Sunday, March 30, 2014

My Perfect Gift on My Last Day At Work ... at least for the moment

This might seem a bit strange to be considered a Perfect Moment, especially since it happened on the day I decided to take medical leave from work to take care of my health.

I had been fighting the doctor’s advice for a while, thinking I could “Superwoman” through just about anything. But I eventually found that just because I might want to do something in my head and heart, the body does not always agree.

So, the time came to tell my students, and I have to admit I was able to do it without crying which had been my big challenge. Because they mean so much to me, but also because this would be the first time in 30 years I was not working.

I made it through the first group, and then on my last day had to tell the second group of students. It helped that some of them had already heard!
At the end of the day, I did not realize they planned to have a small going away send-off for me.

I was doing just fine until my boss started talking about how 8 years ago we had joined together to re-launch this Newswatch program at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, and how much I meant to him and the more than 800 students we have taught during our time together. I was OK, until his voice started cracking.

Then it was my turn to speak. I think I was able to get out the words “Thank you” and “Remember to work hard and have confidence in your skills” before all of a sudden I felt the tears start to well up. It was incredibly emotional and all I could do at that point was say, “Just use what I taught you” and then I held up my hand and added, “I’m done.” 

That’s when it started, the students all started hugging me, one by one, some crying, all saying I was the toughest teacher they had ever had, but they were so going to miss me because they knew I cared.

One even stood for a while sobbing on my shoulder. I was there comforting her after spending two semesters seeing her at least two days a week, sometimes more, and really enjoying watching her grow.  Her feelings were so raw, and heartfelt, and then I started crying again with her.

Another student even hugged me and pressed a note into my hand saying please read this letter later. It was a note telling me she appreciated my no-bullshit approach to things, and loved that I challenged everyone to be better. She thanked me for caring about her.

No, I think it goes the other way, I thank all my students for caring about me. They called; they wrote on Facebook; they instant messaged me. Former students I hadn’t heard from in years, reaching out to say “Hang in there, get better and get back to work!”

I was touched at the overwhelming support and love I have felt since making this tough decision to finally put myself first. I am a very blessed woman with amazing students, wonderful, supportive colleagues and a wife who is with me every step of the way. I also have amazing doctors! Just knowing all these people are behind me, supporting me, hoping to see me back walking the halls of Cronkite again and asking “What else ya got?” in our morning news meetings gives me hope, and courage, and the will to also get healthy and get back.

So, my Perfect Moment was in getting the opportunity to really know how much people care for me, and that is a gift I will remember forever.

Sue, Phoenix


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