It’s never too late to sprout a set of wings

To much shock and surprise (my own included), I ended my stint as director of the Jackson County Department on Aging on October 8, 2010, a date naysayers prophesize will become a huge source of regret for me.

Maybe I should say “stent” vs. “stint,” as my original intent in accepting the position was to re-open possibilities when, like a damaged blood vessel, family finances threatened to close off my future, resulting in unbearable pressure. Directorship was neither a dream nor a long-term venture for me. My motive was two-fold: To work with seniors and to hold down one job versus many to feed my family. Not exactly a Donald Trump move.

Why quit a secure job at the age of 46? Well, the decade of my 40s has been all about mammoth changes. From divorce at 40, to remarriage at 44, to hysterectomy at 45, I had already done a major life decision hat trick. Note: I use “mammoth” to describe my changes because parallel to the Wooly Mammoth, sometimes a person’s options come down to change versus extinction. In this case, it was evolve or lose myself.

While I was not lost in administration, I was bored by it. For a creative person like me, my job description began to feel like more of a Job (pronounced “Jobe”) description, pretty unbearable. I lacked the patience for that. Leadership requires mapping out an overall strategy, then deploying others to achieve it.

I much prefer to be the deployee, instructed to “get ‘er done” however you choose. I granted that creative freedom to my employees. I will miss them deeply, along with the many seniors we served. I will also miss the paycheck, for deployers get paid more than deployees. That’s probably why I stayed in administration as long as I did: Financial fear (we ARE in a recession) that doing what I love would not be commercially viable.

I never learned to take positive risks, only negative ones to avoid harsh consequences. And any idiot can make do-or-die changes. Life-saving decisions are reflexive. Knowing to jump out of a burning building doesn’t require much thought. Self-preservation instinct takes over. Making voluntary major decisions to increase life satisfaction is a different matter.

“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: One is roots, the other is wings,” said Pulitzer Prize winning southern editorialist Hodding Carter II. My farming and small business family heritage may have blessed me with deep roots and solid values, but a set of wings was not included.

Leaving the Department on Aging felt like popular author Danielle Steel has observed, “Sometimes, if you aren’t sure about something, you just have to jump off the bridge and grow your wings on the way down.” My resignation was downright risky during the current economy, but hopefully not financially suicidal.

At my exit interview, human resources informed it’s highly unusual for a director to voluntarily resign. Leaving through retiring or firing is the typical exit. This put my resignation on par with England’s Edward VIII abdicating the throne to marry Mrs. Wallis Simpson. Except slightly less dramatic.

I don’t expect anyone to cry big crocodile tears for me. I was born capable, with a curiosity about life that propels me forward. As a result, I’ve had the chance to learn many skills. Over time, I’ve turned into one of those maddening people who are good at just about anything they do. That’s just the problem: What I’m good at isn’t necessarily what I like to do or what I’m supposed to be doing per God’s calling for me. Ignoring my calling for something more lucrative is my problem.

What is my calling? Writing, teaching (NOT English, like my mom), coaching and performing. I’m now working part-time at KCC, teaching employability skills through the Workforce Solutions department. It’s meant for the first time ever being home when my kids get off the school bus, plus a host of other home front benefits.

My newfound wings have served me well. All that’s left to bring me full circle is a short sale of my husband’s former nest in Mattawan. Selling myself short is no longer an option.


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