Twenty-six years is a long time to stay in one job. Yet, when I thought about leaving my position as director of educational outreach at the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center in South Florida, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I loved what I did and felt privileged to be working closely with hundreds of Holocaust survivors. My main responsibility entailed helping the survivors pass along their legacy of remembrance to students and teachers so that they could learn many important lessons — including standing up, speaking out, and making a difference
As time passed and I looked ahead to the future, I knew I had more I wanted to accomplish in my life. During all those years that I had worked at the Holocaust center, I had been hoping to write a book but never cleared enough space to sit down and get it written. Also, in my earlier career, I had been a teacher and gradually found myself yearning to get back into a classroom.
Yet, I feared the unknown. How would my life look and would I be courageous enough to give up what I had? I weighed the pros and cons and one day decided I would turn in my resignation, take that leap of faith, and make the jump.
As soon as I left my job, I realized I had given myself a huge gift. I refocused, reimagined and reinvented my life. I wrote and published Room 732, which helped me to realize my dream and led me out into the public. I was my own boss and could choose to do whatever I pleased. That in itself was freeing. Suddenly, I felt fully alive.
Shortly after, I developed a course entitled Living and Leaving Your Legacy®. Along with the classes I began teaching, I also was speaking on the subject of legacy to a wide variety of audiences. I was on my way to helping people understand the importance of living a meaningful life — one which matters.
So, what roles do these jumps play in our life and in our legacy?
Why are they important to make during our lifetime?In these past few years since I jumped, I have come to understand that how we live our lives is our legacy. People watch us and learn from us. How we choose to live and what we do sets an example for others. The risks we take, the jumps we make, the challenges we face all become part of our legacy. And how we are remembered after we die is mostly about who we were and what we accomplished during our lifetime.
My college roommate Jane Blatt began her artistic career with a fine arts scholarship to Ohio State University. Upon graduation, she moved to New York City, earned masters degrees at Columbia University and Hunter College, and taught children with learning disabilities for many years. At some point in her career, she decided it was time to pursue her dreams, make the jump and paint. Several years later, she was chosen as the artist of the year in Martin County, Florida. Immediately after a one-woman show where she displayed well over fifty of her paintings, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Right before she died, Jane told me that her legacy will be her art. People remember her today for her courage to change careers and follow her passion. She left her mark as an artist.
In the sacred legacy work I do with hospice patients, we often have meaningful conversations about their lives. Many have told me they regretted only that which they never did. That makes me believe all the more in the importance of doing whatever it is that speaks to us in this moment, for now is truly all we have.
Yes, jumping is a risk, but it’s one worth taking. My hope is that I will be remembered for taking that risk, for changing my life, for following my dream, and for making a difference because I did what mattered most to me.
Will your legacy include having taken that jump?
When to Jump™ is a community dedicated to exploring the fundamental question we all think about: when is the right time to go do what you really want to be doing?