Over the past 28 years working here at the Bangor Daily News, I’ve had all kinds of adventures. I’ve flown in helicopters and airplanes, slept in a makeshift ice shelter and fished for salmon and trout in some of the most beautiful places on earth.
I’ve held baby bears, shot a couple of moose, shared upland coverts with world-class bird dogs and met dozens of friendly, knowledgeable guides who have taken me exploring in their own wild backyards.
I’ve visited many of the state’s historic sporting camps, met the owners and heard the faint echoes of the generations of sportsmen who visited those same spots, slept in those same beds and fished those same waters.
I’ve taken rides with game wardens and picked the brains of biologists and emerged from those experiences as a more fervent steward of all the natural gifts that Maine possesses.
I’ve listened to laughter around a campfire, and have shed more than a few tears as I’ve listened to stories of tragedy and heartbreak.
It’s been a wonderful ride, and a single column can’t hope to illustrate how much fun I’ve had along the way.
And I’ve been allowed to join you all at your breakfast table several times a week — vicariously, of course — as you’ve read the tales that all of those adventures have made possible.
For that, I’m immensely grateful. Thank you for joining me on those journeys. And thank you for trusting me with your stories. I hope I did them justice. Above all, that was always my goal.
As of May 7, I’ll no longer be a Bangor Daily News employee. After 28 years of defining my professional self in just that way, that’ll be a seismic shift, to be sure.
Before you start mourning (or cheering, if you’re feeling particularly spiteful), let me assure you that I’m not leaving you completely, and intend on writing a regular outdoor column.
Twenty-eight years of deadlines, late nights, hectic days and stories told. Twenty-eight years of interviews, long drives into some of Maine’s most special places and finding common ground with hundreds of interesting people. Twenty-eight years.
And now, it’s time for something else.
Those of you who have followed these pages for more than a minute might remember that I’ve always felt comfortable sharing uncomfortable truths about my personal life. Like the fact that I’ve never shot a deer. Or the fact that my time as a college undergrad amounted to 10 of the most enjoyable (if unproductive) years of my life.
And if you remember that last fact, you might be surprised — gobsmacked, even — by my next pronouncement.
I’m going back to school.
I know, I know. I can hardly believe it, either. But starting May 10, I’ll be enrolling in a graduate program, seeking a master’s degree that will pave the way toward a new career as a high school English teacher.
Alas, my wife has informed me that I will not be allowed to live on campus. I’m still dealing with that disappointment, but am otherwise eager to embark on this next step in my professional life.
The newspaper biz has been good to me, and I’ve considered myself a newspaper person for more than 40 years now, beginning when I became the founder and first editor of my elementary school’s paper, the State Street Journal.
From the beginning, and all the way up through junior high, high school and college publications, I’ve had a great time telling the stories of others … and some of my own.
And here at the BDN, I’ve been honored to have been trusted with this publication’s prime slot — in my opinion the best media job in Maine — as an outdoors writer for the past 19 years.
So, why am I leaving the full-time newspaper biz? Plenty of reasons, really. But today, I’ll sum them up with these three words.
It was time.
Sometimes, a new challenge is just what a person needs to live life more fully, I figure. To appreciate what we have. To strive to achieve something else. To live out a life goal.
I’ve always thought of myself as a teacher, you see. I’ve loved working with colleagues and new writers. Talking about the writing process, and collaborating with other talented writers, is another passion.
In this new career, I’ll be able to do all of those things. And I’ll still be able to touch base with all of you and share a few stories about my adventures in the woods.
Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention that part: I’ll still be out there, hunting and fishing, and looking for people to tell me stories. I’ll still be trying to figure out how to find a buck during deer season. The best part of this job, after all, was that I always got to call the woods and waters of Maine “my office.”
That part won’t change. Although I’ll be in that “office” less often, I look forward to taking plenty more trips to cool places, meeting many more unforgettable Mainers and sharing those tales with you.
See you out there! And please, stay in touch.
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke. His first book, “Evergreens,” a collection of his favorite BDN columns and features, is published by Islandport Press and is available wherever books are sold.