I’ve never cared for goodbyes.
A proper farewell requires a certain overindulgence in sentimentality and nostalgia that I generally try to avoid.
Emotions of the sort that usually cause tears to abound, which isn’t pleasant for anyone involved.
Unfortunately, goodbyes are sometimes necessary, so, dear readers, I apologize for what’s to come.
After almost six years and 281 issues here at the “Opelika Observer,” I depart today to begin a new job down in Baldwin County.
Though I am excited for the new opportunities and experiences this job will bring, it has been somewhat difficult to come to terms with the thought of actually leaving Opelika.
While I’ve been here for nearly 28 years now, it has really only been in the last six years that I’ve truly come to know and appreciate the town I call home.
Being a journalist in a small town requires more than just reporting on what goes on in said community. One must take an active part in joining that community to fully understand how and why it works.
Having a dedicated list of family and friends here who were ready-made sources and stories certainly didn’t hurt matters, though I perhaps could have done without comments like “I used to change your diapers in the church nursery” when trying to conduct interviews.
Good journalists always attempt to remove bias or personal feelings from their writing, but when you’re a reporter in your hometown, such a task can be incredibly difficult, if not impossible. Thankfully, I’ve never claimed to be a “good” journalist.
Over the years, I’ve occasionally used this column as my personal soapbox, shouting my unfiltered thoughts and opinions even when I knew myself to be in the minority.
Those rantings got me a fair share of hate mail, a handful of subscription cancellations, a public scolding while I was working in my parents’ restaurant, an unsolved act of mailbox arson and a forced non-apology apology to a Congressional wig - and I wouldn’t trade any of those experiences for anything.
I will always be thankful for the support and kindness I’ve received from my “Opelika Observer” family over the years, and I will always look on the time I spent here as some of the best and most rewarding days of my young life.
The staff and owners of this newspaper truly love the city of Opelika, and this paper reflects that sentiment well – pages filled only with local news and photos, created by local people for local people.
Though the Observer’s pages may on occasion criticize or cavil with some issue or decision, those harsh words come from that solid love of this city – the desire to have the best and be that best we know we can be.
As I close this chapter of my life, I’d like to thank this town for the indelible mark that will forever stain my soul.
This charming, crazy village and its colorful cast of characters raised me and molded me into the man I am today, and I’m truly thankful for that.
Wherever I go and whatever I do, that Opelika Bulldog spirit will always be with me – to lend me hope, to wish me well and to make my heart smile.
Goodbye, my friends, and may you fare well.
A native Opelikan, Cliff McCollum is an amateur field herpetologist, news editor and chicken salad mogul.