Emily Fitzgerald

Emily Fitzgerald

We all know that, generally, 2020 has been a disaster. Like, 1904 Olympic Marathon-level of disaster (seriously, look it up on Google — especially if you like not knowing whether your tears are from laughing or crying). But in my experience, the darkest times tend to lead to some of the shiniest silver linings.

For one, I turned 25 this year: A milestone for a couple of reasons (I can rent a car now! I’m a full-grown Adult Person!), but most namely because my 19-year-old self, curled up on the floor of her dorm room after just barely talking herself out of jumping off the balcony, said something that never quite unstuck itself from the back of her mind: “It’ll be a miracle if I make it to 25.” In that moment, 25 seemed like an impossible milestone. Emily at 25 would have graduated college, gotten a job that she likes, probably rents her own apartment and would know how to keep a plant, and herself, alive — all things that felt impossible to the 19-year-old curled up on her dorm-room floor. That 25-year-old is alive now because that 19-year-old decided to get up, get help, and carry on. And not a day goes by that I’m not grateful for her, and the friends and family who helped her and loved her. I’m far from perfect (plants remain a mystery) and still have days that are more bad than good, but overall, I’m so much healthier and happier now than I was at 19.

This year in particular has trying year for me, but the difficult circumstances have shown me just how many people I have in my life who love and support me.

Many of you likely remember when the three Gorge papers split from Eagle Newspapers back at the start of the pandemic — when that happened, a lot of the old staff — myself included — were left in a precarious situation for a few weeks while Chelsea Marr worked to pick up the pieces and create the Columbia Gorge News. Like most of the old staff, I applied for unemployment benefits and aide programs — but this was the very start of the pandemic, and the system was so backed up at that point that I didn’t see any benefits until the summer, and I didn’t have much in terms of savings or other sources of income to fall back on.

I vented my worries to a good friend via text one night right before going to bed, grateful to have her advice and sympathetic ear. She called me right after I woke up the next morning: After talking to me, she had apparently organized with our mutual group of friends in the Gorge to help me out. Collectively, they put together enough money to cover my next month’s rent and set me up with a few weeks of meals from a local meal plan service; it ended up being enough to get by until I was re-hired at the Columbia Gorge News.

The last three months of 2020 brought more change and anxiety into my life than I thought I’d see all year: My partner of almost three years and I agreed to split up; and not even a month later, I was offered a job at the local newspaper in Centralia, Wash. I was so grateful for the support of my friends, family and coworkers while I navigated my own grief over my ended relationship and evaluated what I wanted for my future.

After a lot of thought, many phone calls and a particularly enlightening (if one-sided) conversation with my sister’s cat, I decided to accept the job. I’m writing this surrounded by piles of garbage and towers of half-packed cardboard boxes; and by the time this prints, I’ll have ended my 3-year stint living and working in the Columbia River Gorge.

I’m so grateful to the entire staff at the Columbia Gorge News, particularly Chelsea and editors Kirby Neumann-Rea and Mark Gibson, for their support and guidance throughout my entire tenure in the Gorge, and their continued support as I prepare to make this life change.

I know it’s been a dark year for all of us, but I’m going to let the the year’s silver linings light my way to the finish line.

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