Giving thanks in Juneau

Posted: Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Weighing a career move is always difficult, and many factors come into play in doing so: location, quality of life and living, leaving that which is familiar if not comfortable, and more than a little uncertainty and apprehension relative to that which is unknown.

There is also the burden of leaving family, close friends and professional colleagues, and that's never easy to do.

So it is that after almost 10 years in Monroe, Ga., as publisher of the newspaper in a community 40 miles east of Atlanta, my wife Deana and I recently weighed one of the most important decisions of our lives: a career opportunity within a new company and in a location that would take us farther from home than either of us has ever been - to Juneau, Alaska.

In considering the opportunity, Deana's parents and siblings in North Carolina and Mississippi were unanimously thrilled at the prospect. My mother and sister, who live in southwest Texas and in north Texas, respectively, were equally enthusiastic and encouraging. It took my mother longer to warm to the idea, however, for she's never lived outside the borders of her beloved Lone Star state.

The decision to relocate having been made, reaction among our newspaper staff and friends in Monroe, as well as our colleagues in Georgia and elsewhere, was generally one of two: "Alaska? Are y'all crazy?" or "Wow! What a great opportunity and a wonderful adventure."

Distance and family aside, deciding on Juneau was actually easier for Deana and me than you might think. We sized it up this way: We've been married for 20 years, have no children and during the course of our marriage have already lived in seven other communities in six states. At this point in our lives and in our careers another move would be driven more by how we want to live and work and where we want to live and work (community and quality of life) than by professional concerns alone.

We visited Juneau in late September and were taken by its stunning beauty, its charm, its diversity and its dynamics relative to many of the issues that make it the unique community it is. On the plane back to Atlanta that weekend we experienced a certain measure of sadness and unease, but only because we knew the decision to come to Alaska would mean leaving that which we had known for the past decade. This leap of faith we had to make.

As residents for almost a month now, we've found Juneau to be a new adventure every day and only partly because of the weather. The people we've met and those with whom I work here at the Empire have more than made this feel like home in less than four weeks. For that I'm grateful.

Tomorrow, as I give thanks for all that is right and good in my life, the chance to begin anew in Juneau will be at the top of a rather lengthy list. So many of the people I know would love such a change - and a chance - in their lives but couldn't or wouldn't embrace it for myriad reasons. Because of that I know how fortunate I truly am to be here.

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