What do clouds taste like?
How was your car made?
Why did Jesus die?
Why is that man holding a sign in the middle of the road?
Those are just a few of the random questions my 4-year-old recently asked me (all in the same week). They are questions that made me proud because of the way his beautiful mind is thinking… but questions I struggled with because I didn’t know how to answer them. When I tried, he just came up with more complex questions – and it frustrated him that I just couldn’t find the right words.
I think it’s human nature to want to know the why. And when we don’t, it can be beyond frustrating.
The past week of my life has been one huge, frustrating, grief-stricken WHY.
It started with a phone call at 8:15 Saturday morning. My boss had unexpectedly passed away.
56 years old. 4 amazing kids. 1 gorgeous wife.
It doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t feel fair.
Joe was the kind of guy you want to work for – the kind who expects a lot out of you at work, but respects the fact that you have a family and other priorities. A natural leader. The kind of boss who takes the whole department out for lunch on a Tuesday, because why not?
The kind who says in a group text, ‘I don’t know the work policy for a blizzard warning, but I’m not going in right now and you don’t need to either. Let’s reassess at 10 a.m.’ And when he walks in to a full office at 10:30, says with a grin, ‘Man, I must have lived in the south too long.’
At least once a week, he’d look me square in the eye and say, ‘I’m proud of you,’ or ‘You’re doing a great job,’ or ‘I am so happy you’re part of my team.’ And he meant it. I only met Joe 5 months ago but feel like I’ve known him much longer.
I had so much to learn from him and he was willing to take the time and patience to teach me.
Then in the middle of those lessons and plans and without the slightest warning or goodbye, he was gone.
I’d known about his death for two days when I walked into work Monday, but it still hit me hard.
‘What the f**k, Joe?’ I whispered as I stared at his closed office door.
He was one of the biggest reasons I felt confident and excited to dive into this new career. He was supposed to be there. I needed him there.
I sat at my desk and cried. I questioned my recent career change for the first time. I got really mad, then cried some more.
Then came the guilt.
I was feeling sorry for myself, but the family he loved so much will never see the man who was their everything. Could I have been any more selfish?
I’m told these are all normal stages and types of grief but I wouldn’t know. I’ve never lost someone who believed in me and outwardly cheered me on the way Joe did.
All I’ve wanted to do the past 7 days is lie in bed and stare at the ceiling. To cry hard and hope that when I run out of tears, the why would come to me.
But instead I was forced to be an adult, which meant helping take care of the baby who (inevitably) ran a 103 degree fever and basically refused to sleep for 5 days in a row. Being an adult meant calling poison control when the 3-year-old ate part of a bottle of adult fiber gummies. It meant holding in the tears while I played in the sandbox with my toddlers and attended a fundraiser with my family because we’d previously committed to it.
So instead of dwelling in my sorrow, I put myself into overdrive – spending time with Joe’s family, squeezing in good workouts, keeping up with work and simply getting through the day.
But in the questions Joe can’t answer at work or the stillness after my kids go to bed at night, the sadness and doubt creep back in. I’m leaning heavily on my husband and other close friends who have more experience in this department of life – the one where you have to be a grown up and deal with your grief at the same time.
As I struggle with the unknown and my inability to find answers, I’ve started to better understand why my 4-year-old becomes frustrated when I can’t tell him exactly how my car was made (apparently “by workers in a factory” isn’t detailed enough).
When the answers we’re presented with simply do not make sense, it’s only natural to wonder WHY.
At his funeral, Joe’s oldest son recited part of what our company CEO said to him: ‘Your Dad didn’t give you everything you want, but he did give you everything you need.’
I’m using that line for my own comfort and choosing to focus on what does make sense from the short time I worked for him. I now know Joe was in my life and I was in his for several reasons.
During a recent work trip to Detroit, we had a very candid conversation about faith and religion and how I’m struggling so much with both at this point in my life. I also know that conversation happened for a reason.
I’ve always believed is there is a master plan for all of us in life. Nothing happens by chance… including the sudden death of someone we care about.
At work, Joe was big on what he called “process and procedure.” So for now, I’m trusting the process and procedure that lie within the master plan. For Joe’s family. For our work family. For others who trusted and loved him.
And I know he’s watching over me with those big Irish eyes and a huge smile saying what he told a couple of us at the office from time to time: “Atta girl, you’re my favorite.”
“I regret nothing.”
Three words that mean so much to me personally. It’s also a phrase I’ve been eyeing for a while (like the past 4 years) to ink on my body permanently. Having no regrets is my way of saying I’m happy with my life. I’m at peace with the choices I’ve made. And I’m proud of where I am and where I’m going.
SIDE NOTE: Sorry Dad, I know you read my blog. I know you don’t like tattoos. But just like you got over the teensy, tiny, hot pink, ‘k’ I got on Senior Skip Day (when all my other friends backed out), you’ll get over this one and still love me the same. And for the record, even though you tried to scare me when I was 18 with fresh body art, it DID NOT get all stretched out and funky when I got pregnant like you and mom told me it would… so at least I’ve got that going for me!
Part of finding that happiness, peace and pride though took some true soul searching and figuring out what I really want out of life. When I did that, I realized the career I loved so much was sucking the life out of me… in so many ways. So I found a new job. A new employer. A fresh start. I also found happiness I didn’t realize was missing from my life.
But since then, I’ve faced lots of questions about why I left and if it really was my choice.
So to help clear all that up, here are some of the biggest reasons I left television news. There are many, many more…. but I’ll save those for my book (and pretend that one day maybe I’ll have time to sit down and write one).
I was missing out on precious time with my family and worried about losing even more of it in the future.
I worked the dream shift in TV… on paper. Some people come in at 3:30 a.m. Others work overnight. Those shifts are awful when it comes to trying to have a ‘normal’ life.
My schedule said 9:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. But that’s rarely what I actually put in. I averaged around 50 hours a week, getting in before 9 a.m. most days and not leaving until 6:45 or 7 at night. Lunch breaks were usually out of the question (often a personal choice so I could accomplish more during the work day) and I frequently volunteered to go in on my days off or stay late when a big story broke.
I also worked a LOT from home – texting sources, emailing tips into the newsroom and answering emails I didn’t have time to get to during the day.
News was my passion and I was a workaholic. But as I grew in my career, my family grew too. Those innocent little souls changed me. I started seeing their faces when I covered stories about dead kids. I took it to heart when parents of those babies told me not to take any second for granted. I didn’t want to have regrets later in life about not being around enough and missing after school activities or not being able to help with homework.
I get one shot at being a mom. I’ll always work and I’m more than OK with that. But I struggled to find the balance when I dropped my kids off at daycare, their grandmother picked them up at the end of the day and dropped them off at my house to another babysitter. By the time I got home from work, I didn’t even have a full hour with them before bedtime. I knew something had to give. My husband and our 3 kids will always come first.
I was mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted all the time.
The career I loved so much was consuming me. Big stories are rarely broken by journalists who do the bare minimum. I’ve never been known to slack off when it comes to anything in life (as long as we don’t count that Spanish Final Exam I failed my senior year of high school) – why would my job be any different?
At the end of the day I would come home and just be done... wiped out from being “on” all day and working in extreme cold or heat. And after a while, the negativity really started to get to me. Too many dead babies. Too much sadness. Too many criminals. When so much about work hones in on what’s wrong with people and society, it becomes difficult to focus on what’s positive.
It began pouring over into my personal life, turning me into someone I didn’t want to be. It affected my marriage and other relationships – including how I interacted with my kids. It took me a long time to correlate my unhappiness with my job. Looking back though, it was all so obvious. Once I finally realized those things, I knew it was time to get out.
Also, in news, the burn out factor is high. It would have been one thing if I could have left at the end of a long work day or work week and completely stepped away from my job. Aside from my own inability to do that, you would not believe how often people would stop me and say, ‘Here’s a story idea for you,’ or ‘Why don’t you look into this?’
It happened ALL. THE. TIME. On social media, at my husband’s company parties, family cookouts, at the grocery store, text messages and just about anywhere else you can imagine. I hated that.
Being in the public eye is HARD.
It’s one comment people who are on TV hear all the time. “Wow! You look so much thinner and prettier in person than on TV!” It’s true, TV adds a few lbs. Highlights the imperfections. And that’s fine. Everyone in the business knows it. When you try to forget, someone happily reminds you at the grocery store – thinking they’re paying a compliment. A blank stare or smart ass reply on my part wasn’t even worth it. So I would just put on the plastic smile, nod, say ‘thank you’ and move along.
There’s also the fact that people are always watching. ALWAYS. I could never just go out to dinner or to the park without a weird stare or a, ‘Hey, aren’t you…?’ I don’t want the attention on me or my family when we’re in public. I also don’t need people scrutinizing the way I talk to my husband or our children. There’s also that time someone stopped me at Sam’s Club, told me my baby was cute and lucky to have a “famous mom” (whatever the hell that means) and took a picture. I was too stunned to react, so I just kept walking. Seriously though – who does that!?
About a year ago I became very hesitant to do education stories involving the school corporation where my son is already enrolled and all 3 of my kids will eventually go. If I did a story the district or teachers were unhappy with, would my kids be treated differently? I also wondered how my job as a reporter would impact my kids socially several years down the road. What if their friend’s mom or dad caused a drunk driving accident and I had to go knock on their door the next day? What if the defendant in the trial I covered had a family member in my kid’s class? Would there be retaliation because of how I covered the story? I want my children to grow up with normal perspectives and a normal lifestyle, not a jaded sense of having to defend me or be embarrassed by me because of my career.
Making people angry or sad is not a fun way to make a living.
I think it’s perfectly OK to hold people in the public eye to a higher standard (elected officials, firefighters, police officers, teachers, reporters, etc.). Those people should be trusted because they have important jobs to do. But questioning my morals and values got way out of line when an elected official’s family member stopped me in the hallway of a courthouse 2 years ago and accused me of having an affair.
I felt nauseous. My face radiated with heat as I tried to tell myself not to react. I knew that scum bag was just trying to rattle me, but I also felt afraid. Was I being followed when I met friends for a rare lunch break? Or when I stopped by a male-friend's office after hours to pick up a gift he helped me get my husband for Christmas? And if I was being followed… was it when my kids were with me? Were people watching my house?
Looking back, those empty threats were probably just products of the stories I was doing at the time. Some people didn’t like them. And that was almost always the case with most of my work. I didn’t do more than a couple fluffy, feel good stories a year. I always had people mad at me for some stupid reason or another. I learned how to handle it but it also ate away at me over time. My former boss used to tell me it was good when people on both sides of an issue got upset or fired up because it meant my story had impact. That’s one way to look at it. However, I couldn’t help but wonder how long it would be until that ‘impact’ trickled down to my family and my personal life or worse… was waiting in the parking lot for me after work? My boss wasn’t the one getting all that feedback. It didn’t impact him or his family one bit, so why should I have ever expected him to understand?
And for the record: I never suggested, flirted or did anything else unethical or immoral to get a story. I didn’t need to.
The work environment and working conditions are extreme
When you sign up to be a TV reporter, you know you’ll probably have to work in extreme weather and on super tight deadlines. It’s crazy how different the winters are where I grew up in Central Illinois, compared to Northern Indiana and Southwest Michigan.
I thought one of my colleagues was teasing when he laughed at my fleece-lined rain boots and heavy socks my first January living here. The joke was on me when I had to do live shots in -25 degree wind chill. So 4 days and a few frozen toes later I bought some big girl snow boots and $40 North Face gloves.
Or there was the 92 degree day last June when I was 3 days overdue with my third baby and under the impression I’d be making calls from my desk (like I’d done the day before). A tip into the newsroom indicated owners of a popular, locally-owned store and restaurant (Lunker’s) were meeting with employees to tell them the business was closing for good. My photographer and I left (I waddled) immediately and were first on scene of the biggest story of the week.
I was first to post it on social media and because of that, my station posted it first online. We won! My photographer and I shot our story in 40 minutes and got back to the station to be the lead at noon, 4, 5 & 6. Good thing we’d shot all my on-camera stuff in the field, because the story wasn’t the only thing I broke that day. My water broke at work at 4 p.m. and I delivered a perfect baby girl 7 hours later.
To be clear, I did all of that willingly (even though I was really good at bitching about it) because I loved the chase, the fact-checking and the satisfaction that came with telling a good story. But now I look back and wonder how I ever did it.
That job made me tougher than I ever thought I could be. Yes, there were some scary moments – like being inside a house interviewing a woman about a fugitive on the run who had dated her daughter. The guy had mentioned he wanted suicide by police. So imagine the surprise for me and my photographer when we were in the middle of the interview and the doorbell rang. I got up and answered it for the woman.
A police officer I knew quietly told me they thought the guy might be holed up inside the house and we needed to get out. That’s an adrenaline rush. Later that night after my story aired, a text message from a source informed me the guy had just been killed in a shootout with police.
It’s important to point out I also had lots of positive and rewarding experiences as a TV reporter. I had the privilege of being a voice for those who otherwise wouldn’t be heard. I met some amazing people I’m lucky enough to still call close friends.
I also became close with many of my photographers. Hard-working people who shared my same passion for getting and telling a story. It’s not always fun riding around in a car together for 6 hours (or longer) – some of us had our “moments” – but I really learned how to be a true team player and I’m so much better for having those guys in my life.
On December 18, I filed my final news report and began my leap of faith. I trusted my gut as I walked out of the building and out of the business. It was hard. I bottled up my huge mix of emotions and hoped I was making the right decision.
A couple weeks later, I walked into a corporate office for the first time and began a new career in marketing. Within the first month, my husband told me I’m “a different person.” Another friend told me she can see a lot less stress and more happiness in my eyes. I’m still working full time, but it’s a more family-friendly job that allows me to be home when I need to be.
It's the best decision I've made in a really long time.
I have more patience with my kids and other people in my life and I’m so much happier.
As I finish writing this on a Sunday afternoon, I realize I’m not dreading Monday like I used to. I’m also taking better care of me (more on that coming soon).
So there you have it. A few of the (major) reasons I quit my job to focus on what’s more important.
Next up for me?
The truth is, you sometimes just have to do all your homework, take the leap and trust your heart. It's never easy, but almost always worth it.
I'm a mom to 3 beautiful, spirited, elementary school-aged humans, I'm addicted to running + strength training, I have no filter & I work full time in the corporate world. But behind the scenes of all that is where it really gets interesting...