October, 2012

How much further away from the anchor desk can you get?

A year ago this month, I signed off the air for the final time as a nightly newscaster. It was just one year ago, but it feels like a decade has passed since then. Some warned my transition may be challenging: that I may get bored or feel unproductive, maybe even less “valuable” after 20 years of earning a living. Truth is, I haven’t looked back. Not once. That is not an indictment of where I worked, my career field, or life as a working mother. It is just me. It was just time.

I remember the excitement I felt when I first started in the news business. My first job was hard won. When sending my audition tapes and resumes got me nowhere, I hit the road and delivered them in person. It’s harder to say “no” to someone who insists on looking you in the eye instead of simply sending in an application. One News Director, who liked my attitude, tried to find a place for me among his network of contacts. But no one had openings, so he decided instead to take a chance, and created a position in order to hire me.

I didn’t head straight to the anchor seat. I was expected to work my way up. And I did, gladly. It was all behind the scenes, and included loading tapes for a live show. (BTW, that’s a job now handled by a robot.) Even though my days started at 4am, I couldn’t wait to punch in. I worked with such enthusiasm and took on so much extra responsibility, within a year I was reporting on air and producing half-hour political programs.

Over the following years, I poured my heart into my work, even when my heart was being pulled in different directions. When my children were young, they had to share me with my newsroom. It was painful, but necessary. Financially, we were a “two income required” household. But there were also ideas I had to express, energy I had to give, things I had to prove, and so much left to discover about my world. I had a masters degree I wanted to use. I wasn’t willing to walk away until I knew I’d achieved what I needed, deep down. Fulfillment can’t always be easily explained. But it can be recognized. One day, I realized I had come to the end of a road.

There’s a phrase in economics that applies to so many other aspects of life: diminishing returns. When you pass a tipping point, and the effort you put in outweighs the pay off, it’s time to reconsider. When I realized that’s the situation I was in, it was time to make a change.

There were bigger picture things that influenced me, no doubt. The news industry did change its focus, as the recession dug in and the business became more about the bottom-line. On the flip side, my income wasn’t needed at home quite as much as it had in the beginning of my marriage. Physically, the schedule really started taking a toll. Twenty years of sleep deprivation starts to sink in when you hit your 40s. And, as most parents will confirm, my children just wouldn’t stop growing! I didn’t want to miss any more of their lives.

When I realized where I stood, I wrote myself a “reinvention wish.” You might call it a creative twist on the “dream board” concept. I stumbled across my document, saved in my “personal” computer file, just the other day. I’d forgotten it even existed! It was stunning to read and realize, my wish has come true.

Here are some highlights:

“I want to work from home, so I can spend more time with my kids, nurture them and myself more than I do now: cook with natural ingredients, sleep when I need to and exercise more – be in nature! I want to write books, create seminars, teach public speaking and blog. I want to travel…to connect with friends and make new ones. I want to live a life with more variety. I want to prove that you can reinvent yourself and be successful. I want to teach my children that you can create your own reality…I know that I will continue to give and serve others, but I want to honor who I am…I want the day to look like a blank canvas when I wake up so I can make it up as I go along. I want to tell my story…I want to wear comfortable clothing. I want to play…I want to find my creativity again…I want to find my bliss, finally.”

When I wrote that, New Zealand was just a distant country I wanted to visit someday! But it seems my life will always be peppered with unexpected plot twists and international moves. My husband’s job offer in this mystical land, far, far away really did feel like a fairy tale in the making. I’ve found my bliss. Here, my dream came true.

Admittedly, my days don’t always stretch out before me luxuriously. I’m up early getting school lunches ready and work hard to put homemade meals on the table at night. I do get tired of cleaning the kitchen endlessly. But sometimes, I do just sit down and read after my boys head out the door. The time I spend writing makes me deeply happy. No book yet, but I’ve started playing with a screenplay script and, as you know, I’ve been busy blogging!

For now, my work outside the home is mainly volunteer. I’m learning how to “translate” my broadcast skills by acting as a communications coordinator for different community organizations and schools. I’ll also be on hand as a barbecue chef at a “sausage sizzle” for my older son’s school next week, and have served hundreds of coffees and teas at my younger son’s school. It feels good to give back a bit, and it makes me feel connected. Professionally, I have kept a toe in, so to speak. Did you know you can media coach over Skype? I’ve also started putting together a seminar with a kindred spirit who relocated here just like me. We hope to inspire other women like us, who want to make changes in their lives and make the most of their talents and opportunities.

Maybe most importantly, my time in nature has been nothing short of healing. I joke that I made up for 20 years behind the desk in just one year here, hiking! While I train for my 100k walk to raise funds for OXFAM, I also get to explore and enjoy the rugged beauty of New Zealand that surrounds me. It’s no exaggeration to say that every day I am grateful. I often mumble a little prayer out loud while I’m walking, just to say thank you. I believe the “reinvention wish” I wrote, with blind hope and faith years ago, is a prayer that was answered. Try it and see what happens for you…

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I promise…I really am working on an updated blog. This one’s about my one year anniversary! It’s been a year since I left the working world, the world of television news, and started living the life I had hoped for and dreamed about for so long. Until then, you can catch up on some of what I’ve been doing and learning at the Cultural Weekly website:

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