It's 6:36 p.m. on March 6, and I'm mid-flight between the place where I spent 23 years of my life and the one that will be my new home. I am, quite literally, suspended between my future and my past.
It's a thrilling place to be, though not the story line I envisioned. I had a consistently satisfying love affair with Atlanta, and an identity that for the past decade has been happily intertwined with this newspaper. If someone were to have told me several months back that I'd be leaving the city I've long championed, a job that never ceased to challenge and fulfill me, and people I admire and adore, I'd have been stunned.
OK, I am a little stunned. I'm disappointed that I won't be able to experience firsthand the progress that Atlanta is working to achieve (yes, I'm talking to you, Sunday booze sales). And I'm saddened about a litany of things: that I won't be able to pester Scott Henry for his brilliant (and perennially deadline-breaking) missives on Atlanta politics and other oddities; to interrupt Thomas Wheatley's ceaseless blogging to hit him up for Diet Coke money; to burst into giggles with Gwynedd Stuart over some absurdly adorable baby animal; to obsess on fonts and strategize "redesign 2.0" (coming soon!) with Chris Mihal; to puzzle over Alicia Wages, Amber Robinson and Bobby Feingold's ability to harmoniously publish the paper and website; to debate with Debbie Michaud the craft of the perfect celebrity profile; to pressure Curt Holman to tell me which movies to see because I can't wait to read his impeccable reviews; to corner Besha Rodell in an effort to better understand the merits of Riesling; to disturb Rodney Carmichael's Zen-like calm with queries about Waka Flocka Flame and dubstep; to grill Chad Radford about which bands I should see over the weekend and lament why none of their shows will sell out; and to otherwise seek affirmation of what I've always known: that Creative Loafing is as great as it is because of these people's idiosyncrasies and passions.
And yet, as much as I'll miss these people and this paper, I actually feel good about leaving.
After filling various roles at Creative Loafing — some of them during the difficult years that the publication was buffeted by bankruptcy and recession — I had the pleasure of occupying the editor's seat during a time of renewal and rejuvenation. And I'm fortunate to be leaving at a time when that spirit of rebirth, and the publication that has risen out of it, remains strong.
When my plane lands, I'll be leaving a publication so confident in itself that, despite my tendency to fixate on every detail, I know I'll be amazed and impressed at what comes next. For the first time in 10 years, I'll be reading Creative Loafing not as a writer or editor, but as a fan.
Mara Shalhoup, whose last CL cover story will appear in these pages next week, was staff writer, news editor, senior writer, senior editor and, up until last Friday, editor-in-chief at Creative Loafing. She is now editor of CL's sister publication the Chicago Reader.