THIRTEEN years ago, almost to the day, I moved to the Northern Rivers and started work at The Northern Star.
The Star was, on the surface at least, a different sort of beast in those days. The dysfunctional rabbit warren we know of as the Media Centre was, beyond the newsroom, full to bursting with compositors, classifieds people, and sales reps.
Out the back there was the enormous press; a gigantic groaning contraption of steel and wheels that struggled to keep colours within the lines on the page - or sometimes even on the same page.
This monstrosity, so a few of the printers later assured me, had been purchased by some scallywag of an executive who roamed the world to find a machine whose sole redeeming feature was that it was blue.
How this redeemed the press, which was subjected to daily verbal abuse from every department in the building along with a reasonable percentage of our readers, was never really explained.
The blue beast is long gone and the population of the Media Centre is a mere fraction of what it was. Yet the spirit that makes The Star so special remains.
When I first walked into The Northern Star newsroom back in October 2002, I was struck by how welcoming the place was, how warm the people were and how much it felt like home.
Today, on my last day at The Star before starting in a new role at the Sunshine Coast Daily, I can honestly say it still feels like home and the colleagues I share my day with feel like family.
This newspaper and this region have been a blessing to me. This is the place I met my partner, the place where my children were born and, so far, have lived their whole lives. I arrived on the Northern Rivers knowing it was the most beautiful part of Australia but was then blown away all over again by the region's people.
I have tried to live up to this standard and tried to live up to The Star's long and proud history of journalism through my work, reporting honestly and fairly and, when possible, with as much sheer cheek as I can muster.
I am proud to have been involved in campaigns such as the fight for the train, the Pacific Hwy upgrade, and the Lismore Base Hospital redevelopment.
Not all these campaigns succeeded, but they all had one thing in common - they were fought not to sell papers but to help our communities and to improve the lot of the people who live here.
I am immensely proud and immensely grateful to have been part of this newspaper and part of the Northern Rivers community.
Thank you Northern Rivers. It has been an honour working for you.