By Brett Yates
I began writing for this newspaper in early 2008, and it didn’t take me long to realize that I enjoy this column so much that I could do it forever if the editor would let me. I knew I’d likely never find another paid opportunity to write about (quite literally) whatever I want every week, and this freedom ensured that my job here never became routine: for each issue of the Mountain Times, I produce a new essay on a new topic, and each time it feels like a fresh challenge. Year after year passed, and I saw no reason to give it up.
More recently, though, the thought that the pleasure I take in this task is great enough that I might end up doing it for the rest of my life, began to trouble me a bit. As a slightly abrasive dilettante who, at the age of 20, was inexplicably granted the space to opine in print, I always felt that I was getting away with something here, and that someday the good people of central Vermont would start up a petition to have me removed, prompting the publishers of this newspaper to come to their senses. A decade has passed, and no such action has occurred; it’s up to me.
I’d be a little embarrassed to admit how much it pains me to say that this will be my last column for the Mountain Times. For a small-town newspaper columnist and wholly amateur novelist, I’ve always taken my own writing very seriously, for better or worse; and as a writer, I’m wary of the prospect of working too long within the same format. “Generation Y” is just one part of my modest literary output, but I’ve been at it long enough that, by now, current events, cultural trends, and my own observations of daily life meet me first as potential subjects for columns.
The essential test for a columnist is to come up with a new thought each week; what I’d like, in the future, is to discover new ways of thinking, and my hope is that giving myself over fully to a different set of creative endeavors will unsnarl and realign a mind that has gradually trained itself to regard each new blip of mental activity as the possibility of an “interesting take” of 1,000 words or fewer.
Before I go, I need to thank Royal Barnard, the former owner of the Mountain Times, for taking a chance on me when I was very young and for offering encouragement throughout the first three and a half years of “Generation Y.” When I look back on my early work here, I cringe, but Royal was generous enough then to see incipient talent in my strained precocity.
In 2011, Polly Lynn (now Polly Lynn Mikula), to whom I owe an equal debt of gratitude, took over as editor and proved open-minded enough to stick with a column that, having long since strayed from its initial concept as a youth-culture explainer, had no obvious purpose or focus.
Of course, I must also thank the readers of the Mountain Times, and I have a special love for everyone who has ever recognized and approached me on the slopes and for everyone who has ever written a kind letter, or a politely peeved complaint, in response to one of my pieces. That I’ve lasted so long in these pages is a testament to the tolerance of the residents of this town and region.
My most loyal readers, however, have been my parents, and I think of them often when I write my columns. In the act of writing itself, the strongest help has come from my friend Liban, who, through endless gmail chat sessions, assisted in the conceptualization of many of my articles. I’m thankful for all of this support.
From early on, I sought to make “Generation Y” a column about stuff other than my own life. But any close observer has watched me grow up inside this newspaper – politically, for instance, I’ve gone from indifferent to liberal to socialist, where I stand now. Having to articulate my often flawed ideas about life has hastened the necessary process of refining them; in short, this column has held me accountable to myself. In terms of how I see the world, the hundreds of pieces I’ve written here form an autobiography of my early adulthood, how I’ve changed and how I haven’t. My intrepid companion throughout these dizzy, difficult years has been my inspiring wife, Quinn, who, as such, is the co-author of everything I write, whether she likes it or not. I have no idea where I’d be today if not for her.
In accordance with the aforementioned principle of avoiding excessive personal disclosure within this column, I’ve never directly discussed the role that mental illness has played in my life or in my writing, but I’m not embarrassed to acknowledge (as I feel I should now) that I’ve suffered from depression since at least early adolescence, and at times quite severely. Beginning in my teenage years, I’ve written primarily to find relief – to transform bad thoughts into useful ones. For this reason, writing is for me not a hobby but a requirement, and if there exists any reader disappointed by my retirement here, I hope to reassure him or her that I’ll never stop writing. If any reader should ever want to contact me, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OK, I think this is it: the final paragraph – I’m signing off. I can’t guarantee that you’ll never hear from me again, but this is where we part for now, at least. If this column has ever struck you as overly snarky or adversarial, take now my love, which I disburse without a critical squint in my eye or a sarcastic sneer on my lips.
May your every day be a powder day.
Let’s all have a great 2018.