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The GPS of Your Life

At 68 years old I found the need to reinvent myself. It wasn’t the first time to be in this position, but at 68 it was unexpected and unwelcome. I had been the police chief in a significant jurisdiction for sixteen years. Not only had I been the police chief, I had built my department pretty much from scratch, from a $170,000 a year budget with three officers and cars held together with duct tape and paper clips to a department of 27 of the best officers and equipment with a $2.5 million budget. During a time when recruiting officers was nearly impossible I had a waiting list of applicants. And I had surrounded my self with command staff who were all smarter than me. Not only was I proud of the department, but everyone else was proud.

Then one morning with 45 minutes notice I was summoned to meet the mayor at the city attorney’s office and informed that I had two hours to clean out my office and turn in all keys and equipment. I was given no reason. To say that I was shocked would be an understatement.

It took some time to process. It also took some time to begin to reinvent myself.

Fortunately I’m not, and never have been, one whose identity and self worth was tied to my career as a cop. Being a cop, being a police chief is what I did, not who I was although it took some time to understand that.

So, I began the process of reinventing. What was on my list of things I’d always thought of doing but didn’t because I was just too comfortable in my space? It turns out the list was longer than I anticipated:  Get my real estate license, write more essays, pursue public speaking and teaching, finish the novel, get more active in my church and ministry and social justice causes that have always been important to me.

As it turns out I’m not bored. I actually have more to do than I can. The biggest challenge is being organized enough to work on things.

The point is this:  These days nearly all of us will need to reinvent ourselves at least once. The key is not to ever let what you do become who you are. Have interests outside of your primary career so that you, and others, don’t define you by that career. The GPS in your car will suggest alternate routes when your planned route becomes blocked or slowed. The GPS of your life should do the same.

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