The most human kind of column connects with readers through a shared emotion or experience. If that's the case, this could be one of the best I've written.
This is my last day as a Charlotte Observer local columnist. No, my job has not been outsourced to India. It is just going away.
You can read the same story on front pages across the country. It's happening to men and women caught in a faltering economy, anxious about what's going to happen next.
Strange as it may sound, I feel lucky. I have it better than most.
My husband, who took the first Observer buyout this summer, is working and going to school. He's close enough to commute by bicycle. And the best part? His job has benefits.
I admit I feel a bit adrift. All my life, I've worked in jobs. (The 10-month Nieman Fellowship at Harvard was a gift.) There's a certain rhythm that goes with having a place to land every day.
You have a work family that's affectionate, supportive and occasionally as dysfunctional as your home family.
I became a journalist because I truly believe that a free press – flawed as it can sometimes be – is essential in a democracy. In a complicated world, it's more important than ever to seek and share information. The people I work with feel the same way.
I will miss them, though I believe more than ever in our mission.
Most of all, I will miss the readers. Maybe not the 10 percent who think I'm the devil – but all the rest. When I came to Charlotte 14 years ago, I had never lived this far south.
The newcomers and the Charlotte natives – all 47 of them – made the transition easy. You have become the friends I never see.
You write and call with story ideas. You tell me if your spouse is sick or when your child gets married. I've served on community boards and found a church – among the many to choose from – that feels just right.
I traveled with the Panthers to their first Super Bowl and have faith they will make it back.
Just weeks ago, when someone who had taken sheet music from a school 35 years ago sent me $100 and asked me to make it right, I knew that Charlotte was special.
It's a city that is still wrestling with issues such as school quality and homelessness. It hasn't given up. A New South can embrace the future without abandoning its history.
You can catch my work on the Nieman Watchdog blog (http://blog.nie manwatchdog.org), listen for me on the radio (NPR occasionally) and look for freelance commentaries. I have a Facebook page and hope to have my own Web site up soon.
As my sister told me, “Don't call it a reinvention. Think of what's been there all along.”
If you continue to share your stories – at firstname.lastname@example.org – I will find a way to tell them. And I still want to know how the kids are doing.
Though being caught in a cold economy isn't exactly the experience I'd choose to share with readers, the 14-year journey has been a privilege and a pleasure.
Even in tough times, I have the feeling that Charlotte believes in better days ahead.
Surely I can follow that example.