This song has been running through my head for a couple of weeks now. Even before I officially knew I would have a new job.
It’s hard to believe, but the time has come to say goodbye. I’ve been having a difficult time putting into words what I want people to know. Wondering if anyone would even want to know or even care.
We do that, don’t we? We tend to romanticize our exit. It reminds me of a funeral, suddenly people say all of the nice things about you that you wish you had known while you were around. Life is funny like that.
Macon is my home. I was born at the Medical Center on February 16, 1973.
That’s right, during the big blizzard. (True Maconites know what I am talking about.)
I attended Union Elementary School, Ballard A Middle School, and Southwest High School. I grew up on the southwest side of town, just two blocks off of Bloomfield Road. Yep. I did. (Crystal Lake to be exact.)
I did not have a long line of royal family names Maconites love to drop. My mom grew up in what is now known as the Peach Orchard and my dad is from Indiana. He came to Georgia by way of Robins Air Force Base.
He later became a milkman and mom was a school secretary and art teacher. My sister went to what was once called Clisby Elementary School. She would go on to study theater at UGA and I graduated from Georgia College and State University. The first one in my immediate line to get a Bachelor’s Degree. I guess you could say, I defied the odds. So many of my friends from high school never even went on to college. Some didn’t even make it out of high school. But I did.
I can thank the teachers at Southwest High School for that. Bibb County Public Schools take a lot of slack about the system. But I am here to tell you I got a great education from some passionate teachers. Some I am even still friends with today. I learned French, competed in the Model United Nations (Won Honorable Mention,) competed in Mock Trial Competitions (won Best Witness,) and somehow maintained my grades, worked part-time, and had a social life. It was the best of times.
As a child, I spent every summer at Camp Martha Johnston in Lizella.
Girls Scouts taught me to swim, fish, play tennis, how to conduct a flag ceremony… and yes, I was able to cross that moccasin infested creek on the Monkey (rope) Bridge walking backwards and blindfolded. I made a wish or two crossing rainbow bridge. It stayed my constant. Later, in college, I would go back and work every single summer at that camp. (Even during the Flood of 94. I remember watching the dam break and our canoes floating down the creek during breakfast. We had to be rescued by the Red Cross!) Camp Martha Johnston holds a special place in my heart forever.
I also was blessed to have the parents I had. They wanted so much for me. My mom would volunteer to keep the books at my dance studio and helped with costumes so that I could take ballet classes. And take them I did. I took classes up to three times a week , for two hours at a time. I wanted to be a dancer. Until I had a few very painful procedures on my toes and that dream had to change.
Luckily, my mom entered me into the Community Children’s Theatre of Macon, where I was introduced to people like John Jones, Sylvia Haynie, and so many others. As well as Paige Henson. John and Sylvia taught me how to break out of my shell and perform on a stage, something that has made all of the difference in my life. Then later, I would take a writing class with Paige that would impact me in such a way that I would eventually choose that profession.
By the 6th grade, I was beginning to think about my future. I watched Fame on television and knew I wanted to go some place bigger and do something even more exciting. I remember watching Tina Hicks at 13WMAZ and I thought to myself…. “Wait a minute. I can do that.” So I polished my voice, relished every book report, and took every opportunity to learn to speak in front of a crowd.
When I graduated from High School, I entered Georgia College in Milledgeville and went into their Broadcast Journalism program. I worked for their television station, was a radio deejay, and everything else in between. I never once took my eye off the prize.
And Macon beckoned me back.
I started my internship at the very station that sparked my passion: 13WMAZ. I worked 40 plus hours a week for zero pay and trained under Dodie Cantrell and Raymond Tubb. After three months, my internship ended on a Friday, I was hired as the Midday and 5pm Producer on Monday. At the time, we were the #1 CBS affiliate in the country. I had one of the top shows and it was all mine. Working side by side with people I grew up watching: Frank Malloy, Tina Hicks, Bill Powell, Liz Fabian, and Dell Ward. After a few years, I got to be the Special Projects Producer on a Passion Project of my News Director- Faces of Freedom. I won an Associated Press Award for Best Public Affairs Reporting (as the Producer,) and we won a Gabby for that piece – Excellence in Broadcasting. That was 1999, I was 27 years old.
I transitioned into Promotions and learned the creative side of things. But knew I needed something different. I was engaged and though my idea was to eventually leave Macon, it took a little arm twisting to stay. So I transitioned out of news, just like a lot of old journalists do and headed into Marketing and Nonprofits. I accepted a position as a Field Executive for the Girl Scouts of Middle Georgia. This new job had me moving back to Milledgeville. I covered 7 counties and hung in there for about a year, before an opportunity would open up that would also change my life. I ended up landing the Communications/Program Specialist position and moved back to Macon and continued to work for the Girl Scout for 6 more years.
During that time I got married and hosted 14 exchange students over a span of 8 years. I brought kids from Thailand, Belgium, Australia, Moldova, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Iraq, Cambodia, Brazil and a few others to Macon. I got involved at my church (St. Joseph’s) and was living the “grown up” dream. Great house, great friends, great job – I lived in a little suburb in North Macon. It was all coming together. And it was my hometown that it happened in.
My husband got a job transfer to Birmingham, Alabama. I followed suit. And just as we suspected, we were worried the move would either make or break us. It broke us. After two long stints in the hospital with meningitis and a few other not so savory disagreements, it all come crashing down. We divorced after being together 8 years.
While in Birmingham, I created another life. It was fantastic. I traveled all over the place (in my first year with the American Heart Association, I was on 27 different planes.) I made new friends, and was incredibly happy to be someplace much bigger and much more exiting than my hometown. I did it. I had moved on.
I was making good money, living in a fantastic city, surrounded by super professional & successful people. I kind of went through some sort of transitional phase and eventually flew to Egypt, spent some time there and fell madly in love with this Mediterranean man. Came back home, and continued to work as the Marketing & Communications Director for the American Heart Association.
I went through this whole Eat, Pray, Love phase.
I went through the whole immigration process, brought my Egyptian boyfriend, Yasser, over and we got married in the states after a lengthy engagement.
Two years later, and after an really difficult culture fusion experiment, I lost my job.
Guess where I ended up? Back home, in Macon.
I fought so hard to find something in Birmingham, in New York, in Los Angeles – in any place Yasser and I had friends and family (and we were trying to go BIG!) But the money ran out, and so did my spirit. Macon it was, and Macon I returned.
It took 9 months to find a job. I cannot thank Andy Ambrose enough for believing in me. I got back in the game and was working as the Director of Sales & Marketing for the Tubman Museum.
The hardest part was re-transitioning to a much slower pace. No longer were my events earning half a million to a million dollars, but now I had to focus on smaller fish and a much smaller pond. I fought it internally. I did not want to be here. Then something happened… I made new friends. These weren’t the people I had grown up with my whole life.. I had changed, I was not the girl I was when I left. I had been gone a decade and so much had happened and Macon looked different to me. There was more to do downtown. My calendar was always full. And suddenly, these people were making things happen downtown and they weren’t even from here AND they were getting it done. What was the shift? Planet Macon had.. somehow… aligned with the world and I was warming up to the idea of being home.
And then the flood gates opened: Board appointments, fun lunches with great people (#youcantsitwithus) and this new energy was flooding the streets of MY hometown. I was finally proud to be home and glad I was.
Trust me, I was shocked.
But then, I guess God had something else planned for me. My husband left me, my job was cut from the museum, and here I was right back where it all began and going through a very familiar experience. The difference was this time – I had a safety net. It was the people and places of my hometown. Opportunities almost immediately popped up – I landed the Executive Director position at the Cannonball House. I picked up writing again (after years of pushing my journalism degree to the side.) I got to freelance for the 11th Hour and Macon Magazine.
And suddenly it happened. I was in love with my life. I quit wondering where I would go next and simply settled into this new life with a very strong group of new friends and old friends and made it work.
Then the blessing I had been waiting on for so long just snuck right up on me. Right when I just settled into who I thought I was going to be I met a guy. This time it was different.
This time it was right. And everything about the relationship has been incredibly easy and seamless. There is trust, there is communication, there is respect, and above all -there is love.
And the planets aligned. A job came available and I got it. It will move me closer to Tim and his girls. He sold his house. Now we can build on the farm.
It is simply all coming together.
I always believed that if you were patient and put your trust in God… anything was possible. Please watch the very short video.
And so it is, my friends. Lots and lots of ladybugs.
Incredibly good things can still happen later in life. I’m 43 and I feel like it is all just starting, for the first time.
It’s time to say my final goodbye to my hometown. This is it. I feel it in my bones, a feeling I have never known before. It’s time to plant some roots.
This little girl made a wish to do big things with her life.
She wanted to see the world, write, and say some important stuff to a lot a people.
She worked hard. Nothing was ever just given to her. No silver spoon, no famous last name. Just hard work, determination, and a strong faith in God.
And with that Macon – I say So Long! Farewell!
Maybe you will miss me when I am gone. Regardless of whether my absence is ever noticed, you made an impact on my heart. You will forever be a part of me. Ciao!
3 thoughts on “So Long, Farewell”
Beautifully written, Nicole…”the best is yet to be!”
Wow, you should write a memoir. This was certainly exciting to read. You have done much and been so many places. I’m glad you have a new husband and family. Life looks good for you. Enjoy it.
Wow. You’ve still got it I thoroughly enjoyed this story and this touching and rich look at your life. Lovely.