Moving to the Brainerd lakes area and working as a staff writer for a weekly newspaper was quite a surprise to me after graduating from college, but I embraced the adventure and made my home here for as long as the universe would have me.

Apparently, this chapter of my life was meant to close sooner than we all expected.

I have accepted a position as the staff photographer of the Argus Leader, a USA Today-affiliated daily newspaper in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and am writing this farewell column during my last week at the Echo Journal before making the move.

This opportunity came at me fast, but I'm incredibly excited to take the next step in my career. I knew I wanted to take photographs for a living from a fairly young age, and fell in love with visual storytelling while earning a college degree in photojournalism. Working full time as a photographer for a daily newspaper will allow me to follow my passion even more deeply.

The timing of this position opening up also worked out rather perfectly so I can join my boyfriend who already has a job in Sioux Falls as the radio broadcaster for the city's minor league baseball team.

This is a step in my career I've been waiting to take for a while now, so understandably the primary emotion I feel is happiness. I would be remiss, however, if I didn't also say that the act of leaving yet another home, and certainly my most seemingly permanent home since living in Wisconsin, carries bittersweet feelings as well.

I was instantly welcomed into the communities here with wide open arms. I can't tell you what a difference that made for me as a young graduate who didn't know a soul in the area when I moved. It didn't take long for me to connect with organizations, city staff and citizens across the area who seemed excited to have me here and want to help me succeed.

I'm very grateful for all of those people who offered friendship and resources for me. I'm sure my experience would be very different without them. My time at the Echo Journal has allowed me opportunities I don't think I could have gotten anywhere else.

Some of those were simple pleasures, like seeing bald eagles at least once a day on my work commute. I also got to photograph a fleet of antique snowmobiles in Pequot Lakes, participate in a small-town police training simulation in Breezy Point, try dozens of the locals' secret chili recipes in Crosslake and witness a mayor chosen by high card draw in Manhattan Beach. Really, I got to experience the essence of small town life.

Perhaps most importantly, I want to give my biggest thanks to my Echo Journal coworkers with whom I spent every day for the past seven months. It took no time for me to feel at ease working alongside and collaborating with them as well as laughing together and sharing common interests, even the geeky ones.

There were some very difficult aspects of moving on my own to a totally new environment and trying to make my way. Some were small, like occupying myself while cooped up in my apartment alone, and some were bigger things I never had to worry about before, like how to get to a doctor's appointment when I needed someone else to drive me.

I always knew I could count on my coworkers and friends here whether I needed something professionally or personally, and I truly believe they made my time here the best it could have been.

Right before my final days at the Echo Journal, I accepted an award of excellence at the 2018 College Photographer of the Year awards. It felt like the perfect way for me to kick off this next phase of my life becoming a full-time newspaper photographer. It's a sign of good things to come.

I'm definitely enthusiastic about my new job in Sioux Falls, but I'll look at my time in the Brainerd lakes area fondly.

Farewell, friends, and thanks for everything.