Rainbow on…Saying good-bye
(Originally published June 25, 2006)
Friday, while I was turning in my resignation at The World-Herald, my car was being towed from just outside the front door.
And all I could think as I stood staring at the empty parking spot was, “This could make a really funny column.”
I’ve spent the last nine years on the hunt for good column ideas. Longer than that really.
I started writing a column for my high school paper in 1989. Then I wrote for my college paper. When I came to The World-Herald in 1996, all I wanted to do was write a column.
And that’s all I’ve wanted to do at the newspaper since.
So why did I accept a new job in advertising?
That’s a hard question to answer today, on a day when I’ve done nothing but think about how lucky I’ve been to write this column and about how much I truly, truly love the people I’ve worked with at The World-Herald.
Many of them have stopped by my desk to see for themselves whether I’ve lost my mind.
I’ve been trying all day to explain myself, and I’ll try once more right now. (Here comes the paragraph I’ve rewritten 158 times.)
I’m walking away from this column — from what just might be the best job in the entire city — because I want to do something new.
Because this is the only thing I’ve ever done, and even though it’s been wonderful, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to do something else.
And, for me, getting to work in advertising isn’t just something else. I get kind of stupidly excited about advertising. I appreciate a nice billboard more than I do a nice painting. I consider it public art.
The weird thing about leaving this job is that I don’t feel like I’m just saying goodbye to the people who sit next to me. I feel like I’m saying goodbye to you, too.
(Does that sound sappy? I can’t help it.)
When I first started writing a column, I couldn’t picture all the people who might be reading it. I felt like it was just me and my thoughts and my computer.
It was a little disturbing when people at the grocery store and the DMV started telling me just what they thought about my work. What they liked, what they didn’t like. What made them laugh. What made them want to write a letter to the Public Pulse.
I used to get nervous every time I turned to the letters to the editor page. My mom would call me whenever there was a run of nasty letters. “Are you going to get fired?” she asked.
“I don’t think so,” I told her. “I think my editors like it.”
Harsh column-writing lesson No. 1: Your editors don’t care whether people like you. They care whether people read you.
Back at my college paper, I used to call every person who ever sent me a negative letter. I’d keep them on the phone until they admitted I was much more likable than they’d expected. If I did that at The World-Herald, I’d still be on the phone with a few of you.
“You’re so brave to write the things you write,” one reader said a few years ago, “knowing how many people will disagree with you.”
Not brave, I told him. Naive. When I wrote that controversial stuff, I genuinely thought you would all be with me.
Enough of you were with me enough of the time to keep my chin up.
Thanks for that. Thanks for letting me tell my stories.
Thanks for letting me tell your stories, for trusting me with your big days, your best and worst days, your milestones.
I guess this is goodbye.
What am I going to do next week when something ridiculous happens and I don’t get to share it with you?