When I came back to The Aegis last July after being an editorial assistant here in 2007, I wrote my very first column, introducing myself to all you lovely people knowing that eventually, somewhere down the line I would also have to write a goodbye column.
And now that time has come.
I'm moving on to greener journalism pastures and, once again, leaving my first "home" behind.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't sad, or even a little scared, to be moving on.
When I was an editorial assistant, I expected to be the newsroom peon and was pleasantly surprised when everyone was actually nice and treated me like part of the team.
Then, when I came back in 2011, I was welcomed with open arms and it was almost like I never left.
I've made friends here and met a lot of people along the way who have affected me.
In covering a variety of beats — business, education, politics, profiles on people in the community — I've learned more in my year and a half here than I have in my entire career in journalism and, probably, the many years I spent living and growing up in Bel Air.
I've loved meeting interesting people, like the girl in Bel Air who memorized more decimals in pi than slices in an actual pie, or the kid from Whiteford who can solve a Rubik's Cube blindfolded in less than two minutes.
Then there were the times where my faith in humanity was restored, like at the 9/11 memorial dedication at the Darlington fire station or when I had a heart-to-heart with Pastor Patricia Pringle at the community Thanksgiving dinner in Aberdeen and she made me cry … but in a good way.
I've learned that I could never, ever have a career in politics, but also that some politicians, particularly in Harford County, actually care about their constituents and are trying to do the right thing.
Other important tidbits: don't mess with teachers, people in Harford take development very seriously and firefighters are tough as nails, but funny as hell.
What I've learned about myself is that I'm tougher than I thought in some instances, and more fragile in others.
Covering the legislative session last year, I thought I would crumble under the pressure of figuring out what all of these bills mean and the subtle nuances of changing language.
Thanks to some very patient politicians — I'll go ahead and give a shout out to Sen. Barry Glassman on that one — I not only got through it but was able to understand enough to know what I was doing (don't be so surprised).
Then there were the harder assignments, like covering the candlelight vigil of Patrick Ward, who was murdered in his apartment in Bel Air and I totally lost it after talking to friends and family and hearing their stories.
What is interesting about Harford County is that despite being a rather large metropolitan county with a booming business and art scene, everyone still thinks it's Smalltown, USA.
You have no idea how many times I've gotten, "Oh, you know Joe. He lives on Blah Blah Blah Street in the northern part of the county."
No, I really don't know Joe, nor will I ever.
Or, "Oh, I went to that one place in Havre de Grace with the stuff, you know the place." I don't. I'm sorry.
But I think it's charming!
On the other hand, Aegis photographer Matt Button really does know everybody and everywhere and dropping his name will get you far.
It's going to be hard leaving that sense of homey-ness behind.
It's been a pleasure learning about this county that I've spent the majority of my life in and watching it change over the years.
Things I will miss: Walking with fellow reporter Bryna Zumer and photographer Nicole Munchel to Shamrock Coffee on Main Street for a caffeine fix; having dinner with my mom every week before a meeting; having people point at me and say, "Hey! I've seen your picture in the paper!"; meeting people who surprise me; the craziness that occurs in the newsroom on a deadline day and everyone is so stressed that it turns to goofiness; talking about "The Walking Dead" with sports editor Randy McRoberts and "American Horror Story" with Robin Benjes; and YouTube videos via Jim Kennedy.
I want to thank everyone for letting me into your lives and sharing a piece of mine every once and a while, and a special thank you to those who called or e-mailed just to say something nice — I've kept every one of those kind notes.
You've made it a pleasure working with you all.
I'll be seeing you, Harford.