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Looking beyond the job

Published March 26, 2007


Religious beliefs aside, evolution is a reality. We are all proof of that. But what we evolve into depends upon who we are.

When first told that closing the Citrus section of the St. Petersburg Times was a real possibility, I devolved. I panicked. I cried and I became infuriated with our CEO, Paul Tash, who happened to be the bearer of these bad tidings.

Our decisionmakers were led to believe it was our strong national, international and sports reporting that Citrus readers wanted most.

I think the letters and e-mails received by our editors and individual staffers expressing regret over the closing - plus the comments from our friends and the people who visit our offices - have laid rest to that notion.

However, the bean counters have spoken. The Citrus Times section ceases publication on April 2. So it is time to evolve once again.

For 16 years I defined myself by my job. Because it was the job I wanted since I was in my early teens, it wasn't work. It was my greatest pleasure.

This year I turn 65, another evolutionary step, but one I never feared until now.

Realizing the two major events would coincide scared up several demons, among them: the realization that I am dispensable; knowledge that to receive full Social Security I have to wait until next year; and fear that I won't know what to do with the time I'm not going into the office or working from home on Hometown Citrus.

But I am my mother's daughter. And one thing she taught me, well before the thought was put into words and music, is that I am a strong woman.

Rest assured, I will be just fine. Because I am evolving. No longer a working woman, I will become a retiree with a purpose.

I'll complete my college degree through distance learning. I'll learn to quilt so I can use this marvelous stash of fabrics I've accumulated over the years because "someday" I would have time. I may do some volunteer work. And I'll work on the novel that has danced around in my head, into my computer and onto the many pieces of paper that grab my thoughts when I can't immediately solidify them online.

And I'll have fun, because I will no longer worry about deadlines and dealing with an unruly system that makes it difficult, at best, to meet those deadlines from home.

But I will miss that marvelous group of people so generically called co-workers.

Truthfully, they are family - as dysfunctional as any, with skeletons in our closets and the occasional oddball relative (probably me) who makes us all laugh at our frailties.

I have watched as the young ones move on with their lives: some finding a home in other areas of Timesland, some marrying and starting families, and others moving away.

Our commonality is Citrus County, a boot camp for Pulitzer Prize nominees and winners.

Then there's the "old timers" like Barb Behrendt, the other Cat Lady; Greg Hamilton, whose folly led to my working in the Times offices; Jim Ross and his blush-able cheeks (that's a secret); Ron Thompson, a bah-humbug kind of guy with a heart of gold (usually); and ad rep Roger "Dodger" Osborne, who has a great sense of humor and a kind word when needed.

And of course there is Bonnie Willette.

Many of you know Bonnie. What you may not know is that Bonnie is a "swinger," and she tried to convert me to the practice. But that hand-held metal detector and those headphones are hot and heavy (pun intended) in the Florida heat.

Bonnie has always been there to lend a hand, especially after my hubby had his stroke and I had to work from home. Yes, Bonnie, I really do think of you as the chocolate in my life.

To those of you in the community who have shared your stories, your time and your good wishes, I'll miss you.

And I'll miss those regulars I've dealt with over the years who I count as friends: Jean Grant, former county fair manager and feisty old broad (I can say that. I'm one, too.); Jim Ehlers of the Citrus County Library System, who allowed me into his life - thanks for everything; the Rev. Leroy Bellamy, no longer with us, but always in my heart; Sheriff Jeff Dawsy, the consummate politician, always ready with a handshake or a hug; and sheriff's spokeswoman Gail Tierney, a beautiful woman both outside and in.

My space is limited and I have already surpassed my allotment, so if I have missed you, understand that it has been my pleasure to know you.

So, with a sense of loss, but also excitement, I'll say, arrivederci, adios, au revoir, auf wiedersehen - GOODBYE.

[Last modified March 26, 2007, 06:51:16]

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