Parting is such sweet sorrow

This familiar line from Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” popped into my mind while contemplating my retirement.

I’m no Juliet, but I do have a Romeo, and we have big plans. Not the type that famous literary couple had, but plans, nonetheless.

When I began as editor of Illinois Country Living, it was a dream come true. I was using my college education in language arts and my love of small town life to make a difference. I had so much to learn about the publishing side of the business, but I pushed up my sleeves and dove in.

I had many mentors along the way, including former ICL editor John Lowrey. I will never forget one of the first things he told me, “Every editor needs an editor.” That is so true. I also immersed myself in growing relationships with other statewide editors and learned to “admire and acquire” their ideas. That’s the thing about cooperatives, we love to work with each other to make everyone better.

Illinois is just one of more than 30 states that produces an electric cooperative-centric statewide magazine distributed to consumer-members – encompassing more than 12 million readers across the U.S. All embrace the co-op spirit and enjoy the challenge of highlighting and supporting our cooperatives.

I’ve enjoyed traveling the state to visit co-ops from Galena down to Dongola and Quincy to Paris. I took a trip down memory lane looking at my tenure, stories written and those I’ve met. Rural Illinois has much to offer and interviewing such interesting members as Geoffrey Mikol, a highly talented Down syndrome photographer from Galena, was a highlight.

I’ve listened to the heart-wrenching stories of wounded Vietnam veterans and their journeys to recovery and spoke with a young man whose food allergies were so severe that at age 11, he’d never eaten in a restaurant, and I’m happy to report he is much improved after continued immunotherapy. I’ve always admired the talents of others – from artisans to female farmers, a blind triathlete and a group of young-at-heart gentlemen who embrace the Santa spirit year-round, to name a few.

Rural Illinois has many interesting personalities, and I only touched the tip of the iceberg. I know there are many more stories to tell, and the team I am leaving behind will pick up that mantle and run without missing a beat.

This cooperative family of mine is near and dear to my heart and always will be. We know how to pull together in a crisis, laugh at our shortcomings, meet those deadlines that loomed imminently, and find humor in the mundane. Maybe too much fun at times, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

While I am looking forward to slower days without deadlines and alarm clocks, the parting is bittersweet.

So, yes, it is with sweet sorrow I find myself retiring. I’ll miss my coworkers but look forward to the days ahead with my Romeo.