Nine years ago, I took a leap of faith for a part-time copy editor job at this newspaper. I had no idea what Loafing was, or how one would do it creatively. But it was a job in print journalism, and I needed to get my 22-year-old foot in the door somewhere, even as it meant leaving behind my family in Augusta, Georgia.
There was no way I could have predicted the amazing journey I would undergo, professionally and personally, by moving to Charlotte. From getting a tattoo for a story, interviewing a Kardashian sister and stalking Will Smith at a movie premiere to taking a flight for the first time ever, covering President Obama's first inauguration and getting the opportunity to lead this newspaper as editor — it's been a helluva ride.
Excuse the cliche, but as with all memorable trips, my adventure at Creative Loafing, as well as my time in Charlotte, comes to an end.
Instead of going on and on about what an awesome editor I was, or the changes we saw here at CL under my leadership, or giving a shout-out to all the people who made me look good (because there are a lot, and I'd feel terrible if I missed anyone), I'd like to instead share the biggest, yet simplest, lesson I learned from working here.
Two words: Support local.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to shop, eat, drink and indulge in the businesses and projects of people who actually live in Charlotte. I love knowing that my dollars and patronage are affecting folks I can actually see face to face. You should, too.
Here, then, are some ways — with my own personal stamp of approval — you can do just that.
• Score some apparel from local designer Caleb Clark. His "Positive Vibes Only" mantra, displayed on pins to T-shirts to sunglasses, is a shining beacon in a world full of haters. Or grab the T-shirt baby the company had with The Daily Press, inspired by the Wu Tang Clan.
• Get the best damn sandwich in the world at Mr. Le's — the grilled pork bahn mi, the No. 6 — at the Asian Corner Mall. But before doing that, stop in at the New Century supermarket to upgrade the kind of packaged ramen you've been suffering through.
• Ponder on one of the Wall Poems that dot Charlotte. Amy Bagwell, Graham Carew and Scott Nurkin are doing an amazing job of bringing art to the masses, and my English major heart is tickled whenever I pass one.
• Grab breakfast at Earl's Grocery. When I was on a juice kick — which has since passed, considering the stresses of moving — the Earl's Refresher (pineapple, apple, mint, lemon, coconut water, cayenne) was everything I needed.
• Catch a spoken word performance from Boris "Bluz" Rogers, Charlotte's slam master and coach of Slam Charlotte. His wordplay is none to mess with.
• Drown yourself in coffee at Smelly Cat with Manoj Kesavan, the cool guy who helps orchestrate Pecha Kucha here. He can get pretty geeky about supporting local, independent, grassroots art, but you'll walk away from that meeting inspired to make your own mark on Charlotte.
• Get your adrenaline pumping in an escape room. My boyfriend and I were super sleuths at Black Out in South End.
• Find a Free Library, or peruse the selections at Book Buyers, The Last Word or Park Road Books.
• Buy some handmade jewelry from The Boulevard for a friend's birthday — or as a going away present for me. Personally, I'm in love with Muro Jewelry, the work of local artist Rosa Murillo.
• Have a pint, pretzel and some playtime at VBGB.
• Sweat your ass off at Yoga One. They have $5 karma classes, but the joke's on you, as they're 90 minutes long.
• Drive to Pineville. It was there that I stumbled upon MJ Donuts, a tiny little pastry shop in a strip mall. So yum.
• Sip on a pistachio-agave latte from The Daily Press. Trust me.
I could go on and on. Charlotte has so much great stuff happening here, and that's because there are some amazing people taking the time to make an impact.
My hope is that during my time here, I was able to make some kind of impact as well. I won't say goodbye, because frankly, I love this city too much to not visit often. Instead, I'll see you around.