It’s been a long time since I penned my first column.
That’s what I came to realize as I began typing this piece and having a professional epiphany so many years later. Truthfully I can’t remember how many years it’s been, as when I first started my Leader tenure I wasn’t quite seasoned enough to take on the concept.
Column writing is vastly different than reporting by way of sharing opinion versus noting facts. Some colleagues also view it as ego driven, as the idea of putting their opinion out there causes discomfort, I mean … Who really cares what reporters think? It’s a valid point, yet here I am.
I know I began this deal more than 16 years ago, well before I was pregnant with my first child. For the young reader, when I began column writing on-line news was still archaic and Blogging was not a “thing.” In truth, I’ve been so busy in my day job and raising two kids that I still kick myself for not being on the Blogger Pioneer Bandwagon.
That’s not ego talking, that’s actually realist thought, as I sit back and watch women (just like me) build empires, book deals and speaking engagements launched through blogging thought.
Yet, 17 (ish) years later 2019 has taught me the most about this space and how I approach it. So much so, that now maybe I’m ready to be a “blogger.” Okay, that’s sort of a joke as I recognize that ship has sailed to the point that many would just much rather read social media posts and move on. We shall see.
Yet I digress, which I have a gift for as well.
The past year taught me that our readers really love reading realism. As much as I would like to think I’ve been doing that all along, reflection helps me see I sugar coated it a bit more in the past than I have this past year.
When I first tried my hand at column space, in time negative feedback found its way. Thin skinned and just wanting to excel I confided in our Editor and my professional mentor. Her wisdom … perfect. Her words simple – “it’s your thoughts. If people don’t like it they can just skip the space.”
Now remember this was long before social media and blogging. There was no “scrolling” back then.
I’ve spent 2019 really working at authenticity. Listening to words of others in critical as well as non-incidental times. In so doing, I think some of this has made its way to this space and much to my surprise people like it.
Contrary to what may have been received from last week’s column, I have had more feedback via snail mail, e-mail, text and personal interaction on this space this year than my entire writing career. Not all has been good and that’s okay. Positive or not, I maintain my gratitude that people actually read my words, story or column wise.
So why share this now? Of all days I can offer this 17-plus year epiphany? Why share on Christmas? In short it’s all quite simple.
The first being the obvious. As a writer we are trained to stay neutral. Aside from the column space our personal opinion is not to leak into our work. I just wrote the word Christmas in a newspaper – blasphemy. That’s my holiday, as well as my religious belief. Those words can be read by anyone and you can trust and know I am not trying to convert you to Christianity. In addition I’m also not going to follow it with a list of other “Happy” PC seasonal wishes.
Remember the day when we could say Merry Christmas and people simply replied with a greeting which suited them – minus the criticism of the deliverer. Those were good times and I’m still living them. If someone takes offense from my genuine well wishes, well, that’s unfortunate – plain and simple.
There’s also recognition needed for the gift of still being able to share my thoughts and have them not only received but actually read. Thank you for that, friends of this space.
In closing and most importantly, I remain grateful for the precious gift of life. The year 2019 was tough on many fronts (transparency here). My health had a brief hiccup, as did my partner’s, my mother, my step father, passing of loved ones and a few other things. In short, welcome to life, but this chapter truly had some rough patches. Side note: we are healthy; scares can and should be good wake-ups on our overall health, especially as we grow older.
So as each of you fall upon these final words my hope is that you too may find a moment of reflection filled with gratitude. There’s a lot of life out there to live. Lives to be touched, hugs to be had and grace to be given. Regardless of the mess, the scares and the chaos; in the words of Peter Bailey, “All you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.” – It’s A Wonderful Life.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 847-3021.