During the last 10 years, I've written about many profoundly personal topics in this paper: post-partum depression, struggles with weight, conflicts in marriage and parenting disasters, to name just a few. And yet, none of those columns felt quite as hard to write as this one.
Because as the old maxim goes, it really is hard to say goodbye.
For a variety of reasons, too many to possibly detail with any accuracy, I'll be leaving my post here today.
If ever there was a moment in my life that fit the definition of bittersweet, it is this one.
Sweet because, after much contemplation about life, the universe and everything, I've decided to step away from the work world for a time and "stay home" with my little ones, now five and two-and-a-half. I'd be lying if I said I'm not ecstatic about this and counting the days till the word "commute" means the time it takes to get from our house to the elementary school.
On the other hand, it is most definitely equal parts bitter.
I have loved every moment of being part of this team and, on a more philosophical level, being part of the institution of the press, particularly on the community level.
I have loved telling stories. I have loved meeting amazing people (for the record, the most amazing are usually not those in positions of great power - they are the volunteers, the quiet and hard-working people who make up a school community or a neighbourhood, the seniors with incredible life stories, the people facing illness or disease or life experiences with incredible courage).
I have loved the feeling that, in some small way, my effort made a difference in someone's life. (I've never been quite so moved as a writer as I was the day that several readers emailed to tell me they had cut out a column to read to their own children, in one case tucked away in a baby book until the child in question was old enough to understand.)
I have loved seeing communities in action: to watch people like Jeanne Fike at Burnaby Family Life, as her incredible enthusiasm for life and people whirls its way through that organization; to have heard from people like Joan Lee, former principal at Stride Avenue Community School in Burnaby, as the neighbourhood pulled together in the wake of a fire; to have felt the passion and dedication of Dave Brown at Lookout Emergency Aid Society as he recounted the ever-increasing challenges of helping the homeless; to hear the love and affection in the voice of Marion Ralston as she recalled falling in love with her husband 60 years past in a small New West ice cream parlour.
These are but a few examples of the hundreds of people I've been lucky enough to cross paths with over the last many years, whose stories and contributions to the concept of "community" have impacted not just their own neighbourhoods, but those who read their stories - and ultimately, my own life as well.
We reporters are meant to be "above the fray," objective and impartial, to translate what we see and hear accurately and fairly - and we certainly do that. It's a guiding principal in our everyday actions.
And yet, I could not have been true to myself, or to these wonderful communities I've worked in, had I not also listened to the lessons being shared by my stories' subjects. So listen I have.
And here is what I've heard: that life, truly, is short. That people are the most important thing in our world - both the people we know and love, but also those who we live amongst and those we may never meet. That if you feel passion for something, you pursue it; if you feel troubled by something, you learn about it; if you see a wrong, you fix it. That if no one else steps up when the time comes, you must be brave enough to do it yourself. That our communities are a family, a wagon train that - when trouble arrives - will circle to protect its own.
Do these things sound clichÃ©? Perhaps. But they're also true.
And they're what I'll take with me as I pack up my last box and clear out my desk drawer.
I hope they'll inform my life and decisions as I move forward, now with more time to become engaged in my own neighbourhood and school community and family.
In truth, this is an unexpected curve in a path that once seemed straight and clear.
Though I can't yet see around that bend, I know good things are waiting up ahead - and I'll never tire of learning, of observing and ultimately of sharing stories.
So perhaps, dear readers, this is not so much goodbye, but "until we meet again." Because I suspect we will.
Christina Myers is a long-time reporter with the Burnaby NOW and New Westminster Record, and a mom of two. She can be reached on Twitter at @ ChristinaMyersA or by email through this newspaper, edi firstname.lastname@example.org.
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