Second Act

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.


Posted in Off the Air Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
82 comments on “Second Act
  1. Holly Sawyer says:

    I was wondering where you were. My husband and I have been missing you in the mornings. If you said a goodbye on air, then unfortunately we missed it because Winter Break gave us a blissful reprieve from early mornings. We will continue to miss you. There’s a Jaye-sized hole in the morning banter at the desk, but I’m glad to know that you’re off on a new and exciting adventure. I wish you all the best in your new role, and I look forward to reading more of what you write.

    • Jaye Watson says:

      Thank you, Holly. I’ll still be right here, writing. And I’ll be on 11 Alive several times in the next month..and it will continue after that. You are so kind to think of me. You’re in great hands with our morning crew…

    • Chrissy says:

      I saw your farewell and was puzzled if you were just moving to another time slot. After not finding you anywhere through the day I like you needed answers. Love your essay and writing. Enjoy the next season I know it is going to suit you well. Thank you for all your years of journalism.

      • Jaye Watson says:

        Thank you, Chrissy, Yes…the next season is a lovely way to put it. Although I’ll be back home with the gang next week! Be well and thank you again.

  2. Cecelia Burrows says:

    What a Beautiful tribute to YOU & all that You have experienced and given. We wish You the Best in Your Journey to further grow, as we all do, with change. Love to You,
    Cecelia (Cil) & Carl

    • Jaye Watson says:

      Thank you, Cecelia.. beautiful people like you have much better life stories to tell than me! But I’m working on it. Thank you for the love and support…

  3. Dorie Griggs says:

    Congratulations on making your lap of faith. I’ll miss seeing you regularly on air. I know you will engrave this new adventure.

  4. Tempa Kohler says:

    From the crew at Special Kneads and Treats bakery we thank you for your work and what you brought to the city and communities. Prayers for your new adventures

    • Jaye Watson says:

      Tempa, I will always treasure the time we spent at Special Kneads. It was a story that has a special place in my heart. Thank you for all you do to include all of us in life’s joys.

  5. Karen Craft says:

    So happy for you! I have enjoyed watching you over the years, but I felt you were not fulfilling the real you in the morning slot.

    Thank you for caring about people. Best of luck in your new endeavours!

  6. Rick Shirley says:

    Well you’re one amazing story teller and you sure will be missed. What you brought to us is something not learned in a class. You truly were born with a special gift.

    • Jaye Watson says:

      Rick, thank you so much. All I know is I have to tell stories until I can’t tell them anymore. It’s like I don’t have a choice. Thank you for watching…

  7. Nancy Jo McDaniel says:

    I love reading your blog!!! I love you & your sweet husband Kenny (as opposed to any other husband!DOH!) and I love that I caught this particular post!!!! YOU DREW ME IN WITH THE BUG….I stayed to hear the bottom line and my hats off to you!!! You will soar at all you do…..YOU ALWAYS GIVE IT A TRY!!!! XOXOXO God’s speed!!! Nancy Jo

    • Jaye Watson says:

      He is sweet, that Kenny….well, we love your vibrant and positive spirit..always cheering us on. Thank you Nancy Jo!

  8. Roger Rock says:

    You are truly a master storyteller. Good luck with the “next step”. Give my best to Kenny.

  9. Tonya says:

    I’m so sorry to see you leave as I look forward to the great, inspiring stories you provide. However, I do understand the need to step back in order to move forward. Your beautiful smile and laugh will be sorely missed, but I will still be in the lookout for your posts! Congratulations and good luck!

    • Jaye Watson says:

      Tonya, thank you…I’ll be right here, still writing, and still on 11 Alive, several times in the next month. Look for me!

  10. You have more than paid your dues along with gaining unbelievable experience. I love this line in your post: “They were people playing pianos placed in parks around the city…” That package is really, really good! If anyone wishes to see how one can write so beautifully, just pull that feature package up and be amazed! I know that you have heard it a zillion times, but you are a fantastic story-teller.

    • Jaye Watson says:

      Robert, you are so kind. Pianos in the park was my favorite story from last year. I was so moved by all of it. Thank you thank you thank you.

  11. Elma Ann CarmanWiley says:

    OMG!! I’m going to miss you. I really enjoy you stories. Good luck in your new “Adventure.” I’ll be looking for your posts and updates on your new life.

  12. Elaine says:

    I will miss you in the mornings. I was hoping to see you as co-host.

  13. Georgann Billetdeaux says:

    I have followed you since your “big hair” days in college w my daughter. You are like a daughter I admire and believe in. I’m always waiting fir the next corner you will turn. You will be fine if your choices are always driven by you authenticnicity and integrity. Believe that there will be more times of reinvention.

  14. Nicole says:

    You’re awesome. Can’t wait to hear the stories of your next chapter.

  15. Tom Waldon says:

    Congratulations. Best of luck in your new adventure. Most of all, enjoy going to bed and waking up at more “normal” times.
    You are the best.

  16. Trudy Kremer says:

    So proud of my friend. Just for who you are. xoxoxo

  17. Nurse Nancy says:

    Good luck Jaye I’ll miss you but please keep in touch

  18. Victoria says:

    So glad to know, missed seeing you.

  19. Karen says:

    Beautiful. I’ve enjoyed watching your stories on 11Alive. Wishing you all the best in the next phase of your journey! God bless you and yours!

  20. Susan Decrescenzo says:

    Good luck Jaye. I admire and can identify with your desire to always keep challenging yourself. I too over think everything, question, no grill, everyone in my thirst to know, to understand. Life is such a gift, so don’t waste a minute of time or your talents. The world of news writing and reporting has changed and not always for the better. It seems that there is a very fine line between reporting it and creating it. You alwayed stayed the ever viligent, ever questioning reporter. I look forward to hearing much more from you. Good luck and God speed.

    • Jaye Watson says:

      Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t care so much? Wonder what that’s like. Nah. I love sweating it out over all these little things..because in the end..they’re the big things! See you right here and on 11 Alive. Thank you so much…

  21. Jaye,
    What an eloquent story! It doesn’t seem that long ago I reached a similar place in life. I loved being a reporter – but I knew there were strange new worlds I had to explore if I was going to be true to the person I believed myself to be. You will be happy. You will be fulfilled, and you will – as you always have – contribute. I admire your grace your confidence and tour talent. Go for it!

    • Jaye Watson says:

      Dale, I always love hearing tales from the other side. Always. You know, better than anyone, what it takes to do ‘up and out.’ It feels like a Herculean effort. Thank you for the kind words. They mean a lot.

  22. Mike Nicolas says:

    I will subscribe thank you for letting us peak inside of your world

  23. DJ says:

    Beautiful reflection and you are right “missing something isn’t enough reason to stay”, but what awaits you on the other side of your journey is. Soar!

  24. Roger Leggett says:

    Good luck Jaye! I know what this means to you and Kenny. It’s another step on an awesome career. You know where I am f you need me. Maybe I’ll get to see you when I make an Egleston delivery in February.

    • Jaye Watson says:

      It’s a date! We adore you, Roger. You’re a sweet man with a huge heart and I’m happy to see you anytime. xoxo

  25. Roxanne Garcia-Bell says:

    Well deserved Jaye – So glad to hear we can still poke around and find your stories.
    Emory is getting quite the catch.
    Have fun!

  26. Terri Gore says:

    Congratulations on your next step, Jaye. I will miss you sharing your heart and eloquence with us. I have enjoyed watching your journey and wish you great adventures to come.

  27. Catherine E McTier says:

    Jaye when I first saw you on Channel 11, I thought to my self what a caring person you are. I felt the connection that you had with your audience. Little did I know that I would get to meet you in person through my volunteer work with the Atlanta Homeward Choir. You are the real deal. Your association with the group has been an inspiration to me and the guys. God has given you a special gift being able to communicate his love to every person you meet. The viewing audience and anyone you came in contact with could readily see. Thank you GOD for letting Jaye’s light so shine among men that they may Glorify your name in the earth. Happy Birthday, as a dear friend told me once, to real loving human being. We love you GOD Bless.

  28. Allison Gurski says:

    I was just asking my
    Mom, Angie Durham, yesterday where you had been. Loved you before my dads story, but paid closer attention after you interviewed my mom and dad, Alan Durham. Love that your following your passion and look forward to reading more of your stories here and elsewhere.

    • Jaye Watson says:

      I love your parents to bits. I will be right here. And I will still have some awesome stories coming up on 11 alive..very soon!! Thank you!

  29. Karen Jackson says:

    What? You’re leaving? I noticed missing you but I thought you were on a vacation here at the end of the year. You were my anchor in the morning before I went to work. Now I will follow your blog. Keep writing! Keep reaching out! I want to hear from you now and always!

    • Jaye Watson says:

      Girl, you can’t get rid of me. I’m like a kid promised ice cream after dinner..on your heels. See you soon….

  30. Kimberly Duckworth says:

    Wow! We sure will miss your compassionate story telling and beautiful smile and presence! You are a great storyteller and so glad to see a university will be able to capitalize on that talent and gift! You are an inspiration and a class act! Best of luck to you in the next chapter! Will look forward to continued posts!

    • Jaye Watson says:

      Kimberly, I will always be right here and you will still me..several times in the next couple of weeks. And I will still be doing stories for Channel 11, which makes me so happy…thank you!

  31. Lynn Johnson says:

    Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, you’re free at last. We love you so much, Lynn Harasin and Don Johnson


  33. Chana McComas says:

    Best of luck to you, Jennifer! I am so very happy you have lived your dream, and are still continuing to do so by taking another big step! I love knowing you are such a success!

  34. Lenny says:

    You’re not luckier than you deserve. You deserve! Congratulations & good luck!

  35. Terri Tyner says:

    Best of luck on your next chapter. Sure will miss your heartwarming stories each morning. In a world where some days it seems no one cares about anyone your stories warmed my heart and gave me a reason to have a bigger smile. Thanks for taking time to tell the stories that make us smile.

    • Jaye Watson says:

      Teri, thank you for writing. I will miss the mornings so very much. But I will be around..several times in the next month! You will see me!

      • Eric Philips says:

        Jaye, I have such professional respect for you based on the time I spent in the Atlanta market competing against you. As has been said, you are an excellent writer (the envy of others who have to work hard for what comes effortlessly for you), a consummate professional and a genuine journalist. I’m heartened to hear you following your heart and passion. Congratulations as you turn the page! #expectgreatthings

        • Jaye Watson says:

          Thank you so much Eric. I so appreciate it. I’m scared to death, because after all, this is all I’ve known my adult life. On a lighter note, didn’t I see some hilarious blooper with you anchoring. I was rolling..and remember I watched it twice. Refresh my memory please! Thank you again….

          • Eric says:

            That would have been the “check your panties” snafu that went worldwide! It should have been “check your pantries!!!” Over 20 years in the biz and I shall be remembered as the check your panties guy!! Lol!

          • Jaye Watson says:

            Haha…that’s right! Hey, as long as we are remembered, I guess!

  36. Doc Eldridge says:

    Just yesterday, I wondered out loud to my wife about why I was not seeing you on the ads for Ch. 11 and today I found out.

    Good for you. We will miss your everyday presence. “Safe travels”. Thanks for your contributions.

  37. Lynn Mosely says:

    Jaye, my husband and I always enjoyed your special reports. They were always soo special. I am glad you will be working with Emory brain center. My son has a very rare disorder called Dystonia, he was diagnosed when he was 16. We see Dr Freeman who is a phenomenal Dr. who specializes in this. I hope we will see you there or see a story on this brain disorder. We will miss you in the morning!!

    • Jaye Watson says:

      Lynn, thank you. Who knows? Maybe we’ll do a story together! Thank you for your support and kind words. The Brain Health Center is my new and permanent home.

  38. Paula Summey says:

    Jaye, I kinda thought you were pulling out as I have seen you less and less and even wandered. You are so smart to want to embrace any challenge that life gives you. I am so glad we are friends on facebook so I can keep up with your wonderful life. I know your sweet mom is behind you 100%! Good Luck in your future adventures and best wishes for you!

  39. Susan Paulin says:

    Jaye I’m so very happy for you. I haven’t been able to see you on 11Alive since May as I had to move back to So Cal. I lived in GA for 19 years and I miss it desperately but family called. I wish you all good joy in your new endeavor. Please KEEP IN TOUCH!

  40. Cindy Getty says:

    Jaye, thank you for telling our story at the Shrine of the Immacualate Conception over the past few years. We are so lucky. Who knew that our little church in downtown Atlanta would get so much attention for doing what we normally do. I hope you stay connected with us!

  41. John Deushane says:

    My comment to the AJC reporter doesn’t begin to reflect how much I personally, and 11Alive, will miss Jaye. But, I will NEVER overlook anything she writes or produces.

    AJC quote: As one of our most-awarded journalists (including two national Edward R. Murrow Awards), it’s difficult to see Jaye leave 11Alive after being an extremely integral member of the our family for nearly two decades. But the passion she’s developed over those years to tell stories of those who have benefited from medical advances has led her to this newly created role at Emory University. There is no better storyteller in the market and she’ll now be able to focus her talents to help the fight against Alzheimers and other brain-related issues.

    We’re thrilled that Jaye has also agreed to stay on with us as a contributing correspondent. In that role, she will periodically still be able to share the stories of the heart that have won her more than 100 Emmys during her career. Jaye and I have shared many espressos and tear-filled hours together as she was making this decision. She’s a good friend and amazing talent. I have every confidence that she will benefit all of us at some time in our lives as she begins her new role.

    • Jaye Watson says:

      Thank you, John. I feel like I’m standing at the edge of the diving board, my toes curled over the edge. Thank you for helping me launch to the next thing. It means everything. xoxoxoxo

  42. Jim Osterman says:

    Ms. Watson — You work hard, you produce great work, you have a beautiful family and from all accounts the affection of your peers so please enough with the “MORE THAN I DESERVE”. That disrespects all who love and admire you.

    God bless….

  43. Jean Gailey says:

    God bless you on the next leg of your journey. May you find everything you are looking for and that you will be able to relate it to us. We will miss you being on air all the time, but will wait with bated breath for the next times. Love you, Jaye Watson!

  44. Jennifer D'Amico says:

    I am writing to thank you for all your work at 11Alive and to wish you blessings as you embark on the next chapter of your journey!
    I wanted to especially thank you for the piece you did on EBV and the ground breaking anti viral treatment that is not often talked about! The very next day after it aired, I contacted my daughter’s dr to discuss and he was able to contact Dr Balfour and get her on the road to recovery! After 15 agonizing months, she has gained her life and spirit back! I cannot say thank you enough for sharing this story with the 11Alive viewers!
    Our lives have been forever touched! So thankful!! Blessings and best wishes!

    • Jaye Watson says:

      Jennifer, I am so so glad your daughter is doing better! I have lost count of the people who got tested after the story and found out they were positive. Continued great health to your daughter!!!

  45. Denise says:

    Good for you Jay! This excerpt from your blog made so much sense to me as I’ve pretty much felt like this my entire life, never completely being comfortable being comfortable. I don’t think you could have said it any better!
    ” 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.”
    I wish you the very best in your future adventures and am following your blog with interest and no small amount of envy for your bravery at being true to your true self.

  46. bubbles says:

    i call you GRACE…let those wings fly….they will always
    support you AS YOU SUPPORT THE WORLD..

    wishing you much success and continued love in your
    new inspiring adventure xo. bubbles

  47. Michele Torres says:

    You. Are. Amazing.

  48. Angie Howell says:

    Hi Jaye – have missed seeing you early mornings lately and was fortunate enough to see and hear you today. I am so happy that you are in a position to try new and different things – sometimes we just know it’s time.

    You have been a constant for me at 11 Alive – especially when you moved to mornings. The players might have changed, but you were always there sharing really meaningful stories with us – I am glad you are going to do the same for the folks at Emory and that you will come back to visit with from time to time. Just know that you will be missed and that all you have brought to us over these years is much appreciated. You are a really thoughtful journalist, Jaye, and here’s wishing you all the best!

  49. Debra A Noonan-Elber says:

    You will definitely be missed Jaye. Your stories have been such an inspiration to me and you tell them with such grace. My mornings won’t be the same without your stories.

  50. Lisa Kilinc says:

    Congratulations! What an amazing opportunity. I am happy for you, but you will definitely be missed in the mornings! I have been a fan for years! Moving on and change are always a great thing!

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