This February I took over as the NewsTribune lifestyle editor after years of slinging a camera as a staff photographer at the paper (I was a sports writer here at the NT before that, if you want to get into ancient history).

What a year it’s been. When I took the job I had an idea of what to expect, and of course everything turned out to be roughly 300 percent harder than anticipated. Accordingly, I made plenty of mistakes – from typos to omissions and beyond – heck, I even said someone was dead when they weren’t.

I have the type of personality that doesn’t let things go easily, so I have to thank my wonderful wife Chelsey for listening to me grumble, vent and swear after a trying day at the office, and helping me remember that it was all going to be OK.

The good thing about making a mistake in the newspaper business is that you can’t really hang on to it for too long – there’s always another paper coming down the pipeline. Your deadlines don’t care if you are beating yourself up for something in the past, so you learn your lesson (hopefully) and move on.

The flip side of that coin is that you don’t really get to relish your accomplishments too much either.

So now that 2018 is coming to a close, I find myself thinking about all the great memories I made this year, and all the wonderful feedback I received along the way from the readers who took the time to reach out and let me know I wasn’t a total failure.

It’s a great feeling when someone you wrote about calls or writes to let you know that they thought you did a good job with their story. Many of the people I interviewed over the past year really opened up about their lives – their hopes, fears, dreams and memories.

It’s an absolute privilege to have someone trust you like that, one that I always try not to take for granted.

Since I’ve taken over as the Lifestyle editor I’ve wrote about Vietnam veterans sharing their stories, and shared dessert recipes from my mother’s heirloom cookbook. I’ve talked with people whose lives have been permanently altered by disease and others who were ecstatic to show off their collection of Legos. I’ve laughed hundreds of times, told way too many corny one-liners and held back many, many tears.

I managed to mostly steer clear of politics, but had to take a brief segue to write a column this August fighting back after President Trump declared that journalists were enemies of the American people. Interestingly enough, I received more feedback for that column than anything I’ve ever written, before or after – from both sides of the aisle.

One thing I’ve really noticed the past 10 months is that there’s a ton of people in the Illinois Valley who are striving hard to make other people’s lives better. People like Alice Ring, organizer of the Cherry Pie Group — who works very hard to ensure that senior citizens have at least one day a month they can look forward to. I can’t tell you how much the ladies of the group appreciated it when I showed up to write about them – and I can’t tell you how much it meant to me that I could make a small difference in their lives with just a little story and some pictures.

To everyone out there like Alice, keep doing what you do! Hopefully we’ll get to meet someday soon for a story. For everyone else who trusted me to tell their story, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Chris Yucus can be contacted at (815) 220-6934 or lifestyle@newstrib.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NT_ChrisYucus

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Chris Yucus is the NewsTribune Lifestyle Editor. A member of the NewsTribune editorial team since 2011, Chris previously worked as a sports writer and staff photographer for the paper. He can be contacted at lifestyle@newstrib.com.

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