When the NYE NYC ball dropped closing 2018 and welcoming 2019, I had just made a huge decision that would change my life drastically. It is the biggest most overhauling change my life would ever take.
Almost Heaven. At that time I was a teacher and theatre director at Spring Mills High School in Martinsburg, West Virginia. I was surrounded by high school students who depended upon me to encourage, support, lead, and guide them through their tumultuous high school years. I had been an English teacher for more than 20 years, but being a theatre teacher added a new layer of responsibility and a much deeper relationship with my students. I didn’t merely take over an existing theatre program, I started a new one. I was in a new high school that didn’t have a theatre program, so I was charged with creating one. This program was my baby. I put my heart, soul, and thousands of dollars into The Cardinal Players, and I’m proud of what my students and I built together in only four years. My classroom became our home, and we worked on shows that meant so much to all of us. When we would succeed in creating a show we all were proud of, we all would celebrate together. I loved those students dearly (still do). Why on earth would I want to change anything?
Emma. On March 2, 2018 my first grandchild was born. People always say that you can’t imagine the love that you will have for a grandchild until you experience it… those people were correct. In my life I have always wanted to give 100% to anything I attempted. If you aren’t going to go “all in,” why even try? Of course I wanted to be the very best grandmother I could be, but how could I be the kind of grandma I wanted to be from 500 miles away? Emma lives in Georgia. No, I’m not saying that long-distance grandparenting is wrong or bad or substandard in any way… it’s just not what I wanted. I had to move to Georgia.
Georgia. Sounds simple, right? I could get a teaching job in Georgia… but teaching is an all-encompassing profession- at least it was for me. I needed time in my life and space in my heart for Emma. Not only did I need to move, I needed to change professions.
Tom. Oh, and I’m not alone; I am married, so my decisions must be made with my husband. Ah the complications of being a part of married couple; we must make decisions together. We had just recently moved to West Virginia from Maryland. We built a home that I designed on the top of a ridge, and we owned 50 acres of land surrounding that home. It was idyllic. We had planned to finish our lives on that ridge. My son and daughter-in-law considered moving to WV and building a home on our property, but they couldn’t find comparable jobs to the ones they had at Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. in Pooler, GA. We needed to make the change. My husband was 8 years from retirement as a Senior VP at a local bank. If we waited 8 more years, we would miss half of Emma’s childhood. Oh, the decisions were huge.
Time to go. We decided. I would leave teaching at the end of the school year. We would list our home and property to find buyers for it all. Then where do we go? Would Tom stay in WV? Where would I live in GA? Where would Tom live? So many questions. We believed that God was leading us to move to Georgia to be a part of Emma’s everyday life… but we just couldn’t see how all the pieces would come together. Sometimes you just have to take the next step without seeing the entire path.
Leave it all behind. I finished the school year by directing a fabulous production and then enjoying a beautiful final banquet and awards presentation with my students and their families, and then I packed my bags and moved in with my son and daughter-in-law in Guyton, GA. We had buyers for our home and our largest parcel of property and were ready to go to closing. I flew back up to load up the truck and drive all of our belongings to a storage facility in GA. Tom moved in with our daughter who has an apartment in WV. To sum up: we sold our home and our property; I resigned from my job; I moved in with our son; Tom moved in with our daughter.
Crazy. What were we thinking? I had no idea what I would do for work, but I had an education, skills, and experience that I could use to start a new career… but I wasn’t sure what that would be. I knew I didn’t want to go back into k-12 education. I wanted more freedom in my schedule and my day to spend with my granddaughter. How do I start again at age 54? Who would hire me?
People. Applying for jobs in 2019 is much different than it was in the 1980s. Indeed. ZipRecruiter. Glassdoor. LinkedIn. So many sites. So many applications. Networking. I’m learning it’s all about who you know. With so many ways to apply for jobs online, the best way to make connections is still one on one through networking. I focused on LinkedIn. I connected with anyone I thought might help me find a new direction. I asked a JMU professor who was my thesis adviser to introduce me (through LinkedIn) to a professor at Georgia Southern University since I was going to be living near its main campus. I asked another professor from my doctoral program to provide a recommendation to this same GSU professor – they happened to know each other – a fabulous recommendation was provided… but no openings in the department.
Weddings. One of my skills is event planning. I used those skills quite a bit as a theatre director, and early in my adult life I had thought about being a wedding planner. I was a busy wedding vocalist at one time in my life, and I ended up helping several of the brides with their wedding planning. My daughter-in-law, Amanda, mentioned that she had met a wedding planner. Maybe we could get together for coffee sometime. That’s how I met Anna Swanson of Rustic to Ritz Events.
Theatre. As I kept applying for jobs, I wondered what my life would be like without theatre. There is no Broadway touring house or a regional/resident theatre in Savannah. That fact made me sad, but I knew I wasn’t going to have the funds for theatre tickets for a while anyway, so I just figured theatre was part of my past for a while. Savannah Repertory Company put out a FB request for volunteers for ushers for their fall show. I volunteered and met the managing director and technical director and one of the artistic directors. I found theatre in Savannah!
Church. In a new place it’s good to have new friends. I started attending Compassion Christian Church and pestered them to assign me to a Life Group. It’s a very large church, so I didn’t expect to hear much.
Writing. I investigated the non-profit organizations in Savannah and found Deep Center. This group mentors young writers in the public schools in the city. I applied and was told that they had no vacancies for visiting artists.
Injuries. This was all happening during the summer of 2019 while continuing to investigate, network, and apply for jobs. At the same time I fell and broke my arm and needed surgery, so I was laid up. My car had been damaged and needed body work, so it was in the shop. Here I was, living in my son’s house, injured, and without a car. This would be a recipe for depression for anyone, but I had Emma. That little girl kept reminding me why I was so far out of my comfort zone, and she helped me to try again and again.
Business. Anna Swanson and I got along well. She’s a mom of three, and her wedding planning business was taking off. She had been considering taking on a partner before she and I met. Throughout the fall I would help her with weddings, and we got together with our husbands to see if we all would get along with a partnership. Both husbands were favorable to the forging of a partnership. On December 11 (my birthday!) Anna and I signed papers at the courthouse for our business license for Rustic to Ritz Events. Through this adventure I have met so many wedding professionals in Savannah – what a fabulous network of wonderful artists! I am now working with a professional photographer on some copywriting work as she advises us on our small business. I’m excited to see how this business will grow – Anna is fabulous, talented, and kind, and we work together well. If you know someone planning a wedding, send her our way – we do good work – and Savannah is a great place to get married!
Teaching college. Thanks to my presence on job boards, I was contacted by the University of Pasadena. They needed someone to facilitate courses in their Master of Arts in Education program. It’s a new school, so they needed facilitators who could teach online. I took on two of their courses that had already begun without a designated teacher. I just completed those courses, and they’d like me to continue into the spring semester.
Mentoring. Deep Center gave me a call. They were looking for mentors for the spring semester. I start in January. I will be meeting with a group of middle schoolers after school once a week – I’m a writing fellow – and I will be encouraging their creativity and passion for the written word. I’m looking forward to meeting my new kids!
Christian Friends. Compassion Christian Church gave my name to a wonderful lady who invited me to her Thursday night group. I started in October, and I’ve missed very few Thursdays since. What a wonderful group of people! They are now my friends. We pray for each other and encourage each other, and they allow me to teach – bless them!
Adjunct Faculty. Georgia Southern University contacted me out of the blue a few weeks ago. They had an opening for an adjunct instructor in the Department of Leadership, Technology, and Human Development. I start with my first course of Intro to Instructional Design in January. Foot in the door.
More teaching? Savannah Technical College wanted to see me. I went to talk to them, and they’d like to get me into their adult learning program. I’m not sure where I’ll fit them in… but I can try.
Theatre! I’m still busy with Savannah Repertory Theatre. I took on the job of box office and front of house manager for the December show, and I will continue in that role. I even have the box office program on my home computer. Calling patrons, helping them reserve their season tickets, meeting them at the theatre, and being a part of this fun group of people is fabulous. I have a new theatre family – that didn’t take long.
CHANGE. January 1, 2020 – my life looks very different than it did on January 1, 2019, and that’s ok. I’m still living in my son’s home; my husband will be joining me full time this Friday. He resigned from his position in WV and will start a new job here on Monday. We found 32 acres to purchase; we have house plans; we have a builder; and we are ready to break ground soon.
RENAISSANCE. 2020 will be a year of new things for me. I plan to read more, write more, and spend more time with Emma… and grandbaby #2 who will arrive in June!
Thank you for spending some time learning about my year. If you want to see how things continue or just read my thoughts, insights, and random musings, follow thelearningdoctorpeterson.com. I appreciate you!