Cruising the Pacific and moving on

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut

Cruising the Pacific Ocean is an up-and-down adventure. Our cabin on our Royal Caribbean ship is on the second deck, so the waves are not too far below us. The first two days, we were rocking-and-rolling, which wasn’t too bad for sleeping but a little unsteadying for walking!

After six days at sea, we will dock in Honolulu today and Maui tomorrow, then back at sea for another long stretch as we make our way to Fiji and several stops on islands in that part of the world.

My mind is far away as I write this, however. My ever-present calendar popped up with a reminder this morning – not that I would ever forget Oct. 10: “Announcement of Closing of Blount Today.”

It will be six years on Oct. 13 since we published our last issue of Blount Today, a weekly community newspaper in Blount County. I was privileged to be the publisher of the paper from the first issue to the last, seven years of hard work, extreme pride and real joy. Closing the paper was a corporate decision. I know now that it was just the first of many bad decisions that Scripps and then Gannett would make in the East Tennessee newspaper world.

I am not someone who dwells on the past. I celebrate the successes, take time to mourn the losses, hopefully learn from the mistakes, and then I move on. Moving on from Blount Today, however, has been a process. I’m still not completely there.

There are two things that have made this process more complicated, and I think they have relevance to many I meet today who are either being forced to move on or who are doing it voluntarily in retirement.

The first roadblock is job satisfaction. The Blount County community embraced both the newspaper and its learn-as-we-go staff. After an initial “warming up to us” period, we enjoyed unbridled popularity and gratitude for our loving, genuine concern for and dedication to “all things Blount.” We became part of the fabric of the Blount County community, which is a fabulous postcard of small-town southern America that still keeps a progressive eye on the future. It was our Camelot, and I’m not sure it can ever be repeated.

The job satisfaction that came with doing that day-in-and-day-out has been hard to find in the new world. I still like what I do, but I still look for something to make me feel the sense of accomplishment I felt every Thursday morning as I held that newspaper in my hands.

The other roadblock is the people. The most universal response I hear when I ask friends how they are enjoying retirement or a new job is always, “Well, I miss the people I worked with.” That seems to be true whether they spent their life making widgets, covering a newspaper beat or managing an office.

Given the FACT that I had the best team imaginable at Blount Today, it is no wonder that – even six years later – I miss the people. We keep in touch, but I long for those every-day moments – watching Tessa embrace motherhood, seeing Dylan and Jackson and Joe’s trio of children grow up, enjoying Susan’s journey into becoming a grandmother, and, of course, the everyday dramas that swirl around Lance and Stefan! We worked hard together, but our love and concern for each other reached far beyond the office.

I will allow myself a day of nostalgia, tinged with a bit of sadness as I keep on moving on. If you are on a moving-on journey, embrace your new adventures. But don’t regret a sense of loss. There is nothing wrong with paying homage to an exceptional past.

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