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If you're reading this, then to — very reluctantly — quote The Eagles: I'm already gone.

A few months shy of a decade writing about emerging technologies, sideshow performers and internet celebri-cats, I've boxed up my action figures, handed off my skull-shaped pencil holder and shelved my dogeared copy of the "All Music Guide to Rock."

some text Casey Phillips

Thankfully, I've not left the Scenic City, just moved a few blocks north to the Tennessee Aquarium, where I'll be writing about all things ichthyic, avian and reptilian.

I'm convinced it's the right move, but it's not one I made lightly or without a distinctly bittersweet aftertaste. This has been a long, fun ride and, in many respects, a dream job.

When I was hired in May 2007 to cover nightlife, I was a wannabe hippie, fresh out of school and still a few weeks shy of turning 22.

Initially, I felt hopelessly out of my element. I knew next to nothing about music that wasn't Irish, and I was so new to Chattanooga that I actually had to ask for directions to the riverfront from our offices on East 11th Street. In those early years, I constantly measured my work against the specter of my much-cooler predecessor, Trevor Higgins, and usually found it lacking.

Eventually, however, I got over my jitters and learned the lay of the land, geographically, musically and professionally.

During a yearlong program of musical self-education, I spent thousands of dollars amassing a library of essential albums, which helped deepen my understanding and appreciation of all kinds of music.

As time passed, I slowly refocused my coverage from the club scene to my twin loves of pop culture and consumer technology. More firmly in my element, I felt an awakening and a renewed sense of confidence.

Above all, I wrote.

Whether I was filling the pages of the publication you're reading or writing for the newspaper proper, my fingers rarely left the keys.

I've been given tremendous liberty to indulge my mercurial curiosity, which has made for a riotously interesting decade writing about Bigfoot, butterbeer and The Beatles in equal measure.

This job has never left much to spare in my bank account, but I've been enriched by it, nonetheless. I'm certain the hoard of memories I'm leaving with will prove far more precious to me in the decades to come than some frivolous luxury.

But alas, a few hundred words is a beggar's sum when it comes to expressing what this job has meant to me. Instead, I'll let Sir Elton do the heavy lifting for me and say, "I never knew me a better time, and I guess I never will."

Visit Casey Phillips at the Tennessee Aquarium or follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsVonNoog.

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