There’s no easy way to say goodbye

Published 12:02 am Sunday, February 9, 2014

British rock band The Verve once called life a bittersweet symphony.

Those words describe my feelings perfectly as I sit here writing my final column for The Natchez Democrat.

Four and a half years ago, a 22-year-old, fresh-out-of-college fledgling journalist got his first full-time job as sports reporter for The Democrat. The feeling I had on Aug. 3, 2009, is difficult to describe, but imagine yourself being a few hundred miles from where you called home, knowing no one within at least a two-hour radius.

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Any feelings of being outside my comfort zone would be short-lived, however. The sporting community in the Miss-Lou quickly embraced me, and before long I felt myself begin to blend in.

That’s why, four and a half years later, I can say it’s a bittersweet thing that I’ve accepted the position of sports editor at The Meridian Star.

It’s sweet in that it’s the next chapter in my life and a new challenge for me professionally, yet it’s bitter because I’m leaving a community in which I genuinely enjoy both living and working.

A number of people in the community told me early on I would likely only stay for a year or two, gaining experience before moving onto “bigger and better things,” whatever that meant. Maybe it’s because most of those people have lived most of their lives here that they seem to take this community for granted.

As someone with no prior history in the Miss-Lou, though, let me say, from an “outsider’s” perspective, this place is special. It’s been an honor and a privilege to cover sports — and occasionally other things — in Natchez and the surrounding areas. I wouldn’t have stayed as long as I did if I didn’t feel that way.

In my time here, so many of you opened your offices, homes and businesses to me, making me feel welcome and making what I do seem more like an enjoyable hobby than a job. The Miss-Lou is an area where Southern hospitality is down to a science, and don’t think for a second people who aren’t from here don’t notice and appreciate it.

Whether it’s state title runs, tear-jerking feature stories or seeing a hometown hero fulfill his lifelong dream of playing in the NFL, our area has had countless stories worthy of our section. I only hope in my time here that I did those stories justice.

As much as I would love rattling off a bunch of thank yous, the truth is, there are far too many people who deserve my gratitude for me to mention them here. If for some reason I haven’t gotten around to telling you in person these past couple of weeks, know that I deeply appreciate the kindness and helpfulness shown to me these last several years.

There’s no easy way to say goodbye, so instead I’ll say it’s been a blast. Thank you for all for making this experience one I will treasure for the rest of my life, and I hope to hear of many more good stories coming from the Miss-Lou in the future.