Column has been much more than a side job

Getting paid to do what you love is one of the world?s greatest things, but this column has been so much more than a side job for me these past seven years.

This column is the space where I have refined my worldview, processed the shift from high school to college, spoken out about rape and patriarchy, complained about Internet trolls, realized the depth of my love for my family and contemplated the meaning of ?home.?

This column is the space where I championed my first tangible identity as a writer: ?I am a columnist.? Sharing written thoughts and receiving responses from readers is incredibly validating and I don?t think I would have had the guts to pursue additional forms of writing and self-expression, had this column not existed as my cornerstone.

And, to be honest, I don?t think I would have been a worthy candidate for my first ?big girl? job at an education nonprofit had I not been give the opportunity and grace to grow in my maturity as a writer.

This column is the space where, in my very first issue, you met me as a terrified, insecure high school freshman who literally hid in lockers to avoid upperclassmen. (I specifically remember being unbelievably intimidated by Lucas Hamm, who, although tall and broad-shouldered, was probably very kind.)

From that point, you have walked with me through transition, heartbreak, trauma and self-realization.

And here we are today: Sharing my last column as I enter my last finals week of college.

In some ways it feels ?right? to be done writing here?sometimes it seems that I?ve come full circle?but I am also struck with nostalgia.

I was filled with sadness as I drove around Hillsboro for the last time before my parents moved, and similarly heavy do I feel thinking about my time as a Free Press columnist coming to an end.

Despite all my moving and changing, ?Horizons? and then ?Getting There? have been solid ties to my Hillsboro roots. I knew no matter how ?liberal? or ?feminist? or ?foul-mouthed and rowdy? I have seemed, I am writing to the ones who knew me as an energetic, gap-toothed fourth grader. Some of you may remember my Harry Potter glasses and the time I passed out into a wall after recess.

Although I am no longer that weird little girl (although still quite strange), I am putting to rest this formal connection with the people who have known me the longest.

I can tell everyone in Chicago the stories of my past, but they have not lived it with me. Their ability to understand my story and personality hinges on their empathetic capabilities and willingness to listen. It?s different with you guys; you understand because you were present in the midst of it all.

It is for this reason that I sincerely wish to maintain contact with whoever is interested, via Facebook or e-mail (crabbyabigail@gmail.com).

Thank-you, each of you, for your commitment to my growth these past seven years. You have validated my thoughts, encouraged my thinking, questioned my new perceptions, engaged with my struggles, and allowed me this space to process it all.

This column has been a pivotal era in my growth as a writer and as an individual, and I consider it an honor to have shared it with you.