Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

I had a conversation with Maddy just before her birthday in January. She was talking about how she would be turning 12 the following week, and I was teasing her and said now that she was getting older, she needed to start looking for a job. Then she said to me, “Kelli was 13 when she died, and I’ll be 13 in a year.” I said, “Yes, that’s true” and wondered where she was going with this. “And Jessica was 18, and was in college to do that PR thing.” “That’s right,” and then I said nothing more, waiting for her to take the lead.

After a few beats of silence, she stated “I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. Jessica knew what she wanted to do, and Kelli wanted to be a vet. I don’t know.” I said, “Mad, there’s no deadline. What you want to do now may not be what you want to do later. Who knows if Kelli would still want to be a vet.” We talked a little more about it, then I said “I mean, look at me, I’m 42 years old and I still don’t know what I want to do.” “But you have a job,” she said, and I replied “Yes, I have a job, but that pays the bills and buys us groceries. It’s not what I want to do with my life.” Then she asked, “What do you want to do?” and I said, “I don’t know. I used to want to be a lawyer so I went to work for them. Then I had babies and stayed home for a while, but I had to go back to work, and I just never got the time to go back to school.”

She thought for a bit, then she said “Mom, I think when you can quit your job, you should do more of that speaking thing that you do with the police. I think it’s important that they hear you, and you’re good at it. That’s what you should do.” Taken aback, I said “you think?” She replied, “Yes, I do. And if you quit soon you can stay home with me this summer, and I can go with you when you talk to them.”

At that moment I was schooled by an 11-almost-12-year-old. She was right – I miss out on a lot of time with her because I have to work, and now more than ever I am so appreciative of the time I have with my family. I also love speaking to the police cadets and field officers because I feel that it is important for them to hear about Jessica and Kelli, and it makes me feel like I’m doing what I wanted to do all along – make sure they aren’t forgotten and make sure that their deaths weren’t in vain and that I hopefully change an officer’s mind about how they drive and perhaps save a life because of that change in perception.

Maddy went with me last week to the Southwestern Illinois Criminal Justice Summit and saw me give my presentation to over 250 officers, my largest audience to date. Then she stood next to me as dozens of officers came up to us to express their condolences and to tell me thank you for sharing my story with them. I exchanged contact info with several of them and will be speaking to their departments as well. I thought it was important that Maddy see exactly what I did, and also to see that the majority of the police officers are not like the one bad example she’s had to hear about for three years.

On the way home, I said “thank you for going with me.” She said “thanks for taking me, I learned a lot. I cried a little but I don’t know if it was because of what you said or because I was thinking about them while you were talking. But I liked what you said.” “So this is what you think I should do with myself,” I asked her and she said “yep, I do.”

So, at the ripe old age of 42-almost-43, I know what I want to do with my life. This Friday is my last day of work, and then I will be home with Maddy, and also be available to speak to police departments about Jessica and Kelli. I have four sessions lined up already and am working on scheduling more. Maddy and I also have made a list of things to do this summer.

I am thankful that I have the opportunity to do this, and I am also very aware that it comes at a high price. However, I think Jessica and Kelli would be proud of me and the work that I do in their honor. At least I hope so. I know Maddy is.

18 comments:

Cricky said...

I am so, so very proud of you and everything you've become in the midst of this.

Ray said...

So proud, Kim. You got me there, for a minute. So happy everything is going your way and Maddy is right, you are awesome at what you're doing. I'm glad you have this niche and continue to do the things you're doing!

Lisa said...

So proud of you and Maddy. You both do such great things for this world. :-)

Lisa said...

Oh yeah and congrats on the last day of work. I'm so happy for you - that you've found this path.

Kristy said...

Congratulaions. I think what you are doing is so very important.

MP said...

Congratulations!!! That Maddy has the most awesome job of being your daughter right now.. I'm so proud of you both. {{hugs}}

Krys72599 said...

That, Kim, was my most favorite post of yours ever!!!
SO happy that you'll be able to dedicate your life and your time to Maddy, and to Jessica and Kelli in that so very special way.
What a life lesson you just taught Maddy - I know you think she taught you something, but to show her, actually show her, how much her opinion means and how much you value it, to the point where you can change your life because of those few words she spoke to you - what a gift for your daughter!!!

Kelli said...

I found your blog quite by accident and have been following you for some time. I've cried along with you through your grief, frustration and pain...and now I'm crying in happpiness that you listened to your 11 year old and followed your heart. Good luck to you and hopefully I will get to hear your story in person one of these days. --kel

Hope said...

Your daughter is wise beyond her years.

Jill of All Trades said...

This is so awesome. She is so wise. You go girl!

Jennifer Greene said...

Feeling joyous for you. So happy that you'll be doing what you love, get to spend more time with Maddy, and making a difference in the world. Good luck!

Jaelithe said...

I've heard you speak in public, about totally different things, and I have to concur. Maddy was totally right.

I personally have come to believe that all of us are here for two reasons: to love others, and to change the world in a positive way. And it is when we don't have enough time or energy to devote to those two goals that we are discontented.

I know you will make a difference in the lives of many people.

(Does Maddy have any advice for me? Maybe she should be a life coach when she grows up.)

Christian's Mom said...

Kim, that is just wonderful!! Maddy may be 12, but she's awfully insightful! I'm so glad she could help you realize that you do have choices here, and you are making a terrific choice! :) I'm so happy for you and for Maddy!

MamaB said...

Jumping for joy for you! Maddy is one smart cookie! Maybe she should be the lawyer? Congrats on the last day of work and for taking a huge step. I think you will be fabulous!

Sparky said...

Congratulations on your decision to follow your heart (and Maddy's). I kow Jessica and Kelli are so so proud. Can't wait to read more about your journey.

Gregg said...

This is funny, in a way. Sometimes it takes someone else to state the obvious. See, I just ASSUMED that's would you would do once this was all over, as if there was no doubt!

Now, I just need someone to come up to me and do the same service, except in a way that still puts the food on the table.

moore lane said...

amazing!

jodifur said...

Wow, good for you. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

Or maybe I do and I don't know how to accomplish it.