As leaders, especially us Type-A’s, we spent the first six months of the year planning and executing impactful projects, and now we find ourselves contemplating the next big thing. Despite the sweltering heat, many of us are still adding and checking boxes on our to-do lists. How wonderful would it be to use this time for some introspection and reflection? And what better time to do so than this two-month span of July and August before we get revved up again for Fall? Honestly, slowing down doesn’t come easily for me but life has forced me to do so many times. Three people I love recently had life events that made me contemplate the give and take of our relationships. And it’s applicable here because the sum of leadership (even in personal relationships) is making a contribution, being enlightened, following sometimes and savoring the fruits of your labor. These people reminded me of how necessary it is to let go and simply relish the good.
Stephanie was 19 years old when we met and I had an immediate urge to look after her. Perhaps I was compelled after learning she was the oldest of three girls and had lost her mom at 17. Our big sister-little sister relationship blossomed so naturally, and the growth and development has always been mutual — from our countless “life” talks in her college years (which often fell on deaf ears) to her first-time mom calls in the middle of the night.
“No Steph, your breasts are not infected…you’re engorged. Put cabbage leaves in your bra and it’ll reduce the swelling.”
“Taylor is not starving, Steph. Nursing every two hours is normal.”
Of course, college graduation and career advice were regular conversation subjects too.
“Take the sales job, Steph. You’re a natural and it’ll open up many doors for you.”
I’ve had a front row seat to her graduating from college, to becoming a mom, to growing into a consummate professional. Her daughter, Taylor, is a beautiful and brilliant teenager now and Steph is doing quite well. Most recently, she sought advice related to their relocation and a new home purchase. After narrowing the list to three prospects, she sent me the MLS links. Let me just say they were all less than a million (wink) and I beamed with pride. I’ve been so fortunate to witness Stephanie’s growth and I’m honored to have played a small part. My little sister is “doing the damn thing.” I can let go, relish her accomplishments and wait for my dinner invitation.
June Ruth Tillman, aka “Aunt Tooty,” was a matriarch in my family. My daddy nicknamed me “Little Tooty” after his big sister and my amazing aunt. When you were in her presence, you laughed constantly. Aunt Tooty had a very pleasant aura and made you feel loved. She was giving. She worked hard and played harder but her kindness could never be taken for weakness. Nothing was more indicative of the latter than a funny story I loved to hear her tell. Aunty Tooty was wronged by an acquaintance and she was going to handle it. Before going to confront that person she gave her friend bail money because according to Aunty Tooty, and I quote, “I was going to jail.” She had a full, well-lived life and embodied strength and independence. Unfortunately, after a couple years of failing health, Aunty Tooty gave up the fight and transitioned on June 21st. She was 82 years old. She enriched my life so much and I am forever grateful. I know for certain Aunt Tooty loved me and her great-nephews. So now it’s time for Little Tooty to let go, revel in the great memories, and be an accountable benefactor for all she gave me.
My youngest son, Malcolm, has always walked to the beat of his own drum. He doesn’t display the same killer instinct of his two, very accomplished older brothers, but in no way is he cavalier. Rather, Malcolm is cool, introspective, and willful. Sometimes I forget and think “the baby” needs a nudge, but he proves me wrong each time.
At a recent doctor’s visit, Malcolm measured 5’9 ½ inches tall, which now makes me the shortest person in the house. The nurse asked him about the upcoming school year and he laid out a detailed plan including his classes, athletic pursuits and interest in studying fashion design in college. He’d never shared this with me and my heart was full because I had majored in fashion merchandising when I started college. To bring this in for a landing, the physical exam proved just how much in charge my Malcolm is of his future.
Marcie, the physician’s assistant, said, “Malcolm, it’s time to check your private parts. Can your mom stay and turn her head or would you like for her to leave?” Without hesitation, Malcolm exclaimed, “Oh, She’s gotta go!”
I am assured that “my baby” is all good and I can revel in all I’ve given him. Further, I dare not ever again burst into his bedroom without knocking.
My fellow leaders, I encourage you to slow down and reflect. Gather the strength and feel the freedom of letting go. Relish the good. And enjoy the rest of your summer.
Angela Hardiman is a graduate of Leadership Tallahassee Class XXII (Double-Deuce), the mother of three sons, and a coordinator in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges Office at Florida A&M University.