The Moment Between: Leaving Hoy, Starting at Columbia

Today is the first day of my new job at Columbia College in Chicago.

I’ll be teaching journalism full-time.

On the one hand, I’m thrilled.

I’ve wanted for years to work at the college level, to get back to teaching and to have large chunks of time to do my own projects.

To step back from the pressure of the daily news cycle, to have time to think in a community of colleagues about questions of the day and to chart the course of my professional ship directly, rather than to carry out other people’s visions.

Columbia offers all of that and more.

I know and respect many of my full and part-time colleagues.

I’ll have months over the summer and during breaks to purse the larger projects that I’ve wanted to do, in some cases for decades.

Having worked with Columbia students at The Chicago Reporter for five years, I know the caliber of students with whom I’ll be working.

Three important friends and colleagues in my career-Fernando Diaz, Rui Kaneya and Angela Caputo-are all Columbia alumni, and my brother Jon spent a graduate year there in the early 90s.

In many ways I cannot believe my good fortune.

Yet part of my heart is a little heavy as I sit on the El among other silent, bundled fellow commuters, as I feel my feet freeze and will the train’s rocking forward rhythm to accelerate.

That’s because starting at Columbia means that I’m leaving Hoy.

I worked at the Tribune Company’s Spanish-language newspaper for nearly two-and-a-half years, and loved many aspects of my time there.

I admired the sheer grit and unfailing work ethic of a team of 12 journalism warriors who put out six print editions, ran a vital website whose traffic grew exponentially and constantly incorporated social media.

The daily hug I exchanged with Octavio Lopez and the reiteration of each year’s expression.

Mas y mas, we said in 2011.

More and more.

Ahora es cuando was our motto in 2012.

Now is the time.

And mejor que ayer last year.

Better than yesterday.

The daily conferences I shared with designer extraordinaire Rodolfo Jimenez as we would chat about the latest phase of our projects and our joint declaration each Thursday, the last day of our work week, that it was time for cervezas, or beers.

Sitting across from sports editor Jose Luis Sanchez Pando, discussing the relative merits of athletes-David Villa or Raul, Andres Iniesta or Andrea Pirlo-and listening to the torrent of commentary that issued forth from the Spaniard when I had the temerity to ask last year whether the era of Spanish soccer club dominance in Europe had come to an end.

Working in an dynamic, failure-embracing environment in which I felt fully back and supported and in which we truly sought to build the new newsroom and to break ground and stories in English and Spanish every day.

Above all, being in a Spanish-language and cultural workplace.

A place where we celebrated Rosca de Reyes and where salsa, chips and tamales were standard fare for quarterly meetings, where the Mexican soccer league mattered a lot, especially on Sundays, when Octavio would don the shirt of his beloved Pumas, and where the nightclub fire in southern Brazil and the day when Nicolas Maduro described the little bird who spoke to him were big, big news.

Indeed, some of my favorite moments of all occurred when I was at my desk listening to the patter of conversation and reminding myself that I was getting paid to work there.

It was an honor and a pleasure to belong to that team.

I’ll miss that.

I know we’ll keep in touch.

We’ll meet at the Billy Goat for our latest rounds of cervezas.

I can’t wait to get going at Columbia and feel in my guts that it was the right move for me.

But today I’m feeling my friends from Hoy, too.

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