I used to have a number in mind.
Like George Clooney’s character in the melancholic film, “Up in the Air,” I told myself that I had to stick to the rote grind until I’d reach my ethereal and entirely self-imposed quota. In my case, it was keystrokes instead of airline miles.
For years, I aspired to write 1 million published words in Sentinel Colorado, née The Aurora Sentinel. It seemed like a relatable, however loosely calculated, way to nod to the whole 10,000 hours thing, and the inevitable carpal tunnel that would come with it.
I’d agonize over arithmetic, carrying ones from my weekly word counts and subtracting blank spots left by the holiday doldrums or the rare vacation day.
I believe I’ve just about ticked that seven-digit box, thanks to a few thousand stories that have ranged from 90-word briefs recycled from single tweets to odysseys that took several months of reporting and researching. The latter endeavors surely erased several additional months from my allotted time on this blue orb, too.
I’m at peace, I guess. But I’m done. Over it. Toasted. El fin ha llegado.
There are things I’ll miss, to be sure. Editor Dave Perry’s puns. The ritual of writing for others. The long, scattered and frantic phone calls with Managing Editor Kara Mason at the peak of the pandemic, in which we would seemingly take turns talking each other onto and off of cliffs as dread drenched society.
But mostly I’ll miss the people. I’ll miss talking to and badgering those masses that appear in these pages every week and in these pixels every day. It’s those righteous, those forlorn and those sanguine hoi polloi who make this city hum in spite of innumerable obstacles. I’ll forever be indebted to the sources, the subjects and the peers who entrusted me with the burden of public fairness and accuracy. Thank you.
Many of them have been named on this very masthead. Because of that, this rag and those who bring it to fruition every seven days will forever be enmeshed in my DNA. Wednesday mornings will always be stained with the pace of Perry’s frenetic page-cranking. Tuesday afternoons will remain smudged with the stress of that austere print deadline. And Mondays will, at least for the near future, carry that whiff of local political theater that has a habit of emanating from East Alameda Parkway.
There’s plenty I won’t miss, too. The shootings that merely get a shrug, though that thankfully seems to be changing. The malfeasance that persists due to a lack of time, energy and resources. The jaded and caustic banter that pervades this profession.
One only has so much emotional cord that can only be tied into so many lassos a day. That the knots are then summarily steamrolled by a saturated market wagging the same dog constitutes a murder of morale — over and over and over again. Watching a story get reported faster, better and then pumped to a larger audience is exhausting.
Ultimately, that’s what would be emblazoned on the proverbial passport stamp smacked down at this point of disembarkation: “Exhaustion. Stay: forever.”
I’ve grown perpetually weary from the constant cock and bull about “once things settle down,” and “once that new round of funding comes in” or “once we’re able to make another hire.”
It’s a mirage. There is no cavalry. There is no wizard on an eastern slope at the dawn of the fifth day. No one is coming. The fantasies of bustling newsrooms are permanently fossilized in an era that I’ve only known from a certain Michael Keaton film.
But the barrage of news interminably marches on. And right now, my cup is full.
So I’m out, for the time being. I can’t rule out a boomerang back to this bastion of ink, though. Just such a return has happened before following a meandering, global sojourn, after all. The tractor beam of news remains strong despite the shortcomings.
And as I’ve said before, please don’t give up on this barnacle-covered burg and those who inhabit it. They’re full of contradiction and beauty and malaise and wonder and need. And that’s worth fighting for.
With that, slide another 700 across the abacus. Until next time.
Quincy Snowdon was a reporter for Sentinel Colorado. Follow him at @QuincySnowdon on Twitter.