I remember the day like it was yesterday: May 18, 2009, my first day at The Thomaston Times and my first day at a “real” job. It had been a long year since I graduated from college in 2008, and while I was excited to start this new venture, I was definitely nervous. I was suddenly in a new town where I knew no one and had to figure out exactly what it meant to be a reporter for a newspaper.
One of the first things I covered on my own was a Board of Commission work session meeting, which I only found out I would be attending five minutes before I walked in the building. Talk about being thrown into something! I didn’t even know the names of anyone on the board and had to make notes of what they looked like so I could identify them later once I found out who they were. I felt like I was walking around blind for a while, but it wasn’t long until I got the hang of things, learned the names of officials and my way around town and began to form friendships with people from all walks of life. My new sense of normal had begun.
From that point forward I have covered just about any type of event or meeting that has gone on in town with everything from county commission and city council meetings to Veterans Day programs and third grade art shows falling under my list of duties. While I love all parts of my job in one way or another, one of my favorites has always been getting to meet people and tell the stories of their lives. Sometimes the stories are of an accomplishment, sometimes they are about a need a particular person has and others times they are just an interesting tidbit about an aspect of someone’s life; but no matter what the topic of the article, I always enjoy being given the chance to share them with others.
In addition, there has not been a single feature story I have written that did not touch my life in some way. Through those interviews over the years I have learned about the selflessness of a child whose only wish for her birthday was to provide shoes to children that could not afford their own. I have learned of the struggles a family faces when a loved one is fighting a terrible disease and the excitement a Veteran feels when he learns there is a mountain in Antarctica named for him. I have laughed and cried with these people and always walk away grateful they welcomed me into their lives for a short while.
Of course, in the last six and a half years there have been some days that my job has been less than desirable. I have stood in the freezing rain to cover an event, been nearly hit by cars while taking photos of ribbon cuttings and sat through many long meetings, but overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here. When I think back on the events and stories of years past, thankfully, the good outweighs the bad.
However, as they say all good things must come to an end, and so must my time with the newspaper. While writing is still one of my greatest passions, I am changing directions a little in my career and have accepted a position with the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce as their Events Coordinator. My last day at The Thomaston Times will be next Friday, December 18.
I was trying to think of some wise sounding words to sum all of this up, but to be honest I am at the moment I am at a loss. While the past few years have been filled with their share of ups and downs, I feel through them I have not only gained a wealth of knowledge and experience in a career sense, but in a personal one as well. Looking back, the time I have spent here has shown me that I have grown as a person in more ways than I could have ever imagined I could and most importantly, it has given me the opportunity to meet some amazing people who I feel fortunate to be able to call my friends.
I think the best way to end this last column would be to say thank you. Thank you to all of my co-workers, friends and readers for helping to make these six and a half years good ones. Saying goodbye is never easy and while I am very excited to start this new chapter in my life, please know that I will miss all of you and hope we will be able to keep in touch!
Ashley Biles can be reached by calling 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @AshleyBiles1