From first impressions to family

Published 2:04 pm Thursday, November 13, 2014

Last week was my final week as a staff writer at The Clanton Advertiser and editor of Peach Living magazine.

I recently accepted a full-time editorial position with the Advertiser’s sister newspaper, the Shelby County Reporter, in Columbiana.

Three years and three months ago, I walked into the Advertiser office with a notebook, a pen and roughly two months of experience working at the Reporter during a college internship.

I was the epitome of a greenhorn reporter, which I feared anyone I met or talked to my first few weeks here would immediately notice.

As I introduced myself to people in the community, I realized what a welcoming place Chilton County is, even to a young, timid reporter from Cullman.

I began covering Maplesville Town Council meetings soon after arriving at the Advertiser.

I remember driving along Alabama Highway 22 on the way to my first meeting, hoping the people in Maplesville would be nice and that I would make a good first impression.

I’m not sure what impression I gave them, but they were more than nice to me and have been ever since.

In addition to the council meetings, I have had opportunities to interview and write stories about Maplesville’s people and the details of their lives they entrusted me with – career changes, family memories, health struggles and personal triumphs.

Whenever I went to Maplesville, I felt like I was visiting my friends; looking back, I was.

I also found great friendships in the Clanton Lions Club.

I was honored when the club invited me to join as one of its first female members in 2012.

I was incredibly impressed by the warm welcome they gave me and the camaraderie among members, who quickly became my friends and weekly lunch buddies.

I can’t think of a better group to have worked alongside during the annual Chilton County Peach Festival and other community service projects in which the club is involved.

I could go on for days about all of the people here that changed my life, but the list would be extremely long.

I’ll end with the Advertiser staff.

My co-workers here are among the best and most talented people you will ever meet.

They have been, and will continue to be, my mentors and friends.

On difficult days that left me feeling discouraged and nearly defeated, they were the reasons I pushed forward and came back to the office the next morning, ready for a new day’s challenges.

They became my second family.

Through their excellent work and character, they have shown me how to be a better writer, reporter, leader and person.

Saying goodbye and knowing I would no longer see them every day was the hardest part about my transition.

When you find people who accept you for who you are, flaws and all, and believe in your potential, leaving becomes that much more difficult.

I firmly believe God has reasons for everything that happens in our lives, and that wherever we are in any given moment fits into his grand plan for us all, even if our understanding of the plan is delayed.

I am excited to embark on a new adventure in my career, and I will take with me the memories I have made here.

Don’t think you will never see me in Chilton County again.

The people—and the peaches—are well worth future visits.

–Emily Beckett was a staff writer for The Clanton Advertiser from 2011-14.