Hard Candy – The Valediction
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
– J.R.R. Tolkein
This column makes me sad, because it is my last. 12 years ago, the Gabber offered me a job and a place in the community. Over the years I have delighted you, angered you, and most of all, I hope, I have made you think.
And today my time with the Gabber ends.
I didn’t come to the paper as a print journalist. My training was broadcast journalism; my previous vocation, public relations. But print media – specifically, writing for you, through the Gabber, became my passion. I love you people, even when you make me crazy with your kid-napped goats and your duck thefts and your infinite number of other things that feel as if this whole town has been plucked from the pages of a Carl Hiaasen novel. You’ve watched me grow, you’ve stayed right alongside me, and, most significantly, you’ve given me a home.
And now it’s time for me to go. This is my final week at the Gabber, and even though I know it is the right decision, my heart feels as though it’s breaking.
This decision has come later than it should have, although I don’t think I would ever have felt ready for it. I feel the support of everyone at the paper in this decision. We discussed my parting, and I harbor no ill will.
My life has changed, my circumstances have changed, and my path has changed. I have one book on the way and am preparing for another. I speak about my travels through Florida regularly, and I now teach photography classes. These other things are interfering with my ability to do my job well; I have meetings I cannot attend, I have places I cannot be, and you, our readers, deserve someone who is 100% with the paper, not someone who always appears to have one foot out the door.
And so I move over to make room for the next Cathy Salustri, the next person at the Gabber who can take us in yet another direction. I don’t know who that person will be. The paper needs new blood. Now that I re-read that, I realize it is, after today, no longer my place to refer to the Gabber as “us” –they are no longer my family, except, perhaps, in my heart.
You, my friends, are still my family, although I think you will find me far less useful to you than you may have in the past. That’s OK; I am happy being me, just me, with no press credentials after my name. My home and, most importantly, my heart remains in Gulfport.
I have not made this decision easily. My heart is breaking, but for some time now the paper has been my security blanket, the home in which I nestled into and wrapped around myself. It was wonderful, warm and cozy, but it also kept me from, as Bilbo says, from stepping out onto the road. I held the Gabber up as an excuse, a reason I couldn’t be more or do more. It’s time for me to prove to myself I can. I’ve given myself a year to do just that, and, well, if I can’t churn something out in a year and make a go of it, I hope Pia’s or PJ’s or O’Maddy’s can find a spot for me behind the bar (I do, incidentally, make the best margarita I’ve ever tasted) next January. I don’t know what will happen, but I do know this: If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen out there, not in my cozy hobbit hole.
I will be forever grateful to Ken and Deb Reichart for being so good to me in the past, but my time at the Gabber is done. It is time for me to open the door, blink in the sunlight, and take that first step.
“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!”
– Bilbo Baggins
And so, my faithful friends, until we meet again.