When this column, Meredith Pro Tem, was first published in The Aspen Times on July 16, 2005, it was named such because there was a chance it was just going to run pro tem - for a short time. Not that my then-editors ever indicated their belief that I wouldn't last. On the contrary, they had the paper's on-site legal department draw up a contract, which I was asked to sign in blood, because when recognizing a once-in-a-lifetime talent such as myself, locking me down was their top priority.
Even still, I was concerned my prose might never find the right audience, and so humbly arguing that I was only meant to be printed temporarily seemed a prudent way to protect my fragile ego.
As it turns out, my hesitant sense of worth was no match for my ardent followers, who might have made my ego explode into smithereens from all of the accolades they've heaped on me over these past years. Thankfully my interminable modesty has tenderly protected my ego from imminent destruction.
And yet, 7 1/2 years later, Meredith Pro Tem has proved to be short-lived nonetheless, as this is my last-ever column for The Aspen Times.
It's hard to imagine there won't be riots in the street, hunger strikes, petitions and marches on Washington protesting the fact that my name will no longer appear in print in this newspaper, as my readers have always clamored for me, for more of me, for all of me.
Take, for instance, the loyal reader who once marveled at the simple-yet-eloquent way in which I paint a portrait of words, week in and week out: "'Beginning, middle and end' called. They said your columns don't have them."
A similar outpouring of compliments, praise and honors have been nonstop over the years:
"What a miserable article from an obviously miserable person. ... Not only is your article a disgusting display of self serving bias, but it's not even well written, creative or entertaining. ... Next time please keep it to yourself, the rest of us have our own problems."
"(Meredith's) poor attempt at humor is only exceeded by her ignorance."
"Why is this in the newspaper? Why is this person given space to spew this crap? Is the Times that hard up for copy? ... Enough already ... Can we start running something from someone who has anything relevant to say?"
"I am flummoxed and disturbed by Ms. Carroll's sniping, which is devoid of respect and decorum. I cannot imagine what caused her to feel spiteful enough to express such sentiments to anyone. ... It would have made my stomach queasy to construct such a missive."
"Can someone say V - A - P - I - D?"
"(Meredith) is tactless and tediously petulant."
"Wow, something is not right in your head. ... Shame on you."
There have been times when I've been ready to throw in the towel because the sheer exhaustion of pouring so much of me into print each week renders me all but useless. However, it is the enthusiastic and sincerely lovely reader reaction such as, "I'm seldom moved to respond to an article. But this one was so unappealing, I had to write," and, "I wonder if you realize the kind of personality you project. What comes through is narrow, narcissistic, negative," which has carried me through.
Among the saddest to see me leave The Aspen Times are my undoubtedly my own parents, who have a tendency to gush about my every printed word.
"Very cute. I guess. I did not really know what you are talking about," my mom emailed me after a recent column.
"Eh," my dad says after reading me every week. "It was OK."
Which rings similar to the comment of another reader: "I think this is about the dumbest article I've ever read."
Ultimately, it's because of the encouragement from my loyal followers - "WHY DON'T YOU JUST SHUT UP, MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS AND STOP TELLING US HOW TO LIVE OUR LIVES," one devotee effused - that I finally feel comfortable leaving while I'm on so far on top that those behind me need a GPS and binoculars to catch sight of my dust.
While of course I have some fleeting concerns that I will be forgotten as soon as tomorrow's newspaper is printed, it's remarks such as, "You suck, Meredith!", and, "You're either stupid or intentionally vile," which reassure me that my apprehensions are just that - fleeting. After all, talent like mine is hard to disremember, as my admirer who pronounced, "You have set a new benchmark in empty-noggin twithood (sic). Congratulations, I guess," would surely agree.
And with that, I bid my fans a fond and deeply appreciative farewell and thank you. Although, really, it seems more fitting to say: You're quite welcome.