In January of 2011 I was moving through the daily motions of life. With an unfullfilling job and a fresh divorce, I desperately needed something to get me out of bed each morning. I needed something to look forward to.
On Sunday, January 8, 2011 a very sick man opened fire on a crowded supermarket parking lot near Tucson, AZ. Six people were shot dead and 14 were wounded including U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. I was nowhere near Tucson during the incident and didn't know at the time what a profound effect it would have on my life.
The following Monday I reported to work at the Arizona Department of Health Services, Division of Behavioral Health Services. Considering the nature of our business, I expected breifings, important reports to write and immediate action steps. What I got was business as usual. Not a single person spoke of the event or checked on their own staff's behavioral health. With the shootings so close to home, did my coworkers know the victims? Was anxiety heightened? How do I respond to phone calls from behavioral health providers and the public? I posed these questions to leadership who told me an email would be sent out later that afternoon. An email? Later that afternoon? That's how the organization responsible for the behavioral health of all Arizonans responds to such a high profile incident?
Next week the same leadership told me to write a grant in response to the tragedy. As the Grants Manager, that's all the information that was provided to me. I was left to gather all the necessary facts and come up with a plan to spend the grant. How do you spend $50,000 after a public shooting? How am I supposed to articulate the gruesome details so that the grant is supported? How do I walk the fine political line of this media-driven case? Guess I'll figure it out.
I wrote the stupid grant and hated every second of it. Tears streamed down my face as I typed words describing a nine-year-old girl who accompanied her mother to the grocery store that fateful day and didn't come home. It was not what I signed up for. As a professional, I sucked it up and did my job. Then I swore I would NEVER put myself in that position again.
Meanwhile, Facebook and Twitter friends of Kustom Kissers from all over the world were concerned. Only knowing that I live in Arizona, they showed compassion and offered kind words. People whom I've never met asked if I was ok. I then knew what I was supposed to do. Kustom Kissers needed to be my full time job.
The book "Where will you be 5 years from today?" was given to me as a gift many months prior to 2011. I dug it out began writing plans, visions, missions, and objectives for my future. Words flowed easily as I sat on a $5 lawn chair in the warm desert sun. The end goal - to not be a State Employee in 2012.
For the remainder of 2011, I used every second of my vacation and sick leave to experience new adventures, to enhance Kustom Kissers, to strengthen relationships, to be anywhere but in the office. I only have four days left in that dreadful office. Mission accomplished.