From Downtown: Thank you to everyone in Minnesota for making saying goodbye so difficult

 

from downtown
In the summer of 2014, two friends and I squeezed into my buddy Ryan’s 1999
forest green Jeep Cherokee Sport and road-tripped all the way from our hometown of Arlington, Massachusetts, to Fort Collins, Colorado, to help him move into school.

We looked up and gawked at the skyscrapers in Chicago, marveled at Mount Rushmore and witnessed a beautiful sunset in Wyoming. There were several stops along the way, some more meaningful than others. When we stopped in Minnesota, I figured it was the last time I would be there for quite some time, if not ever.

I had no idea it was where I would spend one of the best years of my life.

More than a coincidence

When Ryan, Joe and I stopped in Minnesota, we were out of the car for no more than an hour. We got gas, ate at Subway and checked out the Mississippi River. Though it sounds like one of the less exciting stops along the way, for me it was one of the most exciting.

I always had a positive association with Minnesota growing up. When I was in middle school, I took home a Gophers T-shirt as a prize for winning a shooting contest at a basketball clinic. The shirt was randomly given to me, but, because T-shirts are much more important to me than they should be, I started periodically thinking about Minnesota.

I mentioned to my parents that I wanted to go to school here a couple times, though I never seriously looked into it. So when the Star News job popped up on JournalismJobs.com – a decade after I got that T-shirt and a year after I came here for the first and, at that point, only, time – I knew I had to apply.

I’m not saying it was fate, but it certainly felt like slightly more than a coincidence. What if I moved to Minnesota?

Should I stay or should I go?

When I got the phone call from Jim Boyle – who was then a stranger and is now an outstanding mentor, colleague and friend, whom I’ll miss dearly – I was in Belmont, California, spending the evening with my cousins’ relatives. I was thrilled to be offered a job, but truthfully, I had no idea if I was going to accept the offer.

Over the next few days, I called, texted or spoke with just about everyone I knew for input – my parents, friends, relatives, mentors. I weighed the pros and cons ad nauseam, as I’ve been known to do, and eventually I decided to take the job.

I figured, I’m young, I love to travel, and I’ve never spent more than an hour there, so I might as well give it a shot. My dad moved from Boston to Seattle after graduating college and still raves about it to this day. This is the time to pack everything up and go somewhere totally new.

It’s funny how major life decisions can seem like a matter of life and death at the time, but now, in hindsight, it feels like a no-brainer.

Thank you for sharing your stories

I first moved to Minnesota in mid-September of 2015, four months out of college and eager to officially start the post-grad sports writing career I had dreamed about since I was a kid. There’s a picture of me reading the sports page over a stranger’s shoulder on the bus as a child, and another where I’m covering up the stats in a box score in the newspaper to guess how certain players did.

I knew this was what I wanted to do from a young age. Though I loved college, I was ready to start life in the real world.

Slowly but surely, everything started to come together. I started to make friends. I found a place to play pickup basketball biweekly with people who love the sport as much as I do. I settled into the job and got a feel for what the community is all about.

I realized, as the months progressed and more people knew who I was, that people really cared about the work I was doing. From the Twitter interaction, to the emails, to the kind words in passing at games, I really appreciated all the positive feedback I was getting.

After the first few months, I usually wouldn’t go more than two or three minutes without seeing someone I knew at an event. People often asked me, “Weren’t you just at another game? How’d you get here so fast?” Teleportation would make this job a lot easier, I tell them, but I just bounce around from one game to the next and cover as much as I can. Just doing my job.

Once people knew who I was and knew I took my job seriously, they started coming to me with stories. Rick Peterson, the Spectrum athletic director, shared a story with me about a cross-country runner who went into cardiac arrest and made a remarkable recovery. Zimmerman parent Casey McEachern told me about the struggle his son, Taylor, went through battling injury after injury, and how Taylor never gave up and earned a spot on a college baseball team. Elk River golf coach Phil Johnson emailed me with a note that one of his players, Nate, was battling cancer but continued to play the sport he loved.

These stories, and dozens others, are what made my job so rewarding. They’re the reason I’m so passionate about journalism. Game stories are enjoyable, sure, but they’re not nearly as satisfying as gaining the trust of someone and sharing their struggle and perseverance through the written word.

It takes a lot of trust between two people for one person to share everything about themselves and the other person to put it into a narrative. Thank you all so much for respecting me enough as a journalist and a person to come to me with these stories.

I’ve done my best to capture your life journeys, section championships and individual accolades and share them with the community. Without you all, I’d have nothing to write, so thank you once again.

A bittersweet farewell

When I got the phone call from the Duxbury Clipper, I knew I’d be faced with another difficult decision. I called those same people and asked for that same advice, one year later.

My former editor from The Baltimore Sun, Dave, told me to trust my gut. Just go with what feels right, he said. But they both feel right, I told him. How do I know which one is better?

I was in absolutely no rush to leave the Star News or Minnesota. The truth is, I absolutely loved it here. I put 20,000 miles on my car here. I learned how to pay bills here (sort of). I learned what it means to be a Minnesota sports fan, but felt more fortunate than ever that I didn’t grow up one.

I felt the pain of the state when Prince died and when Teddy Bridgewater dislocated his knee and tore his ACL. I felt the joy at the state fair, as I joined thousands of other people in consuming inordinate amounts of food.

I didn’t quite make it to all 10,000 lakes, but I think I crossed off a good 30. I kayaked in Lake Calhoun. I covered a hockey game in Duluth. I sampled beers in both Uptown and Downtown. I ventured across the Stone Arch Bridge and to Minnehaha Falls.

I told a girl I loved her for the first time.

Leaving isn’t easy. In fact, it’s much, much harder than I ever thought it would be. Minnesota wasn’t just where I lived for a year; it became my home.

But now, I’m heading to my original home. Back to Boston. I’ll be road-tripping once again, this time from Minnesota to Boston.

Before, Minnesota was just a place on a map. A state with hockey, lakes and cold weather. It turns out all those things are true, but now it’s so much more. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to everyone here for making it so difficult to leave.

This isn’t goodbye. It’s just see you later.

I’ll be back soon.