It seems like only yesterday I was getting lost on the way to the Coastal Journal office for my job interview.

I had been out of college for months, and I was reaching that point many grads hit when they’re still at their summer job even though summer is over. I was deep in those few weeks of contemplation, wondering if the degree was even worth it and whether or not I had made a big mistake thinking writing was a good choice of career.

Driving into Bath that day was a bit like a trip back in time for me. My family came up to the region every summer for most of my childhood to spend time at Reid State Park. I remember the whole family sitting in Pleasant Street traffic in Brunswick, then after escaping that waiting in traffic yet again at the Carlton Bridge.

For me, coming from a somewhat rural area, Bath was a sprawling metropolis. It had sidewalks! And parks! Multiple grocery stores! Restaurants! It’s funny thinking about it now, but at the time of that interview I was a bit of a country bumpkin, so these things genuinely impressed and in some ways intimidated me.

With all that in mind I had planned ahead and arrived something like 45 minutes early, knowing I’d probably get lost. I ended up being so ridiculously early I parked at Waterfront Park and paced about, mumbling mock answers to questions I thought I might be asked like a crazy person.

Finding the office itself, even after parking the car and wandering about, wasn’t straightforward either.

Those who have visited us here on Commercial Street can attest to this: The sign for the Coastal Journal hangs on the building above a green door on the first floor. That door doesn’t actually go anywhere. It is, essentially, a broom closet.

So there’s me, fresh-faced and nervous, wearing a shirt I had purchased just for the interview and a tie I had tied badly, opening the door to a broom closet.

I thought, in that brief moment of nerve-induced panic, that it was all just some stupid joke. That the Coastal Journal was actually fictitious, that the call had been an elaborate prank, that I was on some camera and my shocked and dismayed face would be the next viral video on YouTube.

Of course, since you’re reading this, that wasn’t true. The Coastal Journal is very much a real thing, and I, obviously, managed to find the office (up the ramp) and get the job back in 2012.

I couldn’t have imagined, then, the things this job ended up allowing me to do. I’ve ridden on an icebreaker on the Kennebec River. I got an air-boat tour around Brunswick’s clam flats (I’d always wanted to ride in an air boat).

I’ve ridden at the front of a train with the engineer, something that six-year-old Chris Chase would absolutely lose his mind about. I’ve been on plow trucks, planes, small boats, large boats, trudged through snow and mud and even, once or twice, smoke.

Those exciting things are, by necessity, contrasted by the less exciting. Municipal meetings, court and public hearings, pouring through long legal documents, staring down the barrel of a deadline as I hammered words onto a page.

Something stands out more than the places or vehicles or meetings though. The people.

The residents of the Midcoast are passionate. They are caring. They are doggedly determined to speak their mind. Sometimes they hem and haw and shout and pound their fists, but it’s never out of flippant disregard for rules. It’s always a form of love, a deep seated love for their community.

Democracy is a messy thing. Sometimes you get nastiness and arguments, anonymous letters and passive aggressive notes. But other times it comes together into something beautiful, even with the conflict … out of the cacophony beautiful music starts playing.

I feel privileged to have worked and been a part of a community that cares so much. I’m incredibly grateful that this community has given me a chance to be a part of it, and has read the words I’ve put on the page for these past five years.

These will be among the last words of mine in the Coastal Journal. I’m moving on now. But I’ll be carrying a bit of the Midcoast with me.

Thanks for the memories. And thanks for reading.

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