By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Occasionally in life people actually achieve their dreams.
While my own dreams did not exactly tally out as I’d imagined them during my younger years, life does have a way of compensating some dreams with a more realistic but fulfilling dream.
My love for writing developed while just in elementary school, with great influence from my extremely creatively talented mother. Mom wrote poems, sang with a beautiful alto voice, and loved music in general. “Back in the day” of phonographs and vinyl records, I remember listening to polkas and orchestra music, watching Lawrence Welk on the sometimes-working televisions we had, and learning about the ‘big band’ music of the 1960s.
I read many of the poems that Mom had written and, coupled with my love of reading, began writing my own poems when I was just in fifth grade. That evolved into short stories during the sixth and seventh grades when some other friends and I had our own unnamed ‘writing club.’
After years of writing research papers for college classes, I spared some time for poetry but abandoned it until 1987, when I began writing again. A few copies of “Writer’s Digest” later, I submitted my poem, “Oblivion,” which was published in a poetry book. Another poem is now registered in a poetry publication with the Library of Congress. Altogether, 14 poems are featured in a variety of poetry books published between 1987 and 1994.
My big break came in January 1995, when I interviewed for a reporter position at The Sentinel-Echo. My sample feature story was about my upcoming 20th high school reunion. Then-publisher Darrell Hathcock not only asked to run my story, he offered me the job I’d always dreamed of. I was anxious to see if I could write on demand rather than just as the inspiration struck.
My career in writing has had its ups and downs through the 18 years since I was first hired at The Sentinel-Echo, even counting my eight-year absence in pursuit of another career.
The experience at The Sentinel-Echo has provided more learning opportunities than the five years I spent in college. The never-ending challenges of generating and creating stories of interest to our readers is the perfect format for increasing our own knowledge of the people and lifestyles of our own community.
While my childhood dreams perhaps did not play out as I once hoped, I have found my place in the working world. Few people in this world will openly admit that they truly love their job. I am one of those few. I work with some of the most wonderful people in this town, especially those who have to share a workplace with me every day. Carrie Dillard, Magen McCrarey, Denis House, Carol Mills, Sue Minton and myself are a team that mesh together in an extraordinarily productive manner that has earned our newspaper many awards over the past several years. And they put up with me very well.
While my childhood dreams of great wealth and fame have not fallen into the perspective I once hoped for, I can truly say that my time at The Sentinel-Echo has indeed been a dream come true and my co-workers are some of my best friends in life.
With these precious memories in mind, it is with deep chagrin that I announce my departure from this band of outstanding people. It is a sad experience that will leave a huge empty spot in my everyday life, including the community contacts who have also become my friends. However, with life’s unexpected turns and twists, I find it necessary to open another chapter in my life with the knowledge that my time here has been one of the most rewarding ever.
And in case you’ve forgotten what today is -- April Fool’s!
When I rejoined The Sentinel-Echo in January 2010, I told several people that they would “have to carry my dead body” out of this place, because after two prior exits from this group of dedicated and talented people, I did not intend to ever leave here again. The re-joining of this group was like coming back home after a long absence and it is one I plan to continue until I am no longer able to drive, walk, or crawl into the front door of this place.
I am home, and to quote Dorothy from my all-time favorite movie, The Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home!” I am so grateful for all the opportunities I have been given from this ‘home.’