I've home-colored my hair and gone over that stubborn stain on my jacket sleeve with the Tide pen for the millionth time.
I guess I'm ready.
Tomorrow I start a new path, one that doesn't involve tape recorders or press passes (well, actually, it will, but only for a few morning hours of the first day of high school football practice). Then it's on to what I hope is the start of a new career, in a grown-up, dress-up world that I've played at from time to time but am quite nervous about trying to join on a full-time basis.
I still hope to be, to however small an extent, a sportswriter. I hope this new job, if it works out, allows me to set flexible enough hours to still be where God intended on a Friday night in September - with my ass slowly growing numb on a hard metal bleacher, the smell of grilled meat and churned-up grass filling my nostrils as I try to concentrate on halftime math while the marching band blares whatever former hit has become just uncool enough to make it to sheet music.
I hope to always, in some context, see my byline in print. I hope someone somewhere always reads my words.
But, as the past year has made painfully clear, that's not who I am, day in and day out, anymore.
I don't know who that person is, or is going to be. I hope whoever she is has as much fun, gets to meet as many amazing people and gets to see as many unforgettable things as the person I used to be did.
I'll always remember the Monday night before my 34th birthday, sitting in my brand-new gray pantsuit in the press box at FedEx Field, watching the Washington Redskins play the Minnesota Vikings while somewhere, in a suite not too far away (logistically, anyway) Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes looked on. I'll always remember wearing my cowboy boots to Texas Stadium - and the care I had to take to avoid the plethora of mud-sucking potholes in the rutted parking lot.
I'll always remember being fresh out of college and interviewing Billie Jean King and Monica Seles and their famous-but-human ilk, five feet from me in a media tent on an island clinging to the edge of my home state by the barest tendril.
I'll always remember, whatever age and whatever place, how great the vast majority of people were, how every gracious, grieving mother made up for 20 self-important assholes.
I'll always remember the card I got from the wife of the winner of the Senior Tour Championship, expressing eloquent thanks in perfect penmanship for the feature I did after following her following her husband in his final round. I'll always remember the thank you note from the mother of the high school athletic director who died too young, thanking me for telling others how special she knew her daughter was.
I'll remember how kind people far removed from me in time and accolades and respect in my profession were to me, when being kind served absolutely no purpose to them. And I'll remember when they weren't.
But memories don't pay the bills. They don't get you out of the house, they don't make you feel worthwhile, they don't give your daughter something to look up to.
So I hope the stain came out of my jacket and that I got all the grays. I hope I remember how to play dress up.
I hope for more memories, and I hope I don't hold their differentness against them for too long.