I could always tell when it was time for the school year to end. That was when the folders started their inevitable deterioration. Masking tape would be applied in the most critically damaged areas. Despite the folders' cries of "EMPTY ME!" I would continue to stuff grammar worksheets and science reports into their vulnerable frames. Only on the last day would I grant them their reprieve by recycling their guts. Sometimes, I would use the same folder again the next year. Those grizzled veterans had to endure label changes on their cover and more masking tape. Some couldn't take it and would throw up their contents all over the hallway.

Like those paper/plastic folders of grade school yore, I have been building others on my computer. The document files for my stories and some digital notes are located in one folder. A software program titled Evernote has another couple hundred note pages I've created and stuck in other folders. Though these folders would surely accept more notes and story drafts, I sense that their purposes are being fulfilled as well.

It has been over a year since I began writing articles for the Bluff Country Newspaper Group. I have been writing weekly columns for nearly that long as well. By the time you have read this column, I will have finished my last article for the BCNG and will be looking ahead to new experiences. Perhaps it is in this state of flux that I should reflect on all that has transpired. In many ways, my column has fulfilled that responsibility already.

With my work demanding that I write all my articles without an overtly personal voice, I found solace in my weekly column. It has been apparent that I derived many of my column ideas from personal experiences both past and present. Normally, sharing these experiences and opinions to a larger audience would make me nervous since I do not have personal relationships with most of you. I could have also asked myself why I was putting writing in print that would very easily expose my youthful, non-worldly, non-artistic and college-uneducated perspectives. I should have also realized that my high-school English teacher would read my columns and possibly shake her head at everything wrong in my writing that she thought she had taught me. In short, I was making a bold move.

As I wrote, I tried pushing out of my mind the fact that over 20,000 people would be able to see my sad conglomeration of words. Instead, I focused on what I was feeling while writing. Those feelings were imbued in the sentences and paragraphs and I believe it was those feelings that gave my writing meaning to not only me, but also to its readers. I haven't heard from too many detractors, and I have heard from several people here and there who enjoyed my columns. Thank you all, but why did you like them? Or, why did you not like them? In your answer, I hope you come to understand more about which feelings, ideas, and meaning that is most important to you.

As I've explained before, my column title "On a Mission" meant several things to me. First and foremost, it referenced my personal decision to serve a Mormon mission in East Oregon/West Idaho for which I leave in early February. The title also expressed my feelings of obligation to do the best job I could in reporting the news of the area. Indeed, I was on a mission to learn and improve my skills in journalism. I also hoped the title would inspire others to find what they are on a mission to accomplish in this life. I hope I'll be able to fulfill all three, but either way, I'm heading west in a few weeks.

I may have been covering a small area in the SE corner of the state, but the experience of doing so was not of small consequence. If I live to 100 years, it will be a good one percent of life to look back upon. What I leave behind is a year's worth of newspaper articles. What I will carry with me was nothing short of a life-altering experience.

And so, I complete this mission and look forward to the next. What will be your mission? Whatever it is, make sure it involves deepening your relationships with others.

My last words: just persevere, be honest, exercise patience, have faith.