"I always think of the good comebacks on the car ride home." - Ron Howard
During my first career as a congregational rabbi I never considered the trips made to my cozy synagogue study (the term invoked for the rabbi’s office) as a “commute.” Having resided only a short distance away, most days for me consisted of shuttling back and forth between home and work, all throughout the day and evening, weekends included!
Only after retirement at age 54, did I come to know what it was like to drive to a workplace and - more importantly - return home at the end of a day shift, leaving behind the props, the people and the stresses. Moreover, this new reality of commuting home from work has unfurled a pathway of reflection and resilience.
On the days that I work in the office (and I do enjoy in these pandemic days the option to work from home at least two days of the week), the outset of my journey home takes me out of my parking garage on 18th, followed by a quick left onto Blake Street past the digs of my current employer, Senior Housing Options. Now into my seventh month, I have established a reputation of reliability and strong communication in my roles as office admin and program coordinator. My “work family” recognizes both my humility and self-awareness, along with a desire to leverage my confidence to support an organizational mission that I am still learning day-by-day. Although I am not yet a part of the leadership circle, the CEO remarks frequently how intriguing it is to see my determination to start over in a new calling and discipline. He gets me, and that is a blessing.
After heading south for a few blocks, I turn eastward onto Speer Boulevard and, just before ducking under Sixth Avenue, I am captured by the imposing, rectangular edifice of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, the place where I experienced a most profound transition into (and then out of) Corporate America. After breaking my teeth on the technology and the business of health insurance, I enjoyed nearly two years of helping folks from across the country with their coverage and claims challenges. The excitement of meeting new people everyday via phone and chat interactions gave me motivation and energy to greet each new day. And yet, after four separate efforts to apply for management positions, it became all too clear that advancement was beyond my reach there due to the predispositions of hiring managers who were skeptical about seeing me as a force for growth. As much as I liked my daily function, I had to leave in order to give my aspirations a fighting chance.
The final stretch of the homeward commute, shortly after the terminus of Speer and past Cherry Creek, wends up the hill on South Jersey and onto East Virginia Avenue, which takes me past Congregation Rodef Shalom, the leaders of which elected to place confidence in me - a young, idealistic product of East Coast culture who would respond with vigor, loyalty, and dependability for a quarter-century. That is, until the realization that this book of good chemistry had arrived at its final chapter and that the best move for both of us was for me to step aside and enable new talent to dazzle the spirit of a changing constituency. In hindsight, the decision to retire was my wisest move, second only to coming in the first place. And, of course, it spawned the freedom to explore, to discover new avenues … and to commute.
Resilience is not so much about responding to the individual setbacks and disappointments as it is finding the fuel to be energized on a daily basis after the challenges have been recognized. And, while I have lots to look forward to on my way to work these days, the ride home is sweeter for its disclosure of my professional story in reverse - and how I have managed to continue moving forward at the speed limit.