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Bruins in Paris

I spent 4 years deepening connections by distracting fellow staffers -30-

Ethan Keshishian stands for a portrait. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

By Ethan Keshishian

June 11, 2023 10:07 p.m.

I am the biggest office distraction.

And trust me, it’s difficult work. For four years, I’ve invested hours into talking to hardworking staffers as they toiled late at night to produce the next morning’s paper. I would be getting ready to leave the office for the day, only to end up sinking another hour – or several – into a conversation. No section or person has been able to escape.

It began during my freshman year. This was my first year at the Daily Bruin and, as an eager intern in the Copy section, I spent a lot of time talking to others at the Copy desk. Other times, I found myself across the office conversing with members of other sections of the paper. I really enjoyed learning about people and their stories.

But soon, this would all change with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The following year, when the pandemic forced all of our shifts online, my relationship with the Daily Bruin changed. The busy atmosphere of staffers at work or in meetings was replaced by Zoom calls and screen shares. I took on a role as a proofer in Copy and cross-trained into our Online section under internal tools. I worked quietly, contributing to Copy and building internal tools for our staff, such as our Gallery Maker tool. Hearing the stories of coworkers was replaced by sharing the stories of UCLA community members.

However, despite contributing more than ever and feeling more connected to our audience, something was missing. With no more spontaneous office encounters, the disconnect between staff and office was more than physical. It was as though our paper was highlighting a community at UCLA without a community of our own.

But at the end of every year, the paper’s staff comes together to reward staff members for outstanding contributions. It was during one of these award ceremonies, at the conclusion of my second year, when I was honored with the award for the biggest office distraction.

At first, I was surprised – I had no inkling that others at the office remembered my actions from over a year prior. Thus, despite being an officewide joke, the award helped me see that others at the paper also missed our community. More than anything, I learned others in the office saw my distractions as a valuable part of our community.

Fast forward to my final year. At this point, we had returned to the office. Copy had an unoccupied editor position that needed filling. I accepted the position, wholly unaware of what it would mean for my connection to the paper. Before I could settle into my new position, I began meeting people at an overwhelming rate. I was among the staff again, but this time it was different. I was aware of the impact being a distraction could have. Inevitably, I distracted every person I could.

Now, as my fourth year at the paper comes to a close, I’ve found myself contemplating the idea of distraction. What I’ve realized is that I don’t see distracting as hindering productivity – rather, I see it as an opportunity to brighten someone else’s day. It’s about connecting with the staff on a personal level. It’s about building a supportive and welcoming community.

I hope I have been able to give back to this community just a small fraction of the impact it has had on me. Looking back on my time at this paper, I can only describe my experiences and resulting growth as positive. I have, of course, become a better editor and writer, but I also believe I have become a better person. It was the Daily Bruin that established the foundation on which I began work on my most meaningful projects. My newsletter, Unicorner, would not exist if it wasn’t for the valuable experience I gained at The Bruin. I know the lessons I’ve learned at this paper will stay with me for life, and I’m very grateful for that.

To all the great people whose brains I’ve had the opportunity to pick, thank you. I’ve really enjoyed learning everyone’s stories over the past four years. To those graduating with me, I wish you the best in what’s to come. Lastly, to the future and current staffers, I hope you have a great time at The Bruin.

Make sure to get distracted every once in a while.

Keshishian was an Online contributor 2019-2022, Copy contributor 2019-2020, Copy staffer 2020-2022 and slot editor 2022-2023.

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