The trouble with having two great loves is that it makes for difficult good-byes.
That is the situation I find myself in today. I have very much enjoyed reporting during my five years with the Peninsula Clarion. But all the time I have been a reporter, I have also been a volunteer emergency medical technician and firefighter.
I often tell people the two jobs are similar. Both provide a public service, and neither reporters nor firefighters know what they will face when they report for work. I'm never bored.
Reporting has fed my family for the last 10 years. Now, I'm jumping to the other track. I start a full-time job Monday with Chena Goldstream Fire & Rescue in Fairbanks.
It's a difficult choice. I'll miss my friends on the Kenai Peninsula, where I have lived for 20 of the last 22 years.
But I'm 48 years old, and if I ever plan to be a full-time firefighter, I'd better try it now. This is an opportunity I just can't pass. I'll learn a lot and see a new part of the state. I've never lived in Interior Alaska.
Maybe I'll do some free-lancing, too.
Meanwhile, I want to thank all the people who have shared their lives with me, the Clarion and their neighbors. A good newspaper is a window on the community, and it can't be that without the help of the people.
Sometimes, reporting is just plain fun. I'm amazed with the things people do. I've enjoyed writing about gold panning, fishing on Cook Inlet, hunting dog trials and Native language and cultural revival in Nanwalek.
One of the glories of reporting is that it takes you places the average Joe never sees: maintaining aids to navigation with a Coast Guard cutter, touring a Cook Inlet oil platform, seeing Chup'ik dancers perform in a Bristol Bay village and touring Nikiski chemical plants with visiting Chinese dignitaries.
Sometimes reporting opens a window for people to see all the good things going on around them. Sometimes, it lets them see where the problems are or where they have an opportunity to make a difference.
Either way, it's a weighty responsibility for the reporter to be fair and accurate when people agree to spread their lives and opinions across the front page. So, I thank those of you who have trusted me. I hope I've done it well.
Writing has given me a huge appreciation not only for the people around me, but also for the wonderful nation in which we live. There are so many countries where I'm not sure I'd have the courage to write -- places where reporters get shot or disappear.
While the debate at the borough assembly isn't always earthshaking, the process is. It's a wonderful system our forefathers established, where every person has the right to his own opinion, and people have the opportunity to weigh all sides before making a decision. It's so easy being a reporter here.
My reasons for volunteering in emergency services have changed over the years. I joined the Homer Volunteer Fire Department in 1989 to give back some of what the Cordova fire department gave to me after a family member was poisoned. Later, I became an adrenaline junkie. And what kid doesn't want to sit in a big red truck?
But the teamwork is what really has kept me involved through the years. Most jobs take teamwork, but none takes more than a fire department. It makes good friends.
I'll miss the Kenai Peninsula, and I know my family will, too. There is nothing to compare with the people, the Kenai River or the Kenai Mountains.
So, don't think you're rid of us forever. Someday, we'll retire here.
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