Kimberly Lawson

I've been M.I.A. for three months -- here are three reasons why.

It's almost October, and I'm ashamed to say this is the first time I've logged onto SquareSpace since July. Allow me to offer you meme-generated excuses for my absence.

1) After living and breathing my full-time job for nine years, I anticipated a mourning period when I finally left. I did not, however, expect to question my entire identity. I should have seen it coming though. It's happened before.

In seventh grade, I had the highest average in my grade. I brought home trophies on top of trophies on Honors Day because, frankly, I was a nerd who always did well in school. I was known as "the smart girl," and I was OK with that.

The following year, though, I discovered boys, and eventually fell to second place in grade point average to a kid named Douglas. 

I was devastated. If I wasn't "the smart kid" anymore, who was I?

A couple of months ago, I found myself with the same self-doubt. If I wasn't a newspaper editor anymore, who was I?

As a result, I struggled to find the fire and inspiration to publish on this site.

2) When it comes to my own personal affairs, I'm not a great planner. Quitting was the right thing to do, but I wasn't prepared financially. By July, I started to freak out about paying bills, and started focusing a majority of my time on searching for and applying to jobs -- even gigs I knew wouldn't make me happy. Plus, that minor freakout stilted my creativity, and I found it difficult to come up with story ideas for this site as well as for others.  

I'd taken a leap of faith when I moved down here to Augusta, but within only a couple of months, that faith had vanished.

Sometimes I wish I didn't keep up with what's going on in the world. At times, it stresses me out. Take, for example, the last Republican debate. I didn't want to watch it because I knew I fundamentally disagreed with every single one of the candidates on that stage. But I did tune in that night, at the insistence of my boyfriend. And because I couldn't quell my curiosity.

As I listened to Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina and the others attack President Obama, Hillary Clinton and one another, I could only feel my blood pressure rising. Not only because I was frustrated at what they were saying, but also because I know there's a very good chance one of those folks will be my next president -- and there's nothing I can do about it.

The feeling of helplessness is what gets me. The amount of injustices and plain stupidity in the world is so overwhelming at times that I want to burrow myself in a dark cave with a year's supply of candles, books and magazines just so I can forget it all.

Metaphorically, that's what happened this summer. I (mostly) stopped paying attention and started coloring. (No, really.) I sought peace. 

--

But the summer is over (at least, that's what the calendar tells me) and I'm ready to be accountable to something of my own again. Maybe I needed that break to figure out where I want to take this site. Maybe I'm just saying that because it sounds better than admitting laziness. Well, stay tuned. 

A light at the end of the tunnel brightened by an award nomination

It's my last week at Creative Loafing, so I can see a light at the end of this tunnel. Three more stories to write. One more front page to approve. Four more pieces to edit. Twenty-five more emails to send (well, that's just a low estimate).

I expected today to be fairly low-key. It was my final Tuesday ever at the Loaf -- fun fact: I've spent roughly 430 Tuesdays in this newspaper office -- and I'd finalized my pages earlier than usual.

An hour before the issue was due to the printer (who is located in Fayetteville), the Internet went down. 

You really become aware of how dependent you are on technology when the free-flowing hose of information and connectivity gets cut off. #firstworldproblems

The newspaper gods must have felt sorry for us because we managed to get the pages uploaded only one hour late. I can't even begin to try to explain to you how we did that with spotty Internet connection. But it worked out.

Because of the no-Internet thing, it wasn't until I got home this evening I discovered that one of my writers is a finalist in the annual Association of Alternative Newsmedia contest. "Charlotte is ground zero for coal ash" was written and published last year for Creative Loafing by Rhiannon Fionn, an independent journalist whom I first worked with when she was an intern for us. She went on to become a hard-working freelance journalist and is now producing a documentary that shares the stories of people all over the country affected by coal ash.

I am over the moon for Rhi and this honor. One of the things I really wanted to make sure we accomplished with this cover story was making the topic as accessible as possible. Coal ash is not sexy -- hell, environmental reporting isn't sexy. But it's important stuff, and I'm happy to see the story get the recognition it deserves.

So, allow me to revise my earlier assessment of my final week at Creative Loafing. Three more stories to write. One more front page to approve. Four more pieces to edit. Twenty-five more emails to send. And one more celebratory blog to pen. 

 

May 2014 cover of Creative Loafing, illustrated by Henry Eudy and designed by Melissa Oyler

May 2014 cover of Creative Loafing, illustrated by Henry Eudy and designed by Melissa Oyler

A new adventure for this worker bee

I had my first job at the age of 8. My mother owned a little shop in a strip mall, where she sold everything from clothes and accessories to hair weave and home decor. It was called Victory Shop, inspired by my own middle name, Victoria. 

I usually helped out after school. I knew how to work the cash register and was excellent at counting money, but my mom mostly handled that. My job was to watch the customers to make sure no one stole anything. 

One day, my mom left me in charge. She needed to walk two stores down to the neighboring fish market to order us dinner. A couple of minutes after she left, a group of teenagers came in.

"How can I help you?" I asked in my best grown-up voice. Finally, my chance to show my mom I was responsible.

I can't remember now how many kids there were. Maybe three or four? They wandered to the glass display case I stood behind -- I could barely see over the top. They wanted to get a closer look at the selection of gold caps we had. I don't keep up with the fashion trends of grills, but back then, some of the caps had cutout shapes in them: a star or a cross, for example.  

The teenagers pored over our offerings. One kid made his choice and moved toward the cash register. Another girl, though, asked me, "Can I have this one?" She was holding another gold cap, protected by a plastic case, that had a simple butterfly in it.

Me, a mature almost-9-year-old, I said yes; I thought she meant, could she buy that one. 

I rung up the first customer, took his money and gave him his correct change back. I made sure to give him his receipt, too, just as I had watched my mom do so many times. To my surprise, though, the girl did not step up to the register to pay for her selection. Instead, the group walked out, laughing. I just stared after them.

"Ooh, [insert name of girl here], you're wrong for that," one of her friends said as the door closed softly behind them.

Needless to say, my mom was a little upset when she returned. 

Since then, I've become a much better employee. My mom closed her shop a few years later, but I got to hone my worker bee skills in a handful of different places until I graduated college. In 2006, I applied for and attained a part-time copy-editing job at Creative Loafing, the weekly alternative newspaper in Charlotte, North Carolina. Fast-forward to 2015, and I've now been donning the hat of editor in chief for two years now. 

Yesterday, though, I put in my notice of resignation. 

After having worked for several bosses throughout my short 30-some years, I've decided to freelance. It's a scary and exhilirating move for someone who's lived to please an employer since she was 8. But it's time.