Column: A thank you to journalism

Chilliwack Progress education reporter Katie Bartel says goodbye to Chilliwack and journalism.

Katie Bartel prepares for take off with Super Dave Osborne – just one of the memorable moments that a career in journalism has brought.

This is a career I never imagined I’d be leaving.

Long before I can remember, I’ve been telling people I was going to be a writer, an author, a storyteller. On my 14th birthday, 22 years ago, a passion for journalism, beyond sharing the daily with my pops every morning, was ignited.

It wasn’t a discovery of Edward R. Murrow, or Rick Bragg, or even B.C.’s own Ma Murray; all of whom I did later realize and love.

It was a horoscope.

My birthday horoscope.

In it, I was told that not only did I share a birthday with Mark Wahlberg (sigh) but that my love for words was destined for the world of journalism.

I ran with it.

For more than 11 years, almost nine years to the day spent in Chilliwack, I’ve been paid to be nosy.

It’s been an incredible career.

I’ve been granted the key to so many opportunities that most others wouldn’t have the chance to do.

In the name of journalism, I’ve flown over the valley in a blimp, I’ve seen my life flash before my eyes in the passenger seat of a stunt plane, I’ve shakily shot a would-be thug in the knees, then chest, in a cop-training simulation, relived prom, managed to piss off F-bomb dropping Denis Leary before I even got on the phone with him, which, truthfully, was really kind of awesome.

In the name of journalism, I’ve been charmed by a sweet-talking 92-year-old ice skater, and blown away by an 89-year-old granny dancing a jig as though she were 20. I’ve had my love of ice cream indulged like clockwork every summer. I’ve been invited into old heritage homes, a beautifully lit backyard printing press, and the Minnesota Twins locker room.

Awkward.

In the name of journalism, I have met some of the most incredible, inspiring, heart-warming and heart-breaking personalities. They are not celebrities; most are barely known in their own communities. But through my written word, and this here newsprint, I have shared their stories.

I’ve introduced you to a young woman just days after she was buried in her basement bedroom by a vicious tornado of mud; an elderly couple who watched in daily fear as their house on Marble Hill shifted down the hill; a retired navy seaman, who for 10 years faithfully pinned poppies onto others before suffering a massive heart attack on his beloved Remembrance Day.

I’ve shown you the greatness that Chilliwack’s youth behold – a Grade 9 A.D. Rundle student fighting for his right to drink pop on school grounds; a Grade 12 budding chef determined to knock the socks off the judges of an Iron Chef style competition with his chicken and chorizo; a group of high school students starting a breakfast club for their peers who didn’t have the means for daily nutrition.

I’ve also enlightened you to the struggles many of Chilliwack’s youth face – aboriginal students struggling through mainstream education; teenagers couch surfing, some living on the streets because home is not safe; teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues.

All in the name of journalism.

In the name of journalism, I met my husband.

In the name of journalism, I became a competitive, long-distance runner.

In the name of journalism, I made some of my dearest friendships.

In the name of journalism, I lived my dreams.

But now is a time for new dreams.

Next week is my last week as an actively employed journalist. After years of covering education, I will once again become the student on a journey towards becoming a registered dietitian.

It was not an easy decision to make, and there were many factors that went into it: the long commute, the state of the industry, my child, etc., etc.. But know this, my love for a being a storyteller, was not one of them.

Thank you journalism.