I Quit my Job, and That’s the Day my Life Changed
Cartoon by Marcia Liss
Published in ChicagoNow, March 11, 2015
Of course, there are so many pivotal days that change a person’s life. For me, what pops into my mind first is the day I met my spouse at a movie in college, the day 46+ years ago we married, and the days our children and grandchildren were born. These are very personal events that impacted my life and shaped the person I am today.
But when I free-associated around the words for this week’s ChicagoNow This Blogger Life topic, “and that’s the day my life changed,” I thought about the day what my kids call my fourth child, Cherry Preschool, was created. But I am getting ahead of the story. To open that door, I had to close another one.
My life-changing day, January 13, 1992, was the day I quit the job that I had held for seven years as a preschool director in a church. But it felt even more momentous because all of my children had attended that preschool and I had taught there, so it had been an important part of my life for closer to 17 years.
The events that led up to this day unfolded over a few years. While parents and teachers fought hard to maintain the school we all loved, it was inevitable that change was coming. Ultimately, I had to admit it was over and I resigned on January 13, 1992.
At this point, I had no idea what I would do. I thought about returning to teaching English or perhaps looking for a directorship elsewhere or staying home and coughing from the asthma unleashed by the stress and construction dust in the building. I never expected what followed my letter of resignation and how it would set into motion the thing that changed my professional life.
The same day I submitted my letter, most of the members of the nursery school board resigned, followed by the resignation of the entire teaching staff. Holy cow! I realized I had a school and a board and just needed a place to put it. No problem, I thought, let’s start our own school. Several parents and teachers were happy to join me in my delusion that it would be easy to start a new school. We were all so angry over the endless negotiations that preceded my resignation, and righteous anger is a powerful motivator. But community and sharing a common purpose soon became the driving forces.
Amazingly, our new board for our imaginary new school met the day after I had resigned. Its agenda included how to raise funds, how to find a location for the new school, and how to register families for a program that was just a concept at that point. We needed to solicit funds, materials, and toys from any source that was sympathetic to our plight, as we had to leave everything but ourselves at the church. We had no toys, storage units for them, tables, chairs, easels, art supplies, etc. to put into our non-existent building … in short, we had nothing.
The sense of responsibility I felt for the teachers, parents, and especially the children who were ready to follow me was both exciting and overwhelming. What I learned on that day that changed my life was that I really had everything that mattered. I had a community of parents, leaders, and learners. The rest was simply logistics.
In exactly nine months, we gave birth to Cherry Preschool (known that first year as Evanston Developmental Preschool). It was a huge team effort, and being part of it was a truly amazing experience. I learned to trust myself and to value the importance of people coming together to serve a cause greater than themselves.
The late Fred Rogers, one of my personal heroes and the wise and gentle guide through Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, said it best:
“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”
Ironically, quitting a job and closing one door opened another door and changed my life forever.