In college, I had a friend, Pete, who hated when I'd say, "go straight." He'd be driving us to some party or club and I'd be reading off the directions I'd written down (yes, with pen and paper. I'm old), and I'd say something like, "OK, at the next light, go straight."
"I will do no such thing!" Pete would yell, feigning outrage.
I'd sigh and roll my eyes. As a gay man, Pete loved pretending to take offense at my command. Rather than "going straight," he preferred, as he relished in reminding me, to go "gallantly forward."
I think about that often when I'm behind the wheel, and it always makes me smile. The phrase has been in my head even more frequently lately, as I brace for some serious change in my life.
After 12 years, I'm moving on from the newspaper job I started right out of college.
The decision to step away from the only life I've ever known as an adult was not hastily made. I love a lot about what I do. Some things, I love less. But I know it, I understand it, and I'm good enough at it to have used it to help me build the life I want so far. I met many friends through my job. I met my husband at work. Walking away from all that history gives me pause.
But my life is nowhere near what it was when I stepped into this role at age 21, the biggest change, of course, being Libby. My daughter has completely reshaped my priorities and right now, that means being home more. I found part-time work that will let me do just that, so it's time to move on. A decision that once might have caused me great anguish is now as clear as it can get.
Yet that doesn't mean I won't miss what I do. On one of my last days in the office, someone said what a shame it is that my daughter will never know that her mother was a journalist. I'll never let that be true. I can't wait to tell her about all the great things I got to do because of my job, all the amazing people I met, all the places I went. I'll show her my clips and pull things up online and bore her to death with story of how I interviewed Jimmy Fallon and how he loved my voice recording app and said I was like a spy (swoon!).
But more than anything, I want her to know how much I cared. All the people I interviewed trusted me to tell their stories, share their sides of things, let their voices be heard. I never, ever lost sight of what an immense responsibility that was.
As I cleaned off my desk today, I peeled off a handwritten note I'd stuck to my computer screen years ago. It came from a 63-year-old man I interviewed just days before he and his wife left for a two-year stint with the Peace Corps in Moldova. He'd written it down to remember a quote from Roberto Clemente that summed up why he and his wife were doing what they were doing.
It reads: "If you have a chance to make life better for others and fail do so, you are wasting your time on this earth."
I read that note every single day I worked at the newspaper.
I hope I didn't waste any time.
Now, gallantly forward.