When we’re dreaming of big things, sometimes seemingly unattainable things, we are told, “You have stars in your eyes.”
Well, today’s column is my story of dreams and stars.
I’m a lucky guy, a blessed guy, really. And I’ve always been a big dreamer, even as a boy growing up on Simerly Creek Road.
Since August 2012, I’ve been living out a dream. Or, you might say, I’ve been working on a dream at the Elizabethton Star.
For many years, I wanted to be publisher of the Elizabethton Star, the newspaper I grew up with and where my first byline, at 13 years old, appeared. But, sometimes, we tuck our dreams away on dusty shelves in our mind.
So no one was more surprised than I when Nathan Goodwin and his family called me up in Lafayette, La., and asked if I’d come home to manage the Star and become its next publisher. Nathan, who was publisher at the time, wanted to take a step back and pursue other avenues of interest. He was, truly, a dream maker for me.
Even when it’s a dream we’ve always wanted, we are often unprepared for it when it comes our way. This was certainly the case.
When I received the offer, Amy and I had only been in Lafayette for 18 months. We’d left Tennessee so Amy could pursue her own dream job, so we became two Tennessee transplants in Cajun Country. In Tennessee, I had been publisher of The Erwin Record for 13 years, and with my move to Lafayette, I quickly secured an editor’s position at The Daily Advertiser, a large newspaper owned by Gannett, one of the world’s biggest media companies.
So there we were, living out another dream. I had left behind a job I loved in Erwin, so Amy could find her own place in the world, and she shined — yes, like a star — in her new job.
When the call came from Nathan, Amy could see the stars in my eyes. I wanted the job. I wanted to live the dream.
So we created what is known as a commuter marriage — where you live in two places and travel back and forth to work. Since 2012, we’ve been doing just that. Working in Louisiana and Tennessee and meeting up in one of those places. We missed each other. Cried when we met up. Cried when departing for another week apart.
Dreams, you see, don’t always come easily.
Amy and I have had a shared dream, too. We’ve dreamed about retiring to the Lowcountry of South Carolina. The ocean and the tides speak to us like nothing else. For many years, we have felt “home” there, even though we both grew up and lived most of our lives in the Tennessee mountains.
Last year, Amy had an offer to join the executive team at a hospital system on the coast of South Carolina, the very place that had called to us for so long. Another dream, it seemed, was about to unfold, so we moved from Lafayette and bought a new house on Dec. 2 at Pawleys Island, S.C.
Our commuter marriage could work just as it did between Lafayette and Elizabethton. It would be a much shorter distance. I could drive it, rather than fly. We could live in our dream location beginning in our 40s, not when we’ve both reached retirement age.
Like I said, I’m a lucky guy.
But, to be honest, I’ve missed my old life, where, at the end of the day, Amy and I and our little dog plop down on a couch and let the world go by. Togetherness is an underrated necessity of life.
I came to the final conclusion this week — and I’d been thinking about it for some time now — that I want a life free of commute, of half-packed suitcases, of airplanes and of goodbye kisses. I no longer want to live under different stars than Amy.
So, readers, I’m saying goodbye to the Elizabethton Star. I love the people here, and I hope I’ve made lifelong connections. I hope I’ve had a positive influence at this newspaper I’ve loved since I was a boy.
The newspaper has new owners, Boone Newspapers Inc., and Jim Boone and the management team had asked me to stay on as publisher. Truthfully, I was excited about the new challenge, but I also knew this new beginning for the Star was the perfect opportunity for me, too.
I’ll still be around for a few weeks, as the company seeks a new publisher, who I will, most likely, work with for a short time.
I’ll write more about the change and my time here at the Star in upcoming columns, but this morning, I hung a sign by the front door of my new home in South Carolina. It says, simply, “Wish Upon a Star.”
I have, and I will.