I didn’t realize it at first. It dawned slowly as I stared unblinking at it. Three little words but they were all mine. They were all I had ever wanted. My name. An actual byline. In print.
That was 20 years ago. Since then I’ve seen it in newsprint, glossy magazine pages, slick media websites and my own shoddily constructed blog site, Chick Writes Stuff. All these years later, I still feel a bit of a thrill when I see it.
But this is my last one. I’m ending my humor column.
No one is more surprised than I am. I planned to write my last column on my deathbed. Laughing defiantly until the end.
But as the old saying goes, humor is tragedy plus time. And there is no time anymore. It’s all just one tragedy piled on top of another piled on top of another. There doesn’t even seem time to take a breath let alone process the broken world that won’t stop fracturing.
Which is funny because that’s how all this got started. As a preteen I was overwhelmed by everything. Every day felt like the world was ending. I’d lay awake at night, trying to think of all the awful things that could happen because I believed if I thought of it first it couldn’t happen in real life. Because I was an 11-year-old girl and the only power I had was superstition.
And then, like a deus ex machina by way of Florida, I discovered Dave Barry. I devoured every column of his I could get my eyes on. It was remarkable. Possibly even witchcraft. He taught me that if you could make fun of something, if you could laugh at it, it lost some of its power.
This was doubly true when you could find a way to laugh at yourself. Laughter seemed to quiet the inner demons.
I wanted to wield that magic like he did and make the world a slightly less awful place. To be a tiny flicker of levity, no matter how inconsequential, in the crushing darkness.
But I can no longer write my way out of this darkness. I’ve tried. I’ve sat down before my computer every day for months. Whatever does manage to come out is forced. I am too angry. Bitter. Sad. I didn’t realize how much faith in humanity I had until I lost most of it.
And without hope I can’t find the humor anymore.
I wish I had a better exit than this. I mean, 20 years. Half of my life. This dream job of mine deserves a proper eulogy.
But honestly I just want to get this last one over with. It hurts too much to linger.
And so, let me end this ending by saying it has been my immense privilege writing for you, whoever you are out there reading this. I was never hugely popular, only ever with a small following (and even then that is stretching that concept to its limit) as I moved across this country over the years. But I loved it, all of it, none more so than when someone told me I made them laugh. I cannot thank you enough for reading so I won’t even try.
And to my editors, I still can’t quite believe I found actual live human beings to publish my words. Thank you all for letting me live out my fantasy. Especially to Editor Bob, my Bobbert, Bob Robinson, the man who gave me my very first column when I was 20. And especially to my editors over the years at the Victoria Advocate, who will be publishing my last as I am on the cusp of 40. You took a chance on me. You believed in me. Every writer deserves editors like you. Every person deserves people like you in their corner.
I hope one day to write again. To laugh again. To type something immeasurably witty about the Grim Reaper right before he takes me.
But for now I just…
…don’t know how to end that sentence anymore.