One of my favorite passages of scripture is Isaiah 43.
This is a prophetical chapter that deals with the liberation of Israel from Babylonian control. That context must not be forgotten when reading the words therein, but I think we can make personal applications from God’s words in the chapter.
I have always found comfort in the promises God speaks in these verses. Things like, “I will be with you when you pass through the waters” and rivers “will not overwhelm you” and, “Do not fear, for I am with you.”
The meanings contained in this one chapter have provided me comfort at various points in my life. There have been times I felt like I passed through the waters, but he was always with me. He made sure that the rivers I’ve crossed did not overwhelm me. And in times where I’ve had fear or anxiety, I’ve known deep down that he was with me.
Those are words that I will carry with me throughout my entire lifetime. There is one other section of Isaiah 43 that hits home to me right now, though.
“Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth…”
There is a “new thing” dawning in my life. I am leaving Smith Communications. Effective next Friday, Oct. 16, I will no longer be the regional sports editor of Lake Oconee News and The Eatonton Messenger.
This is a bittersweet moment for me.
I floundered in unemployment for a few months after graduating from the University of Georgia in May 2016. That July, I received an out-of-the-blue email from then-LON associate editor Jackie Gutknecht. She stumbled across my personal website, which included my resume and published works, after I randomly followed LON on Instagram. She saw that I was looking for a job, so she emailed me and asked me to come in and interview.
I met with Jackie and the other associate editor at the time, T. Michael Stone (the ‘T’ stands for talent), and general manager Mark Smith Jr. I felt that we all made a positive connection right away. There was a squirrely moment, though, when Michael asked whether I felt Fred McGriff belongs in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. When I said no, I could tell Michael disagreed. I have since come around to his way of thinking.
The most important element of that interview, I suppose, was that I struck up a great relationship with Mark. I’m sure he was the one who ultimately made the call to hire me and give me my first ‘real’ job. I started on Aug. 11, 2016.
My friendship with Mark blossomed over the next few years until his unexpected passing in September 2019. I miss him all the time.
It would have been an extremely difficult conversation, but I used to envision that my departure from LON would begin with a face-to-face conversation with Mark. He once jokingly told me that if he walked into our office in 10 years and still saw me at my desk, he would fire me on the spot. He knew that I have lofty long-term goals and he was going to make sure I pursue them.
I will dearly miss the friendships I established at this company. From those mentioned already to our current associate editor, Leila Scoggins, former associate editor Emily McClure, our magazine editor, Lynn Hobbs, former magazine editor Beverley Harvey, recent co-worker Katie O’Neal and a bunch of advertising reps (I’ll mention Anjie Brown by name, only because I know she’ll be upset if I don’t) and many others, I’ve encountered so many quality people at this company. And I can’t forget our rock star page designers, Josh Lurie and Brandon Park. They are the ones who made our sports sections look good the last four-plus years.
Two of my best friends within the company were my former Any Given Friday co-hosts Wil Petty and Brandon Bush. AGF stopped after their departures but now all members of our little trio are officially gone. Brandon, Wil and I always had a grand time recording those podcasts that no one ever listened to. The best parts were always our off-air banter, usually about why Brandon’s Auburn Tigers suck, and a few on-air moments that forced us to stop recording because we were laughing so much. My life’s dream is to get Brandon and former New York Giants coach Ben McAdoo in the same room at some point. Quick shout-out to former stringer Trevor Bowden who was a part of AGF while he freelanced with us.
COVID-19 forced all of us apart these last several months. I’ve missed the regular camaraderie we’ve shared, mostly on Wednesday mornings while editing the paper. I’ll miss talking with Leila about her passion for all things wrestling, Michael about the latest sports happenings and Josh about “The Office” references, not to mention all of our usual commentary on the stuff we report on.
I must also thank our publisher, Mark Smith Sr., for understanding the importance of strong sports coverage. While many small-town papers let sports coverage fall by the wayside, we’ve been given the liberty to do fun and creative things in our sports section and sports social media channels. They could not have happened without Mr. Smith’s support and approval.
All of these people I’ve mentioned and more work tirelessly to produce the very best product for our readers. I hope you will continue supporting them in their efforts to be the best news outlet in Lake Country. This place is second to none in that regard.
This is the first of at least two (possibly three) farewell columns from me. I had to start with my co-workers and appropriately highlight them and what they mean to me. I will forever cherish our times at SCI.
Because it’s like Creed Bratton said in “The Office” finale:
“No matter how you get there or where you end up, human beings have this miraculous gift to make that place home.”