Thursday, October 28, 2010
My Swan Song Sounds More Like Gurgling
I have served in a leadership position on a particular board of directors for the past ten years. This was all volunteer work, done with my company's blessing but certainly not required. Today was my last board meeting followed my a luncheon to install the new board. It is tradition to recognize those going off the board, to say nice things about all their efforts, even when they've held their seats for years without doing much of anything important.
During my ten years on this board, I challenged the status quo, asked the board to break apart the current structure, created new committees, restructured initiatives, pulled from reserves to build and invest back into the organization, and personally recruited most of the leaders who went on to follow me, each year making us better, each year building on what I started. I served for five years as an officer, including two terms as president. This had not happened since 1973. It was important for me to have two years. I needed to spend more time overseeing the implementation of the new committees and strategic plans. I wanted to make sure the roots were firmly planted before I walked away. It was my baby. My passion for this organization was further demonstrated by my choice to remain on the board for the next five years, until today, when I arrived ready for my swan song, ready for tears and accolades to flow.
I invited my closest friend to be my significant other. Someone who could revel with me. I even asked my son to attend but his work schedule prevented it. Thank the Lord for those small blessings, I would have been mortified to have him witness my gloriously embarrassing swan dive. As the entire 2010 board was called up to be recognized, I was expecting my moment. They had to say something about me before they installed the 2011 board. If they didn't, it would be too late. So I stood there with my head in the clouds, waiting to act surprised and humbled by the good words that were surely coming my way.
I had been too busy rehearsing my speech to realize they had already transitioned to the 2011 board installation. People in the crowd had to motion for me to sit my ass down. And just like that, it was over.
Now everybody knows I've never once been mute. Perhaps that's why I was not given my swan song moment. I had tendencies to hog the microphone and passionately disperse my particular brand of what one of my friends referred to as "diarrhea of the mouth" at more than one event. Everybody knew it, I knew it but I was all about generating excitement. And being a writer, excitement presents itself in me through words. Every leader that has followed me seems to be making a conscientious effort to limit their speeches, as if they are making up for all the time I babbled on and on.
I don't think it was intentional, I know and love these people and believe they would never purposefully slight me or hurt my feelings. There is a lot to do when you're planning these big events and some things just get missed. During my years as president, my passionate writing and love of the cause drew national attention to our little Milwaukee chapter. We were named best of the best for those two years, competing with mammoth chapters like Chicago, Dallas and Houston. The annual reports were written by my hand but encapsulated the excitement I felt from a passionate hard working board who had created something truly wonderful. I wasn't doing that for the recognition. I did it because I needed them as much as they needed me. I was going through my divorce. It replaced my marriage, giving me something to love, something to quell the post divorce trauma while I healed. All my talent, time, energy and passion went into this chapter because a new chapter was being written in my life. And yes, it is true what they say, in the end you get more than you give.
I received bountiful blessings in terms of personal development, confidence building, leadership training and making life long friends around the world. I was meant to be there at that time with too much time on my hands and an ability to write and inspire those around me. It was one of my many personal beginnings as well as the beginning of what has become a Milwaukee legacy. We remain the brightest, shiniest star in the entire international organization. It is my legacy, along with all those that served with me.
As soon as my bruises heal and my beak stops bleeding, I will remember that and I will sing my own personal swan song to myself. Not just before I die, but just before I begin, yet again.