I was about a mile from my house when I noticed it. A tiny bug on the windshield of my car that had likely been there since I pulled out of my driveway. His veiny, delicate cellophane wings were flapping furiously in the wind, his minuscule feet fighting to stay in place on my windshield. I knew he/she was a goner. I slowed my car.
“Let go, bug. Let go or your wings are going to rip off!” As if he heard me, he let go and was gone.
I am the bug. I have been trying so hard to hold on. My God, there is so much to hold onto. I meet amazing people. I get to tell remarkable stories that inspire and enrich my life and hopefully, the lives of some of the people who see them. But a while ago, my wings opened, and I was like the mom who yells, “Who left the door open? Where’s that draft coming from?”
I would try to pull my wings down and tuck them away, even as I felt this shifting deep within me. I am a bit of a tortured soul — a dreamer and a worrier and a way-too-deep thinker. I came into the world that way. Add to that I’ve been a non stop questioner for as long as I’ve been able to make sentences. Ask my long suffering parents or anyone who grew up with me or has ever known me.
My unquenchable curiosity necesitated interventions from family and friends before they would let me meet someone new. “Don’t grill him/her to death. Please don’t bury them in your questions. Please don’t freak them out with you.” I get it. The problem is, I need to know you. If we’re going to talk, I have to peel your mask off and see into you. How else are we going to have a connection? Isn’t that why we’re here? You tell me something. I tell you something. It’s a soul quid-pro-quo and it fills me in a way few things do.
I want to understand the why of everything. I am always searching for the deeper, greater meaning (I fully realize normal people don’t see bugs on windshields as a sign to change one’s life).
I always knew that television would be one of the things I would do in my life, but I knew it wouldn’t be the only thing. When I became a journalist, I learned that TV allows little room for anything else. It is a calling, a way of life, and the dedication it requires is necessarily staggering and gratifying.
I began this blog a few years ago as a way to quiet the restlessness. Writing is my joy, and I thought if I released some of what was inside me, it would do the trick. It did the opposite. It made my restlessness almost unbearable.
The truth I kept coming back to is that I have more in me that needs to get out, and there are a lot of ways I want to live my life in the years I have left on this wondrous planet. I want to be scared again. I want to be challenged and confused by what I don’t know. I want to stretch until I just about snap. The reality is, I am most comfortable being uncomfortable. That’s how I know I’m growing.
So, I’m stepping back — but not entirely away — from this wonderful, insane, beloved career. It ranks as one of the most difficult decisions of my life.
I will miss my colleagues. They have been my family for almost 25 years. Journalists are like the Island of Misfit Toys. There’s the diva and the bookworm and the braggart and the nerd and the wannabe — just like high school — just like life — but beneath the various facades is a common, profound dedication to getting and reporting the truth, for exposing rot, for being the catalyst for change. Despite the hell rained down on us this election season (some of it deserved, some not), I will always believe in the importance of what we do. Take a look at countries where the press is shackled and you will find a place we would never want to live or raise our children. I hope fake news, which has done so much damage, meets its deserved end.
I am so grateful for my stories. They’re like my kids. On any given day, I couldn’t tell you which is my favorite. The truth is that I fell in love hundreds of times, not with the words I wrote or with the beautiful video my photographers shot, but with the people whose stories I told. Man, I fell hard. There are so many names I could utter with such love. Kevin Enners, Chip Madren, Leo Lucier, Mary Elizabeth Paris. I told their stories and in exchange, they gave master classes on grace and grit and dying, and most of all, living. Living with pain. Living with illness. Living with difficulties most of us can’t bare to contemplate.
I have been on shoots where I felt my heart hurting in my chest. I came to believe they were growing pains. I was getting paid for my heart to grow, thanks to these extraordinary people.
There are thousands of people whose names I will never know. They were the woman rushing past me, a baby in one arm and a toddler on her hip, fleeing a flooded trailer park. They were Bosnian mothers huddled together inside a tent in Albania, rape victims from another senseless war. They were Russian tourists at the olympics in Sochi, communicating with me through gestures and smiles and break-your-back hugs. They were people playing pianos placed in parks around the city, drivers stranded in an ice storm, fans at the Braves playoff games, homeless men at bible study, relatives waiting for news of a loved one at the hospital, people whose houses and lives were ripped apart by fires/tornadoes/hurricanes/lightning strikes/gun violence. It was a sacred privilege to be on the periphery of their lives, to feel the crushing responsibility to tell their stories with integrity and truth and sensitivity.
How do I walk away from that? Because it’s time. And because I’m fortunate to not be walking all the way away.
People have asked, “Won’t you miss it?” Of course I will, but missing something isn’t enough of a reason to stay. I have given up other people and things in life that I miss to this day. They were hard, yet right decisions and so is this one.
My soul needs to take the next leap. I am still going to tell stories. I will still attend master classes. I’ll be doing all of that at Emory University in a position I never could have dreamed up for myself. I will be telling stories for them, and I will still be telling stories from time to time on 11 Alive News.
The bottomline line is that I’m luckier than I deserve.
I have nothing but gratitude for every great and ghastly TV experience of the last 24 1/2 years. None of it was wasted and I learned just as much as I could.
I will still be writing here and at The Huffington Post and 11 Alive.
The day the bug on my windshield let go and flew away, I thought, ‘That poor bug doesn’t know where he is now. Maybe he lived his whole life (all 3 days of it) in my backyard and now he’s in a foreign land.’
My next thought was, ‘Cool. That bug is having a new adventure. He’ll adapt.’
Here’s to letting go.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart.