The arrival of Labor Day is like the playing of “Last Dance,” at a wedding. What, it’s over already? But we just started dancing…
Endings are hard, and always sneak up us, but they must be marked. Consider this my farewell to readers of MSNBC’s Red Tape Chronicles…and the announcement of what I’m doing next.
I hated the first day of school. I mean cried-in-my-bed-all-night hated the first day of school, pleaded take-this-cup-from-me like Jesus at Gethsemane on the night before the first day of school. It wasn’t so much that I hate school. I just loved playing stickball in the church parking lot all day more than anything. There seemed no good reason to break this routine, to leave all my friends, to pack away my baseball glove and ratty tennis balls, and be forced to wake up at an ungodly hour to sit in a hard chair all day.
This feeling returns periodically. When I’m on vacation, the first steps towards home always ding my heart. The moment we head back to the hotel after the last vacation dinner. On a road trip, like the one I just finished, the first time I turn around and am headed home instead of heading for adventure.
Labor Day isn’t the end of summer, of course. It’s just a step on the path that began June 21, the summer solstice, when longer days turn to shorter days, and yes, I feel that same tinge to my heart then. But after Labor Day, things change. There’s no putting off the inevitable now. Where are those sweaters?
While endings do sneak up on you, there’s a paradox at play. You always know things are ending before they end. In my youth, a young lady in the middle of a tortured part of breaking up with me compared herself to a leaf clinging to a tree branch during windy days of fall, its fate sealed but still trying to be beautiful. Fall foliage fills my heart with deep and rich feelings.
And so that’s how I feel today. A few weeks ago, I moved on from MSNBC.com, now NBCNews.com, after 18 years. Permit me one more paragraph of indulgence. I was the longest-running employee of the place when I left, having moved the Redmond, Wash. in 1995 as an intern to help start it. Back then, if you could write HTML, you could be a news executive, and I was incredibly lucky to have become a coding hack while at the University of Missouri the year before. I am well aware that during the last two decades, this stroke of pure luck meant I had a great job — I would often say the last good job in journalism — while fellow journalists who were much more talented than me languished. I owe so much to the folks at MSNBC, but it’s time for the leaf to fall.
Endings are, of course, always beginnings. I miss the newsroom every day, miss being part of a prestigious organization like NBC, I really miss my friends, and I wish them all the success in the world. To be sure, let me not trivialize the far, far more difficult employment farewells that are forced on millions of Americans every year – mine was blissfully voluntary. And of course, leaving a job is nothing like losing a loved one, or losing a pet.
Still, I have a taken a bit of a leap of faith. I have accepted the dream job of being a full-time author and free-lance writer.
This means I do not know where my next paycheck will come from. But in truth, nothing is guaranteed. As a teacher warned me many years ago, there’s only one letter difference between “writer” and “waiter,” so it’s very good I have my service industry skills to fall back on if need be.
I will be setting out on an exciting new book project. You’ll hear more about it when the time is right. In the meantime, of course I can’t help but write about all the topics I care so much about — hidden fees, credit complaints, unfair trade practices and sneaky corporations on one side; computer hacking, identity theft, online child safety, and privacy on the other. I will blog, a bit more freestyle, at BobSullivan.net. I have also partnered with the folks at Credit.com, who will publish and syndicate some of my stories. I hope to contribute to various NBC properties still. I’ll pop up in lots of other places, too.
I plan to continue fighting to make the world a little more fair. Naturally, my biggest thrills came when I would intercede on behalf of a reader and get a company to do the right thing. My biggest fear is that, without the implied threat of public shaming via a major media company, I won’t be nearly as good at that now. That’s where you come in.
Please stay in touch. If we can keep Red Tape readers together, we can still be a force. If you’ve ever even considered telling a friend about me, please do so now. Tell him or her to sign up for the newsletter on this page, or follow me on Facebook or Twitter. If you have something to say, visit my (beta!) Gotcha page, and leave comments or story suggestions there.
I always hate the first day that it’s dark before 8 p.m. — can’t help it. It means cold days are coming, flowers are dying, and playing outside is about to end. Best as I can tell, shorter days always mean the pace of the world speeds up, a foolish compensation in which we all drive each other crazy. That day will be here soon, if it isn’t here already for you. Don’t tell me I shouldn’t be sad about it. It’s part of life. The sun setting on my life’s work makes me sad, too.
But that’s not the only thing I feel. There is also delicious excitement that comes with being somewhere entirely new, like the first few moments you step out of the airplane into a new (to you) European city. And the end of one thing means the beginning of another. Sitting outside will be replaced by sitting next to a fireplace in a coffee shop. Playing catch will turn into reading a book. Heels turn into boots. Baseball turns into hockey. So much to look forward to!
Yes, you can be sad and excited at the same time, and I couldn’t feel much more of both right now. As summer makes the big turn to winter this Labor Day weekend, I wish you large helpings of both.
Again, please stay in touch. Write to me here. Or at Bob @ BobSullivan dot net.