Happy Trails, Part 36

I’m staring a big anniversary — if you want to call it such — in the face. It’s two days away, but I thought I would share a thought or two today and then call it good.

First, I wish to make this declaration: Separation anxiety from a professional career is vastly overrated. I am living, breathing proof of that reality. It’s true and I’ll tell you why.

I won’t belabor you with many details of my sudden departure from daily journalism, which occurred on Aug. 30, 2012. Two days short of five years ago, I was told — in the midst of a “company reorganization” — that I no longer would be doing my job at the Amarillo Globe-News, which was to edit the paper’s opinion pages. Someone else — a colleague who formerly worked under my supervision — would do that job. We competed for my job and my employer decided to go with him.

Thus, a career that produced untold joy and satisfaction for yours truly for nearly 37 years came to screeching halt. I worked at the Globe-News for nearly 18 years and I thought I was doing a pretty good job. Silly me.

I walked out of my office, went home, came back the next day, cleared out my office — and was gone. I decided to quit immediately.

But I moved on. I stayed in the game, more or less, over the next few years. I was able to land part-time freelance gigs: writing a blog for Panhandle PBS; writing news features for KFDA NewsChannel 10’s website; helping edit a weekly newspaper in Tucumcari, N.M. I worked for six months as a juvenile supervision officer at the Randall County Youth Center of the High Plains. I worked as a customer service greeter at Street Toyota for about three years.

One by one those jobs went away. The Street Toyota job was the last one. Then in March, I decided to walk away from that.

I’ve been a full-time retiree ever since.

I also have spent little time looking back on the career that in many ways defined me. I have many more pleasant memories of those many years than negative ones. I got to travel around the world. I was honored to meet and interact with the most fascinating characters imaginable. I helped chronicle the stories that make communities tick. I got to help shape public opinion on pressing issues of the day.

I used to joke that I had the “best job in town, because I am allowed to foist my opinion on thousands of people every day.”

That was then. My final years as a journalist became a lot less fun than the earlier times. The Globe-News fell victim to the changing pressures being put on print publications. The top management didn’t do nearly enough to salvage employees’ morale as the paper struggled to build a new business model in this changing climate.

I’ve discovered this truth, too. It is that full-time retirement is all that it’s cracked up to be. My wife and I have been able to continue traveling. We’ll do much more of it in our fifth wheel RV — while we prepare to relocate to another community so we can live closer to our adorable granddaughter.

The Globe-News has been purchased by another corporate media company. Morris Communications, which owned the paper for more than four decades has decided to get out of newspaper publishing. They’re saying all the correct things publicly about how sad they are, and how GateHouse Media will continue its commitment to “community journalism.”

We’ll see about that.

I’m left, then, to offer a word of backhanded thanks to the company that told me five years ago that its plans to enact — in Globe-News publisher Lester Simpson’s words — “radical change” wouldn’t include me. It dawned on me some time ago that he spared me from the misery many of my former colleagues have endured.

I appreciate the freedom — and the time — to write this blog. I’m unfettered, unchained, unrestricted, unleashed, unencumbered … you name it. I can speak my mind.

Separation anxiety from daily journalism? Pfftt!

Life is great, man!

4 thoughts on “Happy Trails, Part 36”

  1. John: In retrospect, getting fired early on was one of the best things which ever happened to me. I have built a long-term second career which allowed me semi-retirement early without all the stress and I did not have to defend the indefensible. Larry

  2. John, this piece really struck a chord with me…my broadcasting career careened off the track after a very long haul at KVII, and I heard much the same chatter from the new management. And of course, as I realized later, it all comes down to money. However, after drifting and free lancing for a bit, I got very lucky and landed a position at KACV… opening new opportunities to do good work, travel and meet great people…including freelance journalists!

    Just know that as I top the hill and look down the other side I find great encouragement in your Happy Trails series…I’ve been struggling with the thought of empty time on my hands and regrets in my heart…and you are answering questions I’ve yet to ask. Happy Trails brother, and keep it between the lines!

  3. The last six months of my 18 years at AGN were so bad, my dismissal in 2008 was an act of mercy. Johnny, you done good. I hope you have many more years of freedom ahead.

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