Written by Karen D. Swim
This is Part I in a two part story.
Several years ago, I had the life I wanted. I had a wonderful husband, a home I loved and a career that challenged and stimulated me. I was happy. Little did I know it was all about to change.
The job that I loved reorganized and to keep my position I would have to move from California to New Jersey. I never considered it (nothing against New Jersey) and opted to take a package. The VP of our department flew out to talk me out of it but I was steadfast in my commitment to embrace the unknown. If someone had told me the details of that unknown, I would have promptly hidden under the bed. I was going to take time off and just breathe for a few months. I had no idea how important my decision would be.
My last day of work, I turned in my company car, picked up my first personal car in 7 years and happily waved good-bye. That night, my husband, who had been healthy showed the first sign of an illness which would go undiagnosed for a year.
In between doctor appointments to diagnose my husband’s various symptoms, still mild enough that he could work, I joyfully embraced being a housewife. I had never been away from work for more than a week or two. I had decided to take 6 months off before rejoining the work force. In the first two months, 9/11 happened, one of my best friends was declining from Leukemia and my husband began having debilitating headaches that prevented us both from sleeping.
By the time I reached the end of my planned time off my youngest brother in-law had been diagnosed with Leukemia, my best friend passed away, another best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer and my husband was diagnosed with Lung Cancer that had spread to the brain. Work was the last thing on my mind!
I was off work for 2 ½ years and we lived off our savings. The medical bills mounted as my husband’s cancer spread to the spine paralyzing him from the waist down. Yet, our house was not one of doom and gloom but hope and joy. My brother in law passed away and a few months later my husband joined him.
In the last month of my husband’s life I had interviewed for and won a job as an Oncology Product Manager. I did not want to leave my husband’s side but we needed money. I never had to make that decision and was with him until his death.
So at 39, I found myself widowed, childless and broke. Not exactly, the way I had planned to enter midlife.
In the midst of my grief, I knew that I had no choice but to move forward. Running marathons had taught me to just put one foot in front of the other and with God’s help I did precisely that.
I had not invited reinvention but there it was right in front of me. I did not feel up to the task. I had simply soldiered on for three years never realizing that my life was starting to resemble Job’s. And now I was sad, tired and not in the mood for change. But change I did.
I rescinded the acceptance of the job offer and instead relocated to Michigan to connect with my biological family. I called a recruiter, interviewed for one job and luckily for me I got it. I did not have the energy to go on multiple interviews. After a year, I was stable enough to launch Reinvention Part II.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you! Tomorrow, I’ll give you part II along with some of the life lessons I learned. I hope that through my experience I can offer you the wisdom I gained and the courage to face your own new chapter. Thanks for reading and if you think it will help someone else, please pass it along.