I spent Thanksgiving away from Augusta, retreating with my family to the mountains of North Carolina. It was a break I thought I needed. I was, admittedly, feeling a little overwhelmed by professional, personal, social and civic obligations. Too much to do and too little time to do it in. Augusta, I felt, was wearing me down.
It’s a funny thing however.
After a few days of relaxation, of fresh air and family time, I started to feel a little distracted. It came to a head a couple of days after Thanksgiving. I woke up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep. I’m not saying Augusta was responsible – I think more credit is due to a small child and a bad pillow. But the sleepless hours that followed did offer me the opportunity to read without interruption, write a little and, more importantly, reflect.
And what I reflected on is Augusta.
When I first started writing for the paper, 15 years ago next week, it was my intention to return to the town I had abandoned as a young man, reconnect with some old friends and perhaps repay some unsettled debts with the community that I might have maligned in my youth. And then I thought I would move on.
Clearly that has not been the case and that is what I found was keeping me awake.
I have made it my habit to talk a good game where Augusta is concerned. I lightly chide those who insist there is nothing to do in town, nothing the community can offer. I have tried to explain to friends and family that live elsewhere – some of them Augusta expats – why I have chosen to stay. But in recent years, this has become more habit than earnest opinion. They were things I said because I had once believed them, and while I thought I believed them still, hadn’t really considered the truth or fiction of my Augusta affection for some time.
Until it kept me up.
I thought about the opportunities Augusta has offered me, again both professionally and personally. I thought about the people, past and present, that I had been able to call friend. I thought about the news I had been able to witness, cover and present. I thought about how different my life might have been if I had stayed in any one of the places – England or California or Washington – I had lived between my Augusta childhood and my return as an adult.
Would it have been better? Would it have been worse? I can’t say. It certainly would have been different. And while circumstances might have differed, one thing I feel certain of, something that became very clear to me during my sleepless night.
I would not have felt as fulfilled.
And so, next week, I will celebrate sharing my life with the readers for 15 years quietly – probably with nothing more than a moment of silent observation spent alone. But I want all who read this column to know that there will be no melancholy in it. Being part of this community has been, and will continue to be, my great pleasure.
Thank you for continuing to allow me that privilege and hopefully we will have the good fortune to continue the conversation we started back in 1999 for another fruitful 15.