So long, and thanks for sharing your lives with me

Karen Kotze says goodbye to the False Bay Echo readers.

It is said to everything there is a season. This is especially true for me right now, as I shut down – not just my laptop – but also my time with the False Bay Echo and its holding company.

This signifies the end of three decades in community journalism, in a wide range of capacities (all of which I have loved) both in this country and abroad. My aim was always to equally reflect and inform our readers and the communities they called home.

It’s a clean goodbye to the industry as I knew it and sets in motion the wide open swing of doors to new ventures. I am granting myself the time and opportunity to focus on other aspects of my being, other avenues of expression. I will return to poetry and take up podcasts. I will study and turn my attention to the fascinations that work never fully allowed me to immerse in. I will give myself the gift of my own voice, in the way I did for the many thousands of people I sat with, laughed with, sometimes even shed tears with, over the length of this remarkably fulfilling, often uplifting, sobering and sometimes traumatic career.

If I have learned anything from my time in community journalism, it is to remain open and curious. This engenders a deeper listening, facilitates true hearing and allows quality communication to unfold.

I want to humbly thank the beautiful people of the south for sharing with me your passions, fears, and grievances. I feel particularly privileged to have been able to glean lasting wisdom and insights from conversations we have shared.

There’s nothing on the planet to grant access to people’s thoughts more intimately than community journalism.

Thank you for sharing your wins and losses, your aspirations, your dreams; your tender truths. Your voice is definitively your power, use it wisely and don’t let anyone, or any organisation, silence you.

Every interview has been a jigsaw piece, and each of you will have informed some aspect of my life, probably without even realising it. Perhaps this is my living experience of the quantum mechanics theory known as entanglement – which (loosely) says that particles which have interacted, remain connected, even over physical distance. So, even though I am leaving the paper and the company, I will carry with me, always, the nuances of what you shared with me. In some cases, the parts of our conversations that never made it to print remain the most poignant, and, as I look back over the sheer range of topics and issues we tackled together, know that your faces and words are indivisible from the work we did together.

There have been occasions when, in a moment of doubt or frustration, I have heard the words from an interview, even from many years ago, and it has been enough to quell the intensity of the moment and bring solace and insight.

These words have come from cleaners, grandmothers, homeless people, volunteers, playwrights, scientists, authors, professors and fishermen. They’ve come from residents, associations, NGOs and from people facing certain death (aren’t we all, eventually?) They’ve come from survivors of staggering odds, new mothers, a variety of belief systems, from animal and environmental activists, from poets and musicians.

They’ve come from you.

For this all, I sincerely thank you.

Stay blessed and keep yourselves, and one another, safe.