I wrote my first column for the Lorain County Community Newspapers in 2003.
I was at Ohio State University taking a three-week course that was required to get my license in health care administration. It was a rough time — I was working two jobs through my internship at $8 per hour. I stayed in an awful motel, one that had a weekly rate that averaged out to about $29 per night. It was the only thing we could afford and, even then, when I tried to check in one Sunday night there was not enough money in our account.
However, one evening during the training, my wife called me and told me that my first column had run. It was about “The Starfish Poem,” and how every life mattered. I was so excited.
Fifteen years have quickly passed and this is my 300th column for the local papers. It is also my final column.
The time has come to move on — I feel like I have exhausted my perspectives. While there will always be specific issues to write about, my underlying values and arguments have been well communicated by now. I’ve learned to never say never, so I can’t say that I won’t ever write to or for the paper again, but it is my intention to tackle the next adventures in my life.
My desire to write was inspired by Stephan Jay Gould, who wrote beautifully and intelligently for Natural History magazine. A collection of his essays was required reading in one of my biology classes. I fell in love with his knowledge and brilliance and was envious of his writing ability.
I enjoy dissecting issues and writing challenged me to acquire some knowledge on an issue, consider both sides (or several sides) of an argument, and present a coherent essay on the subject. I tried to tackle the tough issues and in doing so I learned a lot about myself and what I was willing to share publicly.
Writing this column has been a wonderful experience, which has allowed me to grow both personally and professionally. I appreciated all the feedback, positive and negative, and my only hope was that on occasion my views offered some reader reflection and consideration.
I do have a couple of endeavors yet to consider. I want to write a book. I have been taking notes for over a decade but have never consistently committed the time it takes. The book will examine how — through “arrogance, ignorance and indifference” — we have become disconnected from the foundation of society. It will offer in-depth philosophical ideas intertwined with autobiographical experiences. I was making notes about societal fabrication and detachment long before “fake news” became a catchphrase.
I would like to run for political office one day, to put into practice that which I am so passionate about. To test my political philosophies, perhaps.
But I also turned 50 this year and I am acutely aware that there are no certainties in life. There is no longer the feeling of infinite summers, holidays, and time with my family. There is an anxiousness and awareness about time, and a bucket list that needs an increasing amount of attention.
I am motivated by Sir Francis Bacon Sr., who wrote, “Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand and melting like a snowflake.”
In 15 years, it is interesting to know that, as a freelancer writer and due to technology, I never once walked into the newspaper’s office. However, I am grateful to Kathleen Willbond, who invited me to start writing my column, and editor Jason Hawk for his opinions and guidance. I am also grateful for the publishers along the way who printed my columns, even if they were controversial or unpopular at times.
Finally, I want to thank my friends and colleagues who often read and commented on my drafts, and my wonderful wife who not only proofread most of my columns but also provided honest feedback.
Rob Swindell is a lifelong Lorain County resident offering his opinions on politics, science, and social issues. He can be reached at email@example.com.