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Tucson Local Media’s new reporter, Austin Counts, with his son Alexander hiking the Finger Rock trail after the snow storm this past weekend.

Roman stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger once said, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” 

This quote often arose in my mind during the three-day period between wrapping up my time as the owner of the 4th Avenue Deli and jumping back into journalism at Tucson Local Media.  

Three days is not a lot of time to switch gears and get your mind right when big life changes are afoot. To be honest, I was unsure if I was up for this career change since I hadn’t written anything more than Facebook posts over the past six-and-a-half years. 

The question I kept asking myself was, “Why am I doing this?”  

Perhaps it’s a mild mid-life crisis; big 4-0 was approaching and the thought of making sandwiches for college kids into my fifties was a fate worse than death. Even if I owned the place. Even if the place made money. it didn’t. 

Perhaps I only opened the deli after not getting my “dream job” as web-content producer at the Tucson Weekly in 2011 after graduating from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism the same year. I had spent the summer and fall of 2011 as a journalist at the Nogales International, but moving to Nogales with my wife, Leila, just wasn’t in the cards. Soon after returning to Tucson, I found myself working in restaurants while unable to find work as a journalist.

Perhaps I returned to the service industry because managing restaurants and playing music have always been my mainstays to making easy money when the chips are down. I’ve been doing both since I was a teenager. While at UA, I had given up playing music so I could focus on journalism. So much of my youth was spent trying to “make it” in music, only to come to the realization that “making it” is arbitrary and doesn’t necessarily make you a better musician. My friend, mentor and musical collaborator, Tom Walbank, got me out of my jaded mental-funk and back to making music in 2015. It is perhaps one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. If you don’t like what I do musically, blame Walbank!

Perhaps after five years into the deli business, I lived so horribly that I gained over 40 pounds, had disgustingly high blood pressure and an all-around bad attitude.  

It took nearly two years to lose those 40 pounds along with another 20 pounds so I could start trail running and hiking. I’m no good at trail running but I grew up fat and just being able to run five miles, slowly but continuously on any given day, is like having a new lease on life. 

This past fall I competed in my first ever competitive trail run before my 40th birthday; a 13.6-mile half-marathon during the Colossal/Vail 50-50 ultramarathon. I came in last for my age group (30-39), but finished. But there was a silver lining: My results were much better when I switched my age group to 40-49 years old (getting older does have its perks). 

Perhaps there isn’t just one thing that helped influence my decision to get out of the restaurant business and return to journalism. What I do know for sure is that a life unsatisfied is no life at all. 

With that in mind, please allow me to introduce myself: My name is Austin Counts and I’m the new staff writer on the sports and recreation beat for Tucson Local Media. I look forward to sharing this new beginning with you. 

Austin Counts can be reached at austin@tucsonlocalmedia.com

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