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It's with mixed emotions that by the time this piece appears in the newspaper, I've left Lancaster County to pursue a new career opportunity in my native area, Louisville, Ky., and return to the roots I love. I look to the future with much happiness and hope, but I feel sadness for what I know I'm leaving behind.
I'm sad to be leaving a community of such warm and caring people who know how to help their fellow man by coming together to support deserving causes, whether it's bringing awareness to a rare medical disorder that's often misunderstood or helping a family left with nothing after a fire destroyed their home or business.
I have countless memories of individuals or groups in this area doing what they can to help those in need, and it's been an honor to be part of such a community and to write about it.
I'm sad that I'll be leaving some of the wittiest people, prettiest places and best cooking I've ever known. In just three and a half years of being here, I've gotten a great sampling of what makes Lancaster County and South Carolina the special places they are. There's much richness here, and that's something to protect and be proud of. I plan to stay in touch and visit in the future.
Some of the culture I will take with me. My food tastes have changed, and so has my personality to some extent. I've learned the value of saying hello to strangers and sometimes slowing down to go a little bit faster (meaning a slower pace can sometimes bring about deeper understanding).
Perhaps, not strangely, I now have a bit of a Southern accent, which is fine. It's interesting that how I now pronounce Louisville (Loo-ey-ville) is not the way natives say it (Loo-a-vull or Loo-a-ville), just as the way I said Lancaster when I arrived here (Lan-cast-er) is not how natives say it (Lank-is-ter).
It was funny Friday when someone from Kentucky overheard a conversation of mine in which I said "Loo-ey-ville" and called me on my "wrong" pronunciation when I passed by. I'm not even up there yet! Oh, well, I'm sure I can adapt, just like I did here.
For all the sadness from leaving, there's even more happiness that comes from the thoughts of a bright future.
I'm happy that I'm going to pursue an education and a career where I feel I'll be of greater help to society. To start, I'll be a public employee at the Jefferson County Attorney's Office in Louisville. I'm sure that will be an invaluable experience, just as my newspaper work has been here. And within a few weeks, I'll start applying to law school for admission in fall 2009.
I look forward to the day when I enjoy a career where I can counsel and represent people in their legal matters, hopefully serving their interests as well as society's as a whole. I'll do my best. I look forward to the position of attorney.
I'll be returning to my family and friends of old, spread over a 25-mile stretch of Louisville into southern Indiana. They're eager to see me again established in that area and partake in life's pleasures with me.
Lastly, I'm very happy that, in my opinion, Lancaster County stands on the brink of a bright future.
Despite the economic misfortunes of many due to the layoffs at Springs Global, the plight of other manufacturing and other economic troubles hitting most of us, the area is still blessed to have people and resources to help those with the desire to secure new opportunities. Many are taking advantage of that and should eventually see benefits from it.
Lancaster County lies in a metropolitan area – Charlotte, one of the fastest growing, most prosperous areas of its size in the United States. That will have a positive trickle-down effect for the county with the right planning.
Many opportunities lie ahead for Lancaster County, which makes it the envy of many other areas in the United States today. The county has rich cultural heritage that's being promoted by individuals and groups, which should attract more tourists. It has a university, the University of South Carolina at Lancaster, which is led by people ready to see it grow and perhaps transform Lancaster into a "college town."
But for all of it to come to fruition, it's necessary that people here and nearby, regardless of any differences, work together for the common good, balancing self interest with common interest. Only then will the county be on its springboard for greatest achievement.
Thank you for the friendship, hospitality, memories and opportunities. I wish the best for all of you in the future.
Johnathan Ryan covered the city of Lancaster and towns of Heath Springs and Kershaw for The Lancaster News.