Even as I type this, I have to ask myself, “Is it really about to be 2014?”
It almost seems unreal. 2013 was literally a “new year” for me: new career, new city in a new state, new friends, new adventures, new skills and a ton of new experiences (walking tacos, tubing, bonfires, dating Iowa women and Iowa and Iowa State games just to name a few).
Most people are averse to such drastic changes. But for me, it made Chapter 26 of my life story one of the most interesting. This last year, I feel like I accomplished more than most people have in their lifetimes.
I’ve rubbed elbows with entertainers and politicians. I met a lot of great people and families. I got to hear a ton of American history from the men and women who made it happen.
Think about this. How many people have interviewed, interacted with and wrote about servicemen and women from every major conflict from World War II to today’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?
Not many, but I’ve had that honor and privilege.
I’ve talked repeatedly about how much I love history, and this job is better at giving me a chance to relive it than any book or encyclopedia would ever be able to. I’ve heard about everything from life as a farm kid during The Great Depression to how kids, who weren’t born yet, view the events of 9-11.
The more than 20 reporter’s notebooks I’ve filled up here in Newton contain these moments and hundreds more like them. If a person, other than me, can decipher my chicken-scratch handwriting, they will be both entertained and fascinated by the stories of the people of Jasper County within those pages.
Beyond work, though, 2013 was far better socially than I could have ever expected.
When I chose to come to Newton, I knew I was leaving behind my entire family, my friends (most of whom I’ve hung out with since either elementary or middle school), a job I had been at for all of my adult life and a relationship that was growing more serious by the day. It was big decision to make, but in the end, I would do it again without hesitation.
I’ve been adopted by new families. I met new friends and the old ones have come up for visits. I’m a lot happier at this job versus my previous warehouse job and although I’m still single, I’ve had both ups and down exploring the dating scene in this region.
There was a moment, my second day here, where I was alone in my new apartment and said to myself, “What did I just get myself into?”
That first week in Newton, last January, still plays fresh in mind. Before moving here, I had assumed I would have a limited social life, (I had seriously underestimated how much fun there is to be had in Iowa), but still took precautions to keep that under wraps from my coworkers.
I chose an apartment away from the Daily News’ unofficial building of choice, Bristol Square (six coworkers have lived there since I’ve been here), because I was worried I would be the youngest guy in the newsroom and my older coworkers would judge me for my social habits.
When I walked in the office that first day and saw other people in their 20s, I was pleasantly surprised and instantly found connections and begin forming the foundation of the group that is currently known as the “Younger Professionals.”
By the time Friday rolled around, more than half of our entire building went out together and I realized:
• Iowa has a night life,
• my coworkers are professionals, but still know how to have fun, and
• this was going to be an interesting and fun year.
As the year has progressed, we’ve found more likeminded people in the community, who work hard and party harder, as we continue to expand our little social group. As great as 2013 was for me, both personally and professionally, it’s kind of scary to think 2014 could be even bigger.
Opportunities for great stories will be everywhere in Newton. We have an entire city rebranding its identity. There is an effort to label Newton as a Main Street Community and the downtown as a historical district.
Big changes are coming to and around Iowa Speedway, and economic development efforts are continuing to make moves.
Senate and gubernatorial candidates are sure to be stomping in Newton. I’m very curious to see what one full year of our current school board and new superintendent working together will bring. And, I’d like to see what the “Red Shirts” will pull off to complete the expanded veteran’s memorial on the courthouse lawn.
Prepare yourself, because 2014 promises to shake things up. Contrary to what most folks believe, I’m a firm believer in that change is good.