I’ve never really been good at goodbyes.

One of my best friends moved hours away last month, and when I dropped her off at her house after a farewell dinner, I didn’t really know what to say. As she got out of my car, knowing this would be the last time we’d see each other for a while, I said: “Get the heck out of here. See ya never.”

My therapist would call that deflecting my discomfort onto other people. Yeah, whatever, I’m working on it.

Saying goodbye to a job is hard when that job is a part of who you are. I am always Editor in Chief of the Community Edition. When someone emails me about a typo in a story at 10 a.m. on a Saturday, I don’t leave it until Monday morning. When I run into one of my writers at a bar on the weekend, I leave my friends’ table for a few minutes to say hello. When I’m out for breakfast with my partner at one of our distribution locations and a stack is low, you best believe I’m grabbing a handful of papers from my car and filling that stack.

This job was never a typical 9-5 and I’m not complaining, by any means. But when a job becomes half of who you are, how do you leave?

I announced my planned departure from the Community Edition a few weeks ago. A “planned departure” means that care and time will be put into my leave. We will hire the best person for the job and I will stay until that person is hired, however long that may take.

The part that may be confusing about this announcement is that there wasn’t really a reason for my leave. I’m not being fired; my publisher is, and will remain, one of my closest friends. I’m not moving to Toronto to be some big shot writer. I’m not ill. The book I’ve been working on for the past year is nowhere near done.

I’m leaving because it’s time for someone else to love this paper as much as I do, and it’s time for me to try to love something else as much as I love this paper. So while my eyes are welling up as I write this, it’s really not a sad story. It’s a love story.

This newspaper presented me with opportunities and challenges that I would have never received elsewhere. This newspaper introduced me to some of my very best friends. This newspaper taught me lessons in compassion, vulnerability, pride, leadership and community.

But above all, this newspaper taught me the importance of participation. Without this newspaper, I don’t think I would care about Waterloo Region as much as I do.

So, to everyone living in KW who dreams of moving to Toronto, or who complains that KW is boring — I don’t buy it. I don’t buy it because I used to be just like you.

Get out and participate. Volunteer, go to community events, learn the name of your favourite barista, go to grand openings, ask people their names, buy local art, support local music — I don’t care what you do. Just participate in your community.

Once you do, you’ll feel right at home — and I don’t think a feeling like that ever really goes away.

So while the half of me that is “Beth Bowles, Editor in Chief of the Community Edition” will soon expire, the part of me that is so damn passionate about participation is deep rooted — that part is here to stay.

So to answer my own question: when a job becomes half of who you are, how do you leave?

My hope is that when the job is removed, the passion will remain. As long as you’re passionate about something, you’ll find meaning and value.

You’ll find community.

Sincerest of thank-you’s to everyone who ever contributed to the Community Edition in the past two years. Whether it be big or small, one time or consistently, your participation meant the world to me. Thank you eternally to Paige Bush, Nick Stanley, Jesse Derry, Brit Kovacs and Ramona Leitao for sticking it out with me month after month. I don’t think you folks will ever know how much your contribution was valued. To my monthly columnists, thank you for sharing your passions with the Region. To Lakyn, Care and Kurtis: working with some of your best friends is a privilege not everyone can have. Thank you for giving me that.

To our readers: thank you for engaging with us every month. Thank you for participating in your local community and please, don’t stop.