The beginning of something new

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I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.

Oh, I’m sure I’ve made one or two in my 43 years wandering this planet, but I gave up such folly so long ago I can’t remember ever making one.

It’s not because I’m perfect. It just seems to me that the best time to change something about myself is the moment I realize I need to change.

Take smoking. I picked up the filthy habit as a teenager, and puffed my lungs black for 12 or so years. I vaguely remember trying to quit periodically during that time, but once I stopped lying to myself and realized I really should quit, I didn’t wait for New Year’s Day.

I quit the day I realized I should. I didn’t need to flip the calendar to find the motivation. I simply needed to look deep inside of me, of what my lungs were becoming, and of how much money I was wasting on cigarettes to find the will power to overcome the strong addiction to nicotine. Nearly 16 years have passed, and I haven’t looked back.

Wait, who am I kidding? I can’t believe I typed that sentence without falling out of my chair laughing. I didn’t look deep inside of myself. I looked across the room at the beautiful, non-smoking woman I had just started dating, and decided to kick the habit.

Hey, I was 27. Where else would I find the motivation? But I married that beautiful woman a couple of years later, and we’re living happily ever after, so it’s good.

Of course, I realize New Year’s is not only about resolutions. It’s also about new beginnings, and I’ve had plenty of those in my life. In fact, I’ll experience one this month as I begin a journey I haven’t taken since 1992.

I have accepted the buyout The Gazette has offered longtime employees to trim expenses in response to the soft economy. My last day as editor of The Gazette’s Frederick County newsroom is Jan. 26.

On Jan. 27, 2012, I will crawl out of bed and join the ranks of the unemployed, 19 years and 16 days after starting as a reporter covering Poolesville.

Much has changed since that first day, not just in the world at large, but also within The Gazette and especially in me.

Twenty years ago, Bill Clinton was about to become president, the Internet and email had not yet reached the masses, and only rich people had cell phones. In fact, I remember seeing television commercials for AOL, and not understanding what they were selling.

Now we have a black president and his secretary of state is the former first lady from my first days at The Gazette, I don’t go a day without the Internet or email, and cell phones are so ubiquitous some folks don’t even have a home phone.

Twenty years ago, my first newsroom was in Germantown, and it had all of three people in it, including me. I wrote on a computer that had a green screen but no hard drive, and turned in my finished stories to my editor on a 5.25-inch floppy disk.

Now The Gazette has no newsroom in Germantown, and I carry around a laptop computer that can’t read a floppy disk drive, but can access the Internet from any wi-fi hot spot.

Twenty years ago, I drove a red pickup truck with “Rock Me” vanity license plates, had just moved back home to live in my mom’s house after graduating from Towson State University, and marriage was nowhere on my horizon.

Now I drive a silver Kia Rondo that can seat seven, I wouldn’t dream of spending my hard-earned money on a vanity license plate, and can’t imagine not being married and having two wonderful children.

It’s no understatement to say that I have become who I am while working at The Gazette, so I did not make the decision to leave lightly.

I’ve been waffling since management made the offer on Dec. 5, and lost countless hours of sleep in the last five weeks debating all sides of the buyout and contemplating the next step in my career.

I don’t know what that next step will be, but I do know this is my last column for The Gazette. One of the conditions of taking the buyout is that I can never again work for any company owned by The Washington Post Co., which The Gazette is.

I have to find another job, of course, and have started looking, but I also look forward to the time I will have to finish a book on fatherhood and fatherlessness. I have been pecking away at it for several months, but haven’t found the time to complete it.

I see it as a compilation of the columns I have written for The Gazette that have focused on my experiences as a father, but also in the experiences I had growing up fatherless.

The only time I have to work on the book is in the evening and on weekends, time I would otherwise spend with my children.

How ironic would it be for me to ignore my children and leave them virtually fatherless during my free time so I could write a book on how men should be active fathers? I might not even find a publisher willing to take on a first-time author, so all the work could be for naught, which means I would lose time with my children for nothing.

I plan to spend half my day looking for my next job and the other half finishing that book. I’ll also look for another home for these columns, and if all else fails I’ll post them on my own blog.

And that’s not a New Year’s resolution. It’s just the beginning of something new.

This is a repost of a column that appeared in The Gazette on Jan. 12, 2012.

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