In order to gain access to our building after 5:30 p.m., an employee like me has to have a keycard to swipe at front door.
Believe it or not, I've had the same card since starting here in September of 2004.
The years have taken its toll. At some point, the top third of the card that includes the name of the security company broke off, leaving a jagged, uneven edge.
The barcode across the back is faded away, and places that were once white now have the yellow color similar to what happens to newspaper as it ages.
The final injury ultimately means it's time for a change.
The strip across the back has been worn down and damaged enough that it no longer unlocks the door properly.
Sigh. Change is hard, and when our HR guru returns from vacation on Monday, I'll have to trade my card in for a new one.
I imagine I lost a few of you by now. Who cares about my keycard? What does it have to do with sports or this section?
Well, I realized the other day that the years and months have made me feel a lot like how that cards looks.
While that still doesn't have a lot to do with sports, it has a bearing on the section you pick up on a daily basis.
Like the swipe strip on the back, I've been worn down by the hours and pressure to the point that I don't think I've been functioning properly.
This past week I spent 5 days in Indianapolis judging entries in the Associated Press Sports Editors contest.
Being a person short in our department and having two teams at the girls state basketball tournament didn't make this an easy time to be away.
My feeling was that while it hurt the department in the short run, the things I learned would help us more in the long term.
So, I went. Over a 2-day stretch, I read roughly 600 columns. That process taught me pretty quickly what sort of columns stand out to judges, and what ones get placed on the thanks-for-entering stack.
More than doing enough reading to last a year in a week's time, it was a chance to communicate with editors around the country who are facing similar challenges. It also gave me a chance to see the work they are able to produce.
Maybe the most important conversation happened on the drive back from Indianapolis. I had agreed to drop off the sports editor of newspaper in San Diego in Bloomington, so that he could spend some time with his parents.
We got to discussing a popular question thrown about in this industry: "How to do more with less?"
The one thing we agreed upon is that it's a stupid ideal. The fact is no one in any work environment does more with less.
When cuts come, the goal needs to be shifted, and the thought process has to be adjusted to motivate staff.
Our conclusion was to ask, "How can we still do good with less?"
That's a question I'll pose to my staff, including a new member that we hope to have on board in the next month or two.
We did well in the contest with another top 10 honor for our football preview section, and honorable mention honors for our daily section and website. We know how to do good work.
I'll also be keeping this question in the back of my mind. I hope that helps me feel a little less like my keycard looks.
Monday, I'll replace that card, and maybe with it, we can start a new era in the SVM sports department.
Change is hard, but it can be good too.