The start of a new year serves as a time of reflection.

As people, we reflect on everything that happened over the last year. Just like individuals, the newspaper does that too. 

What were the biggest, most notable things that happened in Tallapoosa County this year? We’re currently whittling down our top 10 news stories from 2019 and will publish that after the new year kicks off. 

We also reflect on the good and the bad. As a staff, we’ve been through a lot. We’ve dealt with personal trials and tribulations; we’ve grieved and had to move on, learn to cope and grow together; we’ve tested our mental and physical strengths and ultimately, we’ve worked our tails off. We’ve accomplished a lot and we’ve grown as a team and a publication. We’re diligently working to improve every single day and, I promise, we won’t stop.

In my adult life, I haven’t been the type to care what others think. I spent my childhood too embarrassed to dress up for the themed homecoming weeks at school and always worrying about what someone thought. I’d snap and tell my mama to hush when we were in any given store because heaven forbid, people could hear her! The audacity.

But now that I’m grown, I don’t give a dang. Somewhere along the way of growing up probably far too fast, I discovered the only person I have to impress is myself. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of me because I know myself and know when I’ve done right and when I’ve done wrong. I know my intentions and I ultimately know I’m a good person who goes above and beyond for those I love and the things I care about.

But since I became the editor of TPI’s newspapers earlier this year, I’ve found myself caring what each of you think of me.

I find myself saying, “I wish they just knew who I really am.” Sure, many of you do know me. I see you when I run errands, eat lunch or pick up my prescriptions at the pharmacy. We’re Facebook friends; I see you at community events; and I get calls from you about news stories.

Others may have never met me but see my face right here every Saturday, so you’ve gotten to know me through bits and pieces of my life I share here. I try to write about my values and what makes me me for that very reason — I want you to know who I am and what I stand for. If you understand who I am, maybe you can understand certain decisions I make or at least respect me for them. 

I started out in this position refusing to be a stranger to my audience and I stepped out of my comfort zone and became a social butterfly — or at least the closest a homebody like me can become to that.

I’ve had people I’ve never met hug my neck when they see me and others write me the sweetest handwritten notes. I’ve even been given a gift when a columnist retired. I’ve made friends with some wonderful people in this community and we support each other. 

I’ve had phone calls — oh boy, have I had phone calls. I’ve had people tell me there’s no doubt I’m in the right field and am putting my talents to good use, and I’ve had others ask me if I even think before I do things. I’ve had people call me young and inexperienced and I’ve had others praise the work I’m doing.

People have told me they’re going to unsubscribe, and others have said the paper has never been better. 

From the really good calls to the really bad ones, I know it’s all part of the job. I’m just proud I get to be the one people call.

I hope each person reading this knows I put thought into every single thing I do at this job. I refuse to be thoughtless in a field where what we do affects so many people. I put my all into what I do. I have a demanding job with a lot of responsibilities, and sometimes I make mistakes. I’m — wait for it, brace yourself — human, unfortunately, just like you. I sometimes wish the Lord made me a robot but He didn’t. I’m just a girl running some newspapers and juggling a whole lot else in life doing her best. 

As much as I wish my job was to impress everyone, it’s not. It’s to put out a paper that reports the news accurately and with integrity. And that means reporting all the news. Whether it’s my co-worker or John Doe getting arrested, it’s news. We don’t get to pick and choose what we report on in our coverage area and that’s something our team knows is non-negotiable.

As I reflect on what went wrong, what went right, what’s gotta change and what should stay, I will continue to hold my head high and do my job with all my heart and all my might. If I was perfect, someone would still complain and I’m learning that. I’m not perfect; neither are you; and as we all reflect on ourselves before 2020 gets here, I suggest we keep that in mind.

Overall, I turned 25 this year and was promoted to my dream job. I grew in many ways. I made mistakes, had successes and learned a lot. In 2020, I know I’ll do all that again and then some. 

It’s gonna be fun. I hope y’all stick around to see it unfold.

Santana Wood is managing editor of Tallapoosa Publishers’ newspapers. She can be reached at santana.wood@alexcityoutlook.com or 256-234-3412.