Confessions of an irrepressibly curious optimist

By Copy Chief

It was a painfully cold day in early March 2013 when I first swore I would never be a journalist. The demands were too much—I could never reasonably have a life, a family, hobbies or a vacation with this schedule. It was my first semester writing for The Chronicle and I swore it would be my last.

I stayed on for another three semesters and now believe I cannot do anything with my life other than journalism. Obviously, something has changed.

In the 2 1/2 years I have been professionally reporting, I have learned more about Chicago and its residents than I thought there was to learn. I also inadvertently found out a core aspect about myself: I am unbearably curious, which took an incredible amount of hardship and challenge to figure out. Now that I have seen it, I understand a lot about my approach to the world, though. When I am interested in something, I stop and ask myself: Why am I interested in this thing? How can I explain to someone else what is so cool about it?

So often throughout my career at Columbia, I have heard some variation of the phrase, “I am an artist,” “I am an entrepreneur,” “I am a writer,” etc. The more I hear that phrase, the more I disagree. By classifying ourselves as one thing, we limit what we can do and how we define ourselves. The best advice I can offer is to be interested in whatever interests you. Just for kicks and giggles, I took a class in science writing last spring, thinking I would slog through it and move on to writing the social justice pieces I thought I wanted to write. My goals have changed thanks to that class and the curiosity it stimulated in me.

Columbia gets a lot of flack for being a college full of pretentious, isolated artists who go to class because they have to, but that is not what I have found. Instead, by simply listening and being curious, I discovered a complex beehive of fascinating people with incredibly complex interests, all bursting with passion for things I did not even know people could care about.

Did you know there is a lab in the 916 S. Wabash Ave. Building where students are exploring Mars and sending their research to NASA? Me neither, until I took “Astrobiology.” Did you know some people care more about typography than they do about Facebook? Neither did I, until I met a graphic designer who nearly choked when I made a joke about ComicSans.

Even though Columbia’s buildings are isolated, students do not have to be. There is an infinity of fascinating stories out there behind the eyes and hands of people sitting next to you. Even if you may not be working together in the future, these are the creatives who will be slashing the next murals onto the walls of a broken city, the businesspeople who discover the next defining musician, the writers who tell the next heartbreaking story and the filmmakers who next take us to heaven. They are crossing Harrison Street beside you, and all you have to do is take out your headphones and ask their names.