Hi, friends. Remember me? (Before you skip to my email address at the bottom and start writing things like, “I thought we were finally rid of you,” take a deep breath and humor me for a bit). Hopefully, you answer that first question with an “Of course we do!” Even better, if one or two of you say, “We’ve missed you!”
Unfortunately, I’m a realist. Therefore, I know there are hundreds who will say one of the following: “I didn’t even notice you’re gone,” or “Who the heck are you?”
For those who might recognize my byline, a brief update might be in order. My editors have always told us that assuming readers have read your last column is not a good way of doing business; even the most avid readers are apt to miss one now and then. Filling in those gaps for readers is essential, especially if you want to avoid writing to a constantly diminishing audience as others bail out, feeling that they’re not part of the inside joke. With that in mind, here’s the short version: In May, I resigned my position as the BDN’s outdoor editor, and two days later I began graduate school classes at the University of Maine.
Yes, I walked away from a job that many have told me was the best newspaper gig in the state. Maybe I’m foolish. I prefer to think that I was just ready for another challenge or two.
Here’s the thing to remember, though: Although my full-time job as an outdoors writer has come to an end (for now, anyway), I’ve got plenty more adventures in me. And if you’re willing to read about them (along with the wide variety of other topics that have always provided column fodder for me), then I’m eager to share those tales with you. The plan, for now, calls for me to write one column a week.
Another thing to keep in mind: One of the things that I’ve missed most over the past couple of months is the regular interactions with the readers who made this column possible in the first place.
So, you might be wondering: What have I been doing with all of my spare time? Well, I’m glad I told you that’s what you were thinking. The short answer, I’ve been attending (or, as close to “attending” as we can come nowadays) classes so that I can become a high school English teacher. So far, so good: Although learning in “virtual” classrooms online is certainly different from what I experienced in my first college go-round some 30 or 40 years ago, it’s been very enjoyable.
And it’s been hard work.
Still, I have found time to do other things. I’ve been volunteering as a track and field coach, first at the high school level, and more recently for a summer recreation program for younger athletes. And I have taken the opportunity to head to the family camp on Beech Hill Pond as often as possible. That, I have found, is the perfect place to pull out a college textbook and a highlighter and get down to some serious studying.
I can hear those who know me best chuckling already. They know that my undergraduate swing through college was a bit of a marathon, and I was not the most ambitious learner of all time. But trust me: I’ve changed! Really!
My dad always had concerns about my work ethic when I was young, and looking back, I’ve got to admit that he might have been onto something.
“John loves work,” he would say. “He can sit and watch it all day.”
For 10 years of college (and with him as a faculty member at the same school), I certainly proved that fact, semester after semester.
Earlier this summer, as I labored through three graduate-level classes in a six-week period, I remembered those words and laughed. Apparently, I’d finally learned how to do work, rather than just watch it.
Full disclosure: The time that thought finally dawned on me was shortly after I snapped the photo that accompanies this column — one I’m sure my late father would have appreciated.
On that day, my brother Glen and I spent a few hours at camp, taking care of one of the chores we always shared with my dad — putting in the dock.
After completing that task, my brother — admittedly always a harder working person than me — asked what I had planned for the rest of the day.
The lawn was shaggy, he explained. And if I didn’t mind sitting in a lawn chair and resting for an hour or two, he’d like to mow the grass before we headed for our homes.
I smiled, told him to knock himself out, and sat back, content to gaze across the lake as he went about his work.
The photo — a selfie that shows my brother mowing in the background — sums up my dad’s joking opinion of me as a youngster: I loved work. And I sat and watched it until my brother was done.
John Holyoke is the former outdoors editor of the BDN, an aspiring novelist and a future high school English teacher. He can be reached at email@example.com