I thank you for trusting me to tell your stories. I thank you for reading my weekly rants in my columns about my crazy hair and my pets and my weird life in general. I thank you for letting me get to know you. I thank you, so many of you, for being my friend.

All good things must come to an end. That’s what they say, and I suppose to some degree it must be true. It is with a heavy heart that I have to say, this will be my last column in the Gonzales Weekly Citizen and the Donaldsonville Chief. I am leaving the papers at the end of the week to begin the next step in my career.

Words cannot express how much I have enjoyed telling the stories of the people in this community, your stories. I have gotten to know countless amazing people, from law enforcement officers and elected officials to teachers and volunteers. I have laughed with you at the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics. I have cried with you as Donaldsonville senior citizens became Queens for a Day. I have shared meals with you at charity functions, quoted you at council meetings, and photographed you at festivals. I have danced with you at concerts at Lamar Dixon and cheered you on at charity 5k races. I mean it when I say, I will miss everyone I encountered.

I had some incredible experiences as the reporter for these papers. I got to visit my first gospel Baptist church. I met superstars like Kane Brown. I got to know elected officials in a way many never do, hearing their stories and learning what drives them to work in public service. I got to learn about the rich history in Ascension Parish and meet some of the most interesting people I have ever met.

I want to thank every single person who has welcomed me not only into the parish but into your lives. I thank you for trusting me to tell your stories. I thank you for reading my weekly rants in my columns about my crazy hair and my pets and my weird life in general. I thank you for letting me get to know you. I thank you, so many of you, for being my friend.

It’s surprising to me how much of this I will miss. Of course, I will miss sitting down with you all one on one to learn about your lives, your successes and hardships, your cause, and your hopes and dreams for your home. But I will also miss the late nights in the courthouse annex and the sometimes-heated debates that take place there. I will miss the stress of re-reading my stories nineteen times to make sure I covered an issue fairly. I will miss the kindergarten graduations and the high school homecomings.

I should say, while I am leaving the paper, I am not leaving the parish. I will still live and work in Gonzales. You can count on seeing me at the next Flambeau Fest, Jambalaya Fest, sell-out show at Lamar-Dixon, and all the other community functions I can make. As you know from reading my work, I enjoy a good drink, so you may find me at a local watering hole from time to time. I love to eat and can usually be found in the Chick-fil-A drive thru at least once a week. I hope to see you all again, though I know it won’t be the same.

Since this is my final column, I would like to hop on my high horse one last time and leave you all with some more of my words of wisdom- never stop chasing your dream, never settle, and never give up on what you want. If you want something, go after it as fast as you can and don’t look back.

That’s what I am doing right now. As much as it breaks my heart to bid you all farewell, I will never stop searching for what it is I am after in this life, even if I’m not quite sure what it is yet. I will never stop searching for my passion in all things. I will never waiver in my desire to do more, give more, learn more, and be more. I encourage you all to do the same.

I write a lot about happiness in these columns, and it’s because I believe in it so much. I believe wholeheartedly that genuine happiness is achievable for all of us in every facet of life. Never stop chasing it.

If you would like to keep up with my ever-changing life and my spontaneous adventures, feel free to follow me on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat for those that have it). I will also try to update my personal blog more regularly, which you can find at myuncommonnonsense.wordpress.com.

Finally, I hope everyone who reads this knows that you mean the world to me. Thank you for reading, for supporting me, for your words of kindness, and for the love many have shown. It means more than you know.

With that, I say good-bye to these papers and hello to the next adventure.

Follow Halen on Twitter: @LikeVanHalen