Three hundred and forty bylines for two newspapers over two and a half years.
When I say it like that I realize just how much time has flown, and also just how much I've maximized my current position in peon journalism.
I've been unbelievably fortunate to cover UT athletics in some way during my first five semesters at UT either for The Daily Beacon, The Daily Times or both.
While those two opportunities have provided me with fantastic experience and more payment than I ever thought I'd receive while simply obtaining experience in college, at some point in the last few months, "what's next?" started crossing my mind.
Certainly, I'm happy with what I'm doing. I love it, actually. I also love the people I work with and the connections I've made, the places I've seen, etc.
However, when Chattanooga's Times Free Press came calling in November, I knew right away they were providing the answer to my "what's next?" question.
Though I've yet to sign on the dotted line and have my leave of absence request approved by UT, I'm just a couple of formalities away from officially accepting a full-time internship on the news desk on TFP that will last from January to June. And yes, that means I'll live in Chattanooga for six months.
While sports journalism is my passion, news is also in my repertoire, and if I turned down an opportunity to experience life at a metro paper, I'd be a hypocrite to claim journalism as my career pursuit.
Is it easy to leave behind credentials to cover every UT athletic event?
Well, no. But the bottom line is that the TFP is a paper with a circulation more than three times larger than the biggest paper I've ever worked as a stringer for, and for some reason the folks there want to bring me on as a full-time employee for six months. I'm grateful for that opportunity.
I'm hopeful that - assuming I pass a drug/tobacco test - working at TFP will transform me into a drastically better writer and better journalist.
If nothing else, it will provide my career with a needed splash of diversity that will add major appeal to my resume.
Since I'm a semester ahead in school, interning in Chattanooga and missing a semester of school will actually just push my expected graduation date back to May 2015, which is when I was originally supposed to graduate.
Another perk is that my only time commitment is working 40 hours a week. What in the world will I do with all of that free time? For fear of the results, I don't currently keep track of how many hours I week each week between Beacon/Daily Times, but I think it's usually somewhere between 35-50 hours. Throw in a full-time course load and I barely have time to brush my teeth, let alone play nine holes of golf.
Perhaps on top of a great career experience in a new city, the first half of 2014 can also bring a little time to breathe. I might actually have time to play golf or pick-up basketball, to get involved at a church or help coach a youth baseball team. Or maybe I'll just watch Netflix and read when I'm not working. The possibilities are endless.
So with the academic situation lined up, the career perks obvious, let's just hope that cigar I smoked last month doesn't come back to bite me on that tobacco test.
Here's to the next step.