I recently was reminded that it’s been seven years since my farewell reception from the newspaper business and the Journal Gazette/Times-Courier. Attached to this post is a picture my friend John Plevka took that afternoon. The smile is real. The reasons are multiple.
The first time an article was published with my byline I was in fifth grade writing a few paragraphs about a junior high basketball game. I was hooked. That experience began a lifelong relationship with newspapers. When John took that photo, the newspaper world represented the only job I’d ever had. Being invited into people’s lives and homes most every day through the printed word by telling their stories was a first love for a career. That smile represented how fortunate I felt to be involved in community newspapering at every level. Most of the time, I didn’t consider it work.
The smile also acknowledges that I was embarking on an exciting, welcome journey that I didn’t know where it would lead. I was borrowing nearly two years of retirement to write, explore and put together a next chapter. Having freedom to travel and explore in my 50s was a much-appreciated gift. I saw New England in the fall for the first time. We spent our anniversary looking over Niagra Falls. We spent a month exploring the Lake Geneva area. Professionally, I self-published a book on literacy. The week I spent in Boulder with my sister and writing coach Ellen significantly expanded my writing world. In multiple cases, I had freelance articles published. I was fortunate to be involved in writing a history book about Lake Sara. I also wrote short story books for families. In one case, the client commented it was the best Christmas present ever. Had I stayed at the newspaper, most if not all of these experiences wouldn’t’ have happened.
Finally, there was the task of finding a new career opportunity with meaningful work. The smile reflects the confidence that I would find a worthwhile next chapter. The Mattoon Public Library provided that vehicle. I’m now in my fifth year as library director (and still engaged in some outside writing projects). The opportunity through the library to remain involved in the community, to create within the library structure and share in accomplishments of our staff are worth many smiles. Our efforts were recognized a couple years ago by the Mattoon Chamber of Commerce, which cited the library as small business of the year.
I loved my 30-plus years in the newspaper business. However, I didn’t like what I saw in its (or my) future. Leaving when I did was a great decision. As opportunities continue to emerge, I’m still smiling.