It has been seven years.
In August 2008, I left the career that had sometimes defined me, often consumed me, and had been my whole world for more than 30 years.
I turned my back on The Garden Island newspaper and walked away, It was a harmonious aloha, filled with sadness, regret but lots of friendship and love.
Earlier that year, I had become seriously ill and knew I could no longer juggle all the things that had until then been second-nature about my job. At my request, they bid me farewell at the newspaper office. I didn’t want a big formal dinner. Many of my beloved former fellow workers were there, it was such a memorable occasion.
I soon discovered more changes awaited me in my life. Still very ill, I had no interest at first in keeping up with everything I had cared so much about before. And even as I healed, and began to feel better, I still stayed away because it hurt too much not to be there in the midst of everything. I stopped reading the newspaper, didn’t even go to our website.
I put TGI out of my life completely. The newspaper underwent many changes. It was sold to an off-island owner, its press and composing departments were dismantled and employees who had also devoted their lives to the paper were let go; people I had worked with for years, people who were my friends. A small staff was retained and did their best to keep the paper and its new identity going. They are doing a wonderful job.
Recently, for some reason, for the first time in years, I went to TGI’s website and browsed for hours. It was a bittersweet experience. First item that came up was the Kauai County Farm Bureau Fair. It had been one of my favorite events when I was at the paper. I respected so many of the Farm Bureau people and considered them my friends. I worked hard putting together a large supplement each year promoting the event, which was their main fundraiser, hoping to help them raise as much as they could.
Scrolling down the page, I found news about a controversial dog barking ordinance, a feature on church hymns, and a proud report about the Kawaihau Little League team that made it all the way to the World Series. And I chuckled as I saw an advertisement for The Garden Island’s annual Best of Kauai contest. This had always been one of the most labor-intensive supplements I had to put together. And we took it very seriously. Many years I brought home boxes filled with hundreds of ballots that my family counted and tallied.
I stayed 16 to 18 hours a day many days working on this supplement. But I felt (as did all of us at the paper then) that it was more than worth the work, knowing we were helping recognize businesses, services, restaurants who were deemed the Best on Kauai by their community. I still feel that way.
As I browsed, I realized how much I have missed all of that. Oh, I still don’t miss the work or the constant challenge to be the first with the news but I do miss being the venue that updates my island about things like hurricanes lurking nearby. I miss my community, I miss our readers and I miss the many people who started out as contacts and ended up becoming my friends. I miss you all a lot.
It has been seven years, just a fraction of my life with the newspaper. I think I am ready now to venture into that world again. I will never be able to go back to where I was but I can start with baby steps like an occasional column and see where they take us. I am a little hesitant. I have been gone so long, I’m not even sure there is even a place for me but I am willing to try and see how it goes. Aloha.
Rita De Silva is former editor of The Garden Island newspaper.