A colleague once told me that column writing is a little like running in front of a combine in a farmer’s field: exhilarating, exhausting and lots of fun — until you trip just once.After 14 years as a columnist, 24 at The Register-Guard and 37 in the newspaper business, I’m tired of running in front of the combine. My last day at The RG will be Dec.6.I’m not leaving because I’ve lost my passion for the power of words; on the contrary, I’ve never been more excited about the idea of using words to change the world, if even in small ways.But I want to funnel that energy into writing books, leading Beachside Writers Workshops, teaching writing at UO’s School of Journalism and Communication, speaking at conferences and — this is the extra-cool part — possibilities that will never exist unless I leave behind my 40-hour-a-week commitment toThe Register-Guard.Over the years, I’ve learned that I love the challenge of starting something from nothing — workshops, children’s books, events — because they almost always lead to fun, adventure and new relationships. And I flat-out enjoy the challenge.Beyond that, I want to funnel part of those 40 hours into re-building a life that — through nobody’s fault but my own — has gotten far too busy.I want to watch waves at Yachats without worrying about what I’m writing about for Thursday’s column or whether some source will call me back so I can have something for Tuesday.I want to eat waffles with my grandchildren — we have four of them with a fifth due in June — and watch them grow up. And sip hot chocolate with my sons once a month, something I’ve done only a handful of times after long ago vowing to make it a steady gig.
I want to get in the car with She Who Loves to Wander and drive somewhere without a clue where we’re going — and with no must-be-back-by-this-date deadline.
I want to — how else can I say this? — putter. Organize my home library. Edit 10,000-plus photos. Trim the number of folders on my laptop’s desktop to single digits. Read the (literally) 67 books on my nightstand. Watch a replay of the 2003 Oregon-Michigan game.
Finally, I want to stay connected with you, readers and listeners and students who’ve welcomed my words and given me so much encouragement over the years. (See story below on how we can do that.)
I’m leaving The Register-Guard but not leaving Eugene or what really floats my boat: relationships with people who inspire me and, I hope, I can occasionally inspire.
If someone had asked me 14 years ago to design the perfect job, I would have said: Write three columns a week for The Register-Guard in Eugene, Ore. I’m grateful to The RG for the opportunity. It’s been an absolute privilege to try and make sense of this place and the people who make it what it is.
But, as that Neil Young song says, “comes a time.” Time for someone else to infuse their unique slant on this place we call home. Time for me to slow down and begin what I call my “Second Life.” Time for new adventures.
So, if you’ve been a column reader of mine, or someone whose story you let me tell, thanks. And I hope you’ll keep following my words wherever they take me in the years to come.