Lydia Hansen outside Iowa Information

Staff writer Lydia Hansen is taking her leave of Iowa Information to move back to Minnesota and take a temporary break from journalism.

It’s time for a break.

Today is my last day as a member of the Iowa Information team.

Those aren’t words I thought I’d be saying quite this soon. After only 319 days — or almost 11 months — at Iowa Information, I’m hanging up my press pass and planning a change. At the end of the month, I’m moving back to Minnesota to live closer to family and friends.

There is no new journalism job waiting in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” I need a break from the demands of journalism to recuperate after a year that’s left me feeling burnt out and stretched thin. For the few months to a year or more, I’ll working outside the news industry — albeit somewhere I can still flex my 100 wpm typing skills and signature e-mail sign-off (I close with “Best,” how about you?”).

I didn't take my decision to leave journalism or Iowa Information lightly. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here, working with talented colleagues for a top-quality Iowa newspaper.

At the 2021 Iowa Newspaper Association Better Newspaper Contest in February, Iowa Information captured the top honor in all three of Iowa’s weekly newspaper classifications for The N’West Iowa REVIEW, The Sheldon Mail-Sun and the Hawarden Independent/Ireton Examiner. Altogether Iowa Information received 97 awards for the year.

Although my primary focus has our flagship paper, The N’West Iowa REVIEW, I’ve dropped stories in our five other weekly papers. A personal milestone was the time I had stories in four of our papers during a single week.

It’s hard to take my leave of such a top-notch paper, especially when I know there are few better places I could have landed after graduating college and jumping into full-time reporting. When I talk to journalist friends and mentors about where I work, many of them recognize The N’West Iowa REVIEW and tell me, “That’s a really great paper!”

Boy, do I know it.

I’ve worked with dedicated and creative journalists, including former managing editor turned freelancer Ty Rushing.

I’ve endured endless ribbing from managing editor Justin Rust and sports writer Charlie Hildebrand, Iowa Information’s resident sports and pop-culture aficionados.

Tag-teaming with fellow staff writers Randy Paulson and Elijah Helton has always been a pleasure. I had to cut off half my hair and they had to grow theirs out for a year, but our haircuts are finally starting to match. True newsroom synergy right there.

I’ll miss trading cynical predictions and sarcastic jokes with sports editor Scott Byers — a legend who taught me to cover sports despite having never seen any sport played aside from on hockey match.

I’ll miss never having the chance to use “vibes” in a news story just so I can explain it to editor-in-chief Jeff Grant.

I’ll miss trading e-mails and story ideas with our extended news team as well — Katie Anderson running the Hawarden-Ireton paper, Sandra Jenson and Brenda Post at the Osceola County Gazette-Tribune and — Renee Wielenga and Eric Sandbulte in the Sioux Center News office. Thanks for being long-distance work friends.

I will (not) miss the puns, though I’m sure I’ll think of this newsroom every time I hear one for the rest of my life.

Going forward, I’m looking forward to taking some time and space to breath. The last year has been rewarding, but also the most difficult to date for my mental health. Moving many miles from everyone you know to take a high-stress job, even one you love, during a global pandemic is hard.

Although it’s time for me to take my leave, I’m grateful for the time, trust and opportunities afforded to me here. Hopefully someday in the not-so-distant future I’ll be ready to pick up my pen, camera and tape recorder and rejoin journalism again, a little happier and healthier this time.

To my sources, editors, co-workers and readers — thank you for trusting me. Journalism is still my favorite job and I’m sad to leave, even if it’s temporary.