What’s it like to be a nobody?
After I left my job as a television news anchor I found out. I had no place to go and nothing to do. I had traded in business suits for sweat pants and morning editorial meetings for lattes at Starbucks. There I would sit, morning after morning broken and lost.
It was 2006, just on the cusp of the Great Recession, and television stations across the country were scrambling to turn profits. The station I worked for in Minneapolis was no exception. In a frantic move to shore up advertising dollars management turned the news show I had been hosting for eight years into an infomercial. Rather shill for revenue amid a toxic and stressful news environment I chose to walk, leaving behind a career that had taken 20 years to build.
In those first few months I had no idea who I was any more. Gone was the identity I had carried with me all my adult life. In my head I heard the hinges on the door to my social life creaking, as invitations to black tie galas, restaurant openings and celebrity golf tournaments evaporated. There was no creative outlet or forum, no routine, no purpose, no deadline. Nothing. After years of being celebrated as a local celebrity, nobody needed me now. I felt no one remembered me. All I was, was a nobody.
Then a friend met me for coffee and gave me Just Who Will You Be?” the book Maria Shriver wrote after she left her network correspondence job at NBC when she became the First Lady of the State of California. Maria had no choice but to step down from her high profile position due to potential conflict of interest. In her book, she talks about her new off-kilter reality and struggling to cope with the loss of her career and professional identity. Just like me. Who would have thought it? Maria and me. Worlds apart. Both of us lost.
I was gob smacked. I read Just Who Will You Be? in one sitting then slept with it on my nightstand for months. This tiny blue book with the lilting white balloon on the cover and modest yet impactful words inside became a beacon for me. It gave me hope and marked a turning point as I began to come out from under the brokenness.
In word, Maria’s story validated my own. Her quest to live an authentic life so resonated with me. Here was someone with everything–fame, fortune and legacy — who was brave enough to say:
“Fame in and of itself can’t make you happy. It can’t make you feel worthy. It can’t give you a life of meaning and joy. That, I’ve learned is an inside job.”
Oh my goodness. Those words were manna to my soul. All I wanted was to be happy and to be true to the things that brought me joy in life. Like spending time with my son and being available to watch him grow and explore life. Like being able to tell creative and memorable stories that would have impact and significance. And most of all I wanted to like the me that I am away from the camera lights. The me that I am without station call letters behind my last name. I too wanted to live an authentic life, and Just Who Will You Be? gave me license to do so.
I started blogging for a local on line newspaper. Then a volunteer position at my church turned into a full time job with the media arts department. I created a faith-based television show, wrote half a dozen Christmas musicals and over time came to love my life and myself. Just who will I be? I am a creative force with thoughts and ideas that people want to hear and seem to like. Divorced and remarried, I’m a wife and a mom who revels in being present and in the moment as it happens. I’m an author having recently written my first book, Pockets of Joy: Deciding to Be Happy, Choosing to Be Free, about my time in television and how I found joy after I left. I just released a follow up, the Pockets of Joy Journal last month.
And it all started with Just Who Will You Be? God knows what we need when we need it and I will forever be grateful for that little blue book because it helped me find joy in life that is not only authentic, but also sustainable. Here’s what I have learned:
- Our success in life is a direct result of how well we navigate change and transition. Accept that life isn’t always perfect and be open to change.
- Make decisions for your life that line up with what brings you joy. Is it career success or family time or some combination of the two? What makes your heart sing? Identify those things and then stand firm.
- True joy comes from being true to what matters to you most. Not your boss. Not your fans. You.
Just like Maria, just like me, you’ll find the joy when you discover just who will you be.