Senior column | Telling others’ stories shaped my own

As I close the book on college, I’m looking back on the stories I’ve told, and how they’ve helped me write my own story.

Brooklyn Draisey, Projects reporter

If you asked me in high school what I expected from my future as a college journalist, I would’ve said I could cover complex problems affecting my new home. I definitely wouldn’t have mentioned the Pancheros owner.

I had a specific vision of what the start of college life would be like. My first week of school would be spent exploring campus and finding little nooks no one else had discovered and cultivating my persona as a cool college woman.

Instead, I spent my first week of college writing about Pancheros. Not quite the story I had expected from my first assignment at The Daily Iowan, but I was still more than intimidated by the burrito franchise’s owner, the first source I interviewed.

Since that interview four years ago, I’ve met a few famous faces, including director Joe Russo, former University of Iowa President Sandy Boyd, and two CIA agents who wouldn’t share their names. And I’ve covered many more unique people whose names may not spark recognition.

Shane Mullnix. Sandra Gimpel. Jonathan Jackson. Earie Seals. Zach Luppen. These names — along with so many others — may not be known to the public, but I’ve had the privilege to meet these people and share their stories with the world to the best of my ability. They’ve taught me everyone has a tale to tell.

Some of the stories I’ve told have been so, so tragic. Laura Calderwood, whose daughter, Mollie Tibbetts, should be graduating with me this year. Gerald Belz, who died on campus on the coldest day seen in years. My own story, about the struggles my brother faced with his illness and what I faced with his death.

But so, so many pieces were happy nuggets that I had the opportunity to shine some light on. Christine Grant, who spent decades of her life paving the way for women in collegiate athletics. Inventors who haven’t reached junior high, showing off their work with passion and fire. The time I spent the night at the Villisca Axe Murder House and was irrationally terrified the entire time.

There have been more stories than I can count that I haven’t had the chance to tell, and those are only stories from my time at The Daily Iowan. I had the chance to tell so many amazing stories during my time at The Gazette and The Southeast Iowa Union, and I made stories of my own.

Marissa Payne accompanied me to a forum on the UI’s $1.165 billion utility system public/private partnership, spouting background info like nothing while I looked on in awe and confusion. I finessed my way into working with Marissa for almost a full year after she graduated, because I couldn’t bear to be fully separated from her just yet. I’m still not sure how I’m supposed to cope without her icon on my Google documents.

Kayli Reese shared an itemized list of predictions of who is most likely to win an Oscar in every category. After I found out I would be moving to Davenport, I calculated exactly how long it would take to travel to Dubuque. Turns out she did the same thing. After three years of living in each other’s pockets, we’ll be hard pressed to live more than 1 hour and 22 minutes apart.

Katie Goodale beckoning me over to the visuals desk and asking my opinion, knowing full well I can’t give an informed opinion on photography. She was my vaccine buddy and my brother-in-arms during a long summer, and I know she’ll keep putting out amazing work.

Ryan Johnson, freaking me out by silently coming into the kitchen and poking my head. I’ve known him since I was 2 years old, and if I have any say in it, we’ll be friends until we’re ancient. He was a roommate, and I’ll miss just having to walk a few feet to annoy my found brother.

Autumn Tallman, painting my nails and finally convincing me to stop biting them. I know she doesn’t like movies, but I’m always happy when she obliges me, especially when I show her something she ends up liking. I can’t wait to see how she changes the world.

I do have a few regrets from my time at the UI. I’d thought often of joining the garden club or auditioning for a theatre production, but never got around to it. I didn’t find nearly as many strange rooms as I had hoped — maybe I should have tried to get out of the newsroom a little more. But I can’t wait to watch what my friends who have yet to graduate do next.

Jenna Galligan will put out amazing work and go so far, and I’ll be there whenever I can, reminding her to sleep sometimes. The Sophomore Squad, soon-to-be seniors, is taking over the DI and will take it to new heights. I’m so proud of all of them, and they better get ready for teary hugs before I leave.

As I graduate, I’ve been looking back on the stories I’ve told and looking forward to all the stories I’ll get to tell, with Sarah Watson at my side at The Quad-City Times. My parting advice: Make sure to pay attention to your own story while you’re telling everyone else’s.

I can’t wait to start my next chapter.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.

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