back in the old days, when i started out in the newsroom, that nurse who’d wandered in off the street, in search of a great story to tell, we pounded out stories on typewriters, on triple-thick pages.
at the bottom of any news story, to let the desk know you were ending your tale, you typed “-30-”
and so, today, -30- is the keystroke of the day.
my phone rang just minutes ago. i’d been jumpy all day. had put off typing here, because i wanted to see if finally i could tell you, could let the ol’ cat out of the bag.
here’s the cat, squirmed from the sack:
my days of newspapering at the chicago tribune are nearly through. they told me just now that my request for a buyout has been “allowed.”
what that means is that next friday will be my very last day to walk into the great gothic tower, the one with the flag waving up against the clouds. it will be my last day to tuck my badge in the little card-reader box and to see the light flicker green. it will be my last day to call out “hullo,” to ricky the guard who always starts my day with a big fat smile.
it will be my last day to shuffle over to my cubicle, to sit down among the cards and letters and books piled high.
it will be my last day, after nearly 30 years, to type, “barbara mahany, tribune reporter.”
but i have utterly no intention of hanging up my story-gathering cape, or retiring my deep and unending dream of telling stories that wend their way straight into the deepest corners of the human heart.
something was born here, where we pull up chairs.
i learned a way of writing here that i can’t muzzle.
it is a way of writing that every once in a while found a place on the news pages. and whenever it seeped out into the world of readers, i got plenty of notes. heartfelt, beautiful, make-me-cry notes. from readers.
oh, i will miss those readers.
i’m leaving because i want to be free to find and to tell stories that burn to be told.
i’m leaving because i’ve achingly missed being here in this little typing room, where the birds flit by, and the sun slants in, where the sacred dwells all around me and through me.
oh, sure, i’ve managed to find moments of joy on the el train. i love rumbling through the city. but i don’t so much like locking the door behind me each morn, and not coming back till the day is nearly done.
i love slow cooking while i type.
i love being here when my little one leaps through the door.
this is the thing that took so much courage: to finally, after so many years there on the edge of the high dive, take the final big bounce and jump through the air.
it’s not easy leaving behind a once-every-two-weeks paycheck.
it’s not so easy letting go of the knowing — till now, anyway — that my stories would always find a place to land, without me having to peddle too hard.
but i finally, finally dug down deep to where the answer was crouched. i finally reminded myself how brave i could be. and how deeply i want to see if my words and my stories and my heart can make a difference. can make this world just a little bit more compassionate. can shine the light on some lost soul in the shadows. or some phenomenal hilarious character whose life might make us all want to get up and dance.
i am taking a big fat chance on me and myself.
i am believing that somewhere deep down inside me, i can stand on a mountaintop and whisper long lines of poetry.
i am holding a candle in the dark, and believing a long line of wicks will flicker, one at a time.
i am being brave, and teaching my boys not to be afraid. not to be bound. to march, always, to the sound of the drum that they alone hear.
i am begging for grace to come raining down.
i will keep writing this story, one word at a time.
i can’t imagine that all this living i’ve done, all this collecting of hearts, has not been a serious chapter in the education of bam.
i’m not looking for fame. i’ve seen that pass by the best of the best too many times.
i am looking for simply one thing: to live my every last day with full heart, and full soul, and full courage.
and that’s the thing i’ve been wanting to tell you.
now, we all know.
thank you for giving me wings.