April in Maine is a time of transition. A few days ago, I was sweltering as I walked the beach in my lightest fleece jacket, and I have friends who have already planted their garden peas. Last night, on my way home from a show in Blue Hill, I drove through a blinding snowstorm that made the winding road slick and treacherous. I have to admit, I’m a little impatient for winter’s full departure. But there’s no rushing the fickle mid-season of April, so I may as well sit back and enjoy what it brings.
Transition is always interesting. It’s what I write about in this section called Next, which the Bangor Daily News launched 18 months ago and which has found a receptive readership, statewide and farther afield. It’s deeply gratifying to see this section, focused on Mainers at midlife, grow in response to our coverage of issues that matter to our readers.
Next continues to shift and evolve, a reflection of both reader interest and staff resources.
But, sadly, among the changes ahead is the mothballing of this weekly column — a change driven by my own evolving priorities, both personal and professional.
Each week, my BDN colleagues and I bring you stories of Maine people in transition. This week, for example, I’ve written about a Bangor woman in her 70s who is serving with the Peace Corps in Guatemala and about second weddings at midlife and the choices we make in planning them.
For next week, I’m cooking up a piece on what happens in small towns when longtime residents and active community citizens move away, leaving a void in leadership and social capital. There’s always someone interesting to meet and something new to learn and think about, and that’s what I love about my job.
I have also really enjoyed writing this column, a more personal space for reflecting on my own recent transitions. These have included divorce and remarriage, a couple of relocations, learning to sing in a community chorus, evolving relationships with my adult children, a new dog, the loss of some dear family members, downsizing, the joy of a new granddaughter and other changes that I know resonate with Next readers. I know because you tell me, and I am always glad of your feedback.
But things keep right on changing — including, it turns out, my own priorities. My work requires daily planning, scheduling, negotiation, communication, coordination, spontaneity, focus, diligence and on-task creativity. It ties me to a weekly schedule of deadlines and meetings. I spend a lot of time at my desk, on the phone, in the car. Even on weekends, it’s rare that I feel fully disengaged from the newsroom.
Maybe because I’m getting older — I’ll turn 63 in August — I’ve been finding it harder to manage all this and still feel fully present and engaged in my “other” life — my home, my husband, our families, our community, recreational activities that bring me joy, creative projects that bring me satisfaction. All that stuff matters, a lot. Maybe even more so these days, when I am less complacent about my life, when the horizon seems a little nearer and each new day with Douglas feels like a bit of a gift.
So, after some soul-searching and discussion with my higher-ups, I’ve decided to cut back my hours at the BDN. Starting next week, I’ll be working four days instead of five. That’s still enough to feel challenged and excited about my stories and like a part of the newsroom machinery. Also, importantly, four days keeps me enrolled in the company health insurance plan and some other benefits. This change will help me feel more balanced and in control of my life, and I am grateful for the BDN’s support in making it.
But fewer hours, of course, means less output. My editor and I have agreed to suspend this column so I can focus on writing the stories and articles that generate broader interest, both online and in print.
I’m sorry to give up this bit of space and the friendly contacts it generates with my readers. It has been a privilege to tell you about my life and to get a glimpse of yours. I hope you’ll all stay in touch and tell me what I should be writing about going forward. And, should you decide to accept the 2017 Summer Swim Challenge, which starts on June 21 and ends on September 22, I’d love to hear about it. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t be a stranger.
Read more of Meg Haskell at livingitforward.bangordailynews.com