I have one admission I have to make to you, Shelby Reardon: It took me a solid month to learn your name.
In my defense, we worked in different departments and didn't see each other very often in the office, but to go from that to developing a solid working alliance in the span of roughly two years, I can flatly say it was an absolute pleasure having you as a teammate.
(By the way, I'm guessing you know by now that I'm awful with names in general, whether that'd be pronouncing names or remembering them.)
As great as our working partnership became, it certainly had an awkward start.
Months after being hired as an education reporter, I moved to the sports department. When sports editor Parker Cotton decided to resign and head east, you were promoted to that position while I snatched the sports reporter gig. However, my arrival to the department was delayed.
Days before I was supposed to make the move, I found myself in the hospital. Dealing with a painful case of appendicitis, my hospital stay lasted two weeks and I was out of the office for a month, leaving you to handle the 2017 fall postseason essentially by yourself.
It was tough being out that long, but I felt worse knowing that I left you largely alone with that workload. However, you handled it, which gave me a look into the future.
When I was finally healthy enough to get back to work, you were patient with me. I wasn't yet 100 percent and hadn't touched a keyboard in weeks, but you eased me back into the fray.
During my time away, I thought a lot about what it would be like to have you as a boss; not that I was terribly concerned with how you would handle the new position, but I wondered what it would be like to have a superior that was more than nine years my junior. I had six years of freelancing experience prior to moving to Dickinson, so how would things materialize with someone who was still in college six months prior?
Turns out, the answer was beautifully. We never had an argument and rarely disagreed.
More importantly, you undoubtedly made me a better writer.
It wasn't just all the times you fixed a sentence that was missing a word, cleaned up a paragraph that wasn't structured properly or simply helped me when I produced a sloppily-written story, it was that you helped me become more creative and structured.
You see, as a freelancer, I would just attend an event, cover it, write a story, send it in and then be done for the day. Working under your guidance, we'd build up the paper together. We'd bounce ideas and stories off one another, and you were as receptive as you were willing to provide constructive criticism.
That's my strongest take-away from these last two years: we were a team.
Running the sports section through trial and fire, I thought we created a good product, but needless to say, we made a boatload of errors, which the reading public let us know by filling up our emails and voicemails.
As a writer, those moments are hard to take sometimes. Those comments from the readers are part of the job, but no one wants to have a mistake in their writing or have anyone suggest that your coverage is flawed or subpar. I tend to think it made us stronger as a unit. Certainly, some of that criticism could be easily shrugged off - and accompanied with laughter - but when it was warranted, we had each other's back. We'd encourage and lift one another up.
I'm extremely proud of the work we produced in year two. With our work ethic, we corrected our mistakes, expanded our coverage and received less of those emails and phone calls.
Unfortunately, there will not be a third year of this tandem, as you are heading out west to a newspaper out in Colorado. They will be lucky to have you.
I'll end with this: I feel lucky to have worked with you.
It's hard to approach this job with the same enthusiasm to get after it on a day-to-day basis. I've certainly struggled with that. On the days when I just didn't have it, you were understanding and lent a helping hand. On the days when I was ready to go, it was a blast. We got our business done.
So, so long to a fellow New Englander who truly made the sports section what it is today. So long to the inside jokes, like wondering how many different ways North Dakotians can spell the name Kennedy. So long to the times I lazily rolled with my chair to your desk to begin our daily meeting. So long to a terrific sports editor who has so much ahead of her. Lastly, so long my friend.
Safe travels, Ms. Whats-Her-Name. ... I mean, Shelby.