-- Thomas Wolfe, Novelist
You Can’t Go Home Again
Maybe you really can go home after all.
In all respect to the memory of Thomas Wolfe and his fictional character George Webber -- whose mythical journey back to the town, to the people and to the places of his youth led only to bitter disappointment -- maybe you really can go home.
That’s because “home” isn’t always green grass, familiar faces and a backyard swing. Sometimes it’s an unexplained warmth, a special feeling or a personal comfort like hot chocolate on a cold winter’s eve. “Home” isn’t always a physical thing as much as it is something of the heart, the mind and the spirit. “Home” is sometimes your beginning, the time in your life that you believe your life began.
After a 21-year absence, I have returned to a place I always considered my home ... the Cleveland Daily Banner, the newspaper that brought a rural, West Tennessee boy to the mountains and the company where I launched a continuing 33-year career in journalism. It is the newspaper that gave me a chance as a fledgling reporter right out of college in 1977 and the instructor that taught me some valuable lessons between student life and the real world. Back then I had a hairline, less waistline and no facial lines. Today, I have more forehead ... and probably more of everything else as well.
So why leave newspaper work in the first place? If it’s something you loved, why end this 12-year affair? You leave because you’re young, you’re eager and you believe you’re following your dream. You’re chasing opportunity and you’re conquering the world. It’s a great ride and you’re learning while doing. But the longer you’re away from your first love, the more you miss it. And the more you miss it, the keener your understanding of that adage about having “ink in your blood.”
That’s not to say I regretted spending 21 years in public information and community relations work for one of Bradley County’s finest non-profit organizations (United Way) and later for global manufacturers Maytag and Whirlpool. To quote that TV commercial, the experiences at both were “priceless,” the number of new friends made were countless and the memories of both will be everlasting.
But, the burn for returning to my first love -- newspapers -- grew stronger each day that I was away.
That’s when opportunity knocked ... and the decision became mine on whether to open the door. It wasn’t an easy decision, nor was it painless. My personal loyalties toward employers have always run deep -- especially to those who have given me opportunities. Yet, change is a part of life and change can be good. Change refreshes. Change inspires. Change helps find your way ... even when you don’t know you’re looking for a new direction.
Now I have returned to the Cleveland Daily Banner ... to a place of my youth, to a teacher that helped me to grow and to a place I have always called home. Many of the faces have changed since my first time here, but the unique bond between those living the same vision remains.
The welcoming has been overwhelming ... so many smiles, so many handshakes and so many offers to help me re-learn the ropes. These newspaper folks are good people who work hard and who believe in their community.
They are my new family.
I feel I am home.
And Mr. Webber, it is good to be home.