Over the course of my professional career, I have been so fortunate to have met people who have lasted across states, companies, and time. Some of those individuals and I have remained close friends; others are the people I enjoy watching their lives as they evolve over social media. We may not have physically spoken in 20+ years, but they are individuals with whom I share a small time in my history, fun memories, or just a collective recollection of an experience.
As a teacher, I had hundreds (if not thousands) of students who left impressions on me. Some of them I am so lucky to have continued relationships with as time has gone on. There are the ones who serve as my adopted children; ones who are my respected peers; and those who bring me true joy watching them grow and change. I love each moment I get to hear from them, and I am undeniably proud of who they’ve chosen to become.
If anyone asked me about working for the Alzheimer’s Association, without hesitation, I’d say that the best experience has been my colleagues. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but my initial team in CNFL is single-handedly the greatest group of colleagues I have ever worked with; these goofballs have turned into some of my closest friends, and I cherish them beyond words.
Moving to a new chapter and a new role was a big change for me. The dynamics of this chapter were drastically different from the one I left, but I found some good people to work side by side with, dedicating our time and energy to fighting this terrible disease.
On April 10, I got the phone call I’d dreaded; because of COVID-19, cutbacks had loomed over us, and I suspected my position was in jeopardy. The stress of not knowing was finally over, and in the days after learning that my position was being eliminated as a cost-cutting measure, I had time to reflect on the work I’d done, the people I’d met, and the experiences I had within the organization. The thing that really hit me the hardest was that I wouldn’t have a chance to tell my volunteers good-bye or to thank them for all that they’d done to help our families and me during the last year.
These people give so selflessly, and I didn’t get to tell them how much of an impact they left on me. Their hearts, their laughter, and their hugs had kept me going when I was exhausted from yet another day of 100+ miles of driving. I miss chatting with Becky; talking music with Jay; hearing “hey there little lady” from Tom; hugs from Joy. While the loss of my job has hurt me emotionally (and financially), what I miss the most is the people who made it worth it every single day.
I hope they are all doing as well as can be expected during these trying times. If I could chat with them, I’d ask about their families, their jobs, and their communities. I’d ask if there is anything I can do as a “civilian” to help out, and I’d mean it. I have so much respect for them, and I hope they know that. I’d like to think that they do, but I wish I’d had the chance to tell them one last time.
I don’t know what my future holds quite yet. The current climate doesn’t really lend itself to exploring pathways, and I now know that my heart is in the non-profit world. I am filling my days checking in on the people I love and volunteering as much as I can. Don’t worry; there is plenty of Netflix watching and junk food eating going on too. I fully expect to turn into a Swenson’s cheeseburger before this is all over. Mentally, I struggle just like everyone else with the isolation and the uncertainty. I try to rely on the things that bring me joy, and I hold on to the idea that regardless of where I’ve worked—from the days of slinging BBQ at the Pit to holding court in a college classroom—I’ve been blessed with incredible people around me. I know that my next step will be an adjustment, but I have faith that it will be the people that I meet there that will make it all worthwhile.