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Embracing the unknown: How accepting unpredictability led to memories, friends -30-

Abigail Siatkowski smiles for a portrait in front of Kerckhoff Hall. (Darlene Sanzon/Assistant Photo editor)

By Abigail Siatkowski

June 10, 2024 8:54 p.m.

“What are we having for dinner?”

Throughout my childhood, I frequently posed the question to my mother hours before we would sit down to eat. Wanting to avoid accusations of being a picky eater, I would offer a follow-up statement.

“I don’t care what we eat,” I would explain. “I just want to know the plan.”

Growing up, I mapped out each day and each week in schedules and to-do lists. School, figure skating practice, homework, sleep, repeat. Security came from knowing what would happen next.

So when a nagging interest in journalism demanded to be explored, my gut twisted in fear. Yes, the idea of reporting scratched an itch for meaningful work. But I also knew journalism would be full of twists and changes, quite misaligned with my partiality to predictability.

I waded into journalism trepidatiously. As an intern for PRIME, the Daily Bruin’s quarterly magazine, I was required to train into the News section to better prepare for the challenge of long-form journalism.

I planned to write my one required news article. No more, no less. I would fly under the radar in the grand scheme of the newspaper, ensuring that no one would think to call me when all hands were needed on deck. I would never put myself in the position of having to change my plans to accommodate the unpredictable.

Right?

When asked by my editor to write a second news article, I surprised myself by agreeing to work on it with another contributor.

That article did not go according to plan. The pitch – to write about the experiences of UCLA students working at grocery stores during the COVID-19 pandemic – proved difficult to source. As the deadline approached, my editor offered to spike the piece. But my fellow writer and I chose to press on.

After it was published online, the story ran in a print edition of the paper. Though the pandemic meant I was living 1,300 miles from campus, my editor got a copy mailed to my house. I had never been prouder.

It was around that time that I realized – with another pit of fear swirling in my stomach – that I wanted to be an editor, too. Being an editor meant being responsible for figuring out what to do when things don’t go according to plan. But it also meant getting the chance to be more involved in a field that had become immensely meaningful to me so quickly. I couldn’t resist.

Thus ensued my three years as an editor, first as PRIME content editor, then PRIME director and, finally, managing editor of the whole Daily Bruin. Each year brought its own factor of unpredictability.

When one writer working on a story about staffing shortages on the Hill tried to interview UCLA Dining employees, she faced pushback from all sides. I feared the story wouldn’t get done on time, and we wouldn’t fill the pages of our print magazine.

Nevertheless, my fellow editors and I worked with her to march onward. We claimed victory at the final hour when UCLA Media Relations agreed to an interview, albeit proctored by a member of their team. Unpredictability had come our way, but we had won.

Each time I was forced to think on my feet, I became more accustomed to switching gears. One writer I worked with decided to spend an entire 24 hours at the Denny’s in Westwood for a PRIME piece. As I exited the restaurant at 1 a.m. after checking in on him, I left my phone ringer on overnight and told him to call me if he faced any problems.

Although I tossed and turned until morning had come, my only worry was for the writer – I no longer feared changing my own plans to work through any emergencies. I knew I could take whatever came my way.

What came my way as managing editor was more than I could have imagined. For the entirety of the school year, our team had to make decisions about covering how the Israel-Hamas war affected our campus. On April 25, our coverage needed to jump to the next level when the Palestine solidarity encampment was established in Dickson Plaza.

My perfectly organized Google Calendar didn’t account for an event such as this. But I, along with the entirety of the Daily Bruin staff, gave up my plans to ensure our community got the information it needed during the time of the encampment and the ensuing police sweep.

As I think back, I now realize it was the unpredictability of student journalism that made my fellow Daily Bruin staffers some of my best friends. It is impossible to count the number of times the people of this publication have changed their plans for my sake.

A trip to La Jolla on a random Wednesday supposedly to cover a men’s volleyball game but really just for fun. A Monday morning coffee run and drive to a beach lookout that heals a broken heart. An extra plate of shrimp scampi on Kelton Avenue.

Insomnia Cookies when I couldn’t be with my family in a time of mourning. A gift basket and homemade apple crisp to get me through a rough week. Some much-appreciated company on a trip to the emergency room. A word of appreciation when I needed it most.

To the entire staff of the Daily Bruin between 2020 and 2024, thank you for being my friends through every unpredictable moment. I hope you know I’ll always return the favor.

Siatkowski was a PRIME and News contributor 2020-2021, PRIME content editor 2021-2022, PRIME director 2022-2023 and managing editor 2023-2024.

-30-

 

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Abigail Siatkowski | Managing editor
Siatkowski was the 2023-2024 managing editor. She was previously the 2022-2023 PRIME director, the 2021-2022 PRIME content editor and a contributor for the Arts, News, Sports and Outreach sections.
Siatkowski was the 2023-2024 managing editor. She was previously the 2022-2023 PRIME director, the 2021-2022 PRIME content editor and a contributor for the Arts, News, Sports and Outreach sections.
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