newsroom job, I worked retail full-time in order to mail my belongings—and then myself—back to my hometown of Chicago from Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 2019 with the goal of not settling on my dreams of making it in the journalism industry.

The first step in my vague dream was finishing college and getting back in the saddle of being a student journalist. Columbia was the only college I applied to, and the Chronicle became a proving ground for how far I could push beyond my limits as a journalist.

As with restarting anything, there were growing pains with coming back to a newsroom. In the beginning, I was dead-set on doing video game coverage and cramming in every tangential reference I could into my articles. But in time, the Chronicle humbled me and encouraged me not to report on stories I would like to write, but instead to write stories I needed to write.

I was able to change my mindset from whether or not I could still hang as a journalist, to how I could improve my skills with each article I wrote. Imposter syndrome is something I am still getting over, but who could blame me when I was surrounded by a talented newsroom of reporters, photojournalists, graphic artists and advertisement sales representatives.

My time at the Chronicle allowed me to take chances and invest in myself. I was able to join the list of people who can say they produced their own podcast with my “Fear of Missing Out Podcast.” Even though I feel like I was just hitting my stride creatively in my last semester at Columbia, this rekindled fire within me is something I’m going to run with like Prometheus into the next years of my life.

I cannot say I came out of my Chronicle experience entirely unscathed. Covering the latter end of the 2020 election has permanently scarred me into hate-watching political events in my free time with the same level of enthusiasm I have for World Wrestling Entertainment.

While I would like to be able to say this fairy tale story has a capitalistically gratifying ending with internships lined up for me, that much is still lost in the chaos of 2021. My time at the Chronicle felt like a much-needed hug and a kick in the a– to get out there and do the work rather than wait for the work to come to me.

I will miss spicing up Zoom meetings with funny backgrounds, and I hope I left an iota of the same impact that the Chronicle left on me.

So many have already told their stories and passed down knowledge from one journalist to another to serve the Columbia community and instill hope in those starting their journey, and now it is my turn.

If a kid from Cabrini Green could make it this far, imagine where the rest of the staff will go. Farewell, Chronicle.