Saturday, July 24, 2021

'Not alone anymore': A farewell letter to my family at The State News

April 22, 2021

Dear State News family,

It's hard to believe my journey with you is soon coming to an end when it feels like it barely just started. Graduating in a few more weeks is surreal enough but what hits me harder is leaving you all — and with you, a part of me — behind.

Looking back at January 2020, when I stepped into the newsroom for the first time as a reporter at orientation, I remember being a walking trembling ball of nerves who was scared that she would never belong here. Everyone seemed to know each other and even the new staff members had that one person who they'd known before coming in. 

For the first time since my freshman year, I felt timid and scared. Suddenly all I could see myself as was an international student with an accent and weird speech slang. Someone who'd never fit here. 

"It's okay, we've been here before," I thought to myself. "Just focus on your job, keep to yourself. You don't need friends — not really." 

Little did I know that just over the span of a handful of weeks, I would be finding myself an array of precious gems. A new roommate, a best friend, a Taylor-Swift-stan soulmate, a caring leader who'd help guide me at my life's toughest times and so, so many lifelong friends who would not only accept me for who I am but support me and fight for me. 

A family. That's what I found at The State News without realizing it. 

I would say you guys have been my home away from home but that'd be a lie because in the short 16 months since I've known you all, at times you've felt more like a family to me than the one back home. And I don't say that lightly. In fact, I have big, fat tears rolling down my face with a peaceful smile on my lips as I write to you.

The feeling I'm trying to describe here is hard to put into words. Ever since I joined The State News, my neck tilts up more often. My shoulder feels looser. I don't have to fight alone anymore, be scared alone anymore or feel sad about things happening in the world alone anymore. 

I definitely don't have to live alone or hide aspects of my personality — such as my music taste — anymore. My skin color, my background, sexual orientation or noncitizen status, you accepted each and every part of me with open arms and celebrated me. I've never felt more cherished, be it in a professional or an informal environment. You taught me that I'm not alone anymore. 

I'm the kind of person who takes pride in being a strong, independent woman. From an early age, I learned that vulnerability is something I can't afford to show as I strive to prove those wrong who think women can't handle field jobs or be effective leaders. 

Being a part of your community showed me that my vulnerability is my strength. The moment something has fallen apart or gone wrong for me — and there have been many moments like that — you all have cared and acted in your own ways to help me. From writing articles about those affected like me, personally keeping a mental health check on me, to crying my tears with me. 

Believe me when I say there have been so many times when I've wondered to myself, "What would I have done had I not had State News at my back?" 

Every time one of you has said, called or texted me "We've got your back," it has been an epiphanic moment for me. 

Working at The State News has been a life-changing experience and it goes beyond perfecting the skills of reporting or learning to lead teams as a desk editor. Each and every flaw or insecurity I was aware of before coming in was turned into merit to my confidence. The opportunities to grow into not just a better reporter but a better person have been boundless. 

That accent I was so conscious of coming in? Recording podcasts for The State News was the best cure possible! My awareness of being the only international student in the newsroom? It was commemorated by my coworkers who respected my worldly knowledge. 

Now as I walk closer to graduating and sadly leaving a different home behind once again, I reflect on all the happy, sad and crazy moments we all shared these past 16 months.

Friday pizza-days that turned to virtual Wellness Wednesdays. Covering fun bar nights or protests at the Capitol to a hectic election season that left us all drained for days. Random off-topic and trivia Slack chat rooms. City and culture desk meetings. Spring 2020's intern potluck party and cold tater tots. Debates of desert versus breakfast crepes.

I see all of these memories in an unforgettable cloud of nostalgic serenity. Just floating over my head, reminding me of happy times to keep myself going in the future. Picture Olaf with his own personal flurry at the end of "Frozen." That is me, forever offering warm hugs that State News gifted me with. 

So thank you, State News. For accepting me with all my queerness. Thank you for having my back and helping me when I was so close to giving up. Thank you for providing me with so many amazing career-building opportunities and giving me a chance to build lifelong bonds. Thank you for believing in me when I wasn't even sure of myself and lastly, thank you for being my family.

To each and every one of you: the editors and reporters I may have not interacted with as much, the professional staffers whose faces I haven't seen since the newsroom went virtual and to the State News Board whose members' names I may have merely heard of and never talked to. All of you, whether you realize it or not, had an impact in making my life better this year. For that, I'm forever grateful. 

Moving forward, I may never find a family so phenomenal as yours (I really hope I do) but even if I don't, that's okay. The love and solitude I received here will stay with me forever as I strive to continue making an impact in the world as a reporter and try my best to pay forward the kindness State News showed me.

Thank you for making me who I am as I graduate and enter the real world. 

Love,

Kaishi

This article is part of our Semester in Review issue. Read the full issue here.

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