From Tech Startups to Assisted Living: An Unexpected Pivot
In early June 2022, I had stopped writing. I didn’t tell anyone. It happened while I was in London visiting my son and his family. Until then, I had been writing three to five days a week. I was beginning to believe I was a writer. But there was a voice telling me not to believe it.
I stopped writing despite everyone telling me they liked what I wrote. I justified not writing while in London by thinking, “I need a break. I need to stop thinking so much.” I wanted to be in the moment and not create. To not have the burden of producing something.
And then my world blew up.
My sister, in Miami then, had fallen in her condo. She was eighty years old at the time. I found out from her neighbor, who heard her yelling for help. After talking to her, I concluded that she had lost consciousness and dropped to the floor. Once on the floor, she couldn’t get up. For five hours, she had laid there. She couldn’t reach her feet or crawl to her phone. She didn’t have the strength.
This had become a new family priority in life. And this priority was about to become a dictating priority of my life. Little did I know.
Her neighbor had been passing her door while walking his dog. He heard an odd banging inside my sister’s condo. Then he heard a weak call, “Help!” He knocked and asked, “Janet. Are you OK?”
She answered, “I’ve fallen and can’t get up. Help me!”
He went to his condo and got her key. When he opened the door, he found my sister lying outside her bathroom on her terracotta tile floor. She was in great distress, exhausted, and dehydrated. He saved her life.
This one fall changed my life. I had a new priority, and it quickly became my highest priority. My sister was it for me for the rest of June, July, August, and September. She had no one else in her life but me. She was beginning a new journey—the journey from independence to dependence. And I was the person she was depending on.
I started living one day at a time. When my feet hit the floor in the morning, I checked my text messages to see if she was OK. Every night, as I lifted my feet from the floor, I checked to see if she needed anything. This new responsibility consumed me. This was a new and overwhelming priority in my life.
This change in my sister’s capabilities shorted out my brain. In London, I had stopped writing because I needed a break. I wasn’t writing because I didn’t have one creative thought. Not one idea came to mind to explore with my entrepreneur and angel audience. Looking back, it was clear there were no ideas because I was thoroughly checked out. I wasn’t meeting with entrepreneurs. If I did, I was so distracted I felt useless, like I was wasting their time. I couldn’t get my mind off my sister and our next steps.
For the first time in our lives, her priorities became my priorities. She needed me. During this transition, she said, “I have something I need you to do.” I took out my phone to enter this new task. I was surprised to see all my to-do’s, almost everything I needed to get done, was for my sister. My new role as a caregiver consumed me.
Preparing to move my sister to Atlanta, I had to find an assisted living home that suited her needs. I did a lot of research but had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea how to evaluate her needs, the different facilities, and their services. Making this choice even more complex was matching her character, interests, and values with the residents of these facilities. They would be her new neighbors and friends. Time was of the essence. I decided on a facility.
Have you ever faced a situation where personal responsibilities drastically altered your professional path or creative pursuits? How did you manage the balance between personal obligations and professional ambitions? I would love to hear your stories and any advice you have for navigating such challenging transitions.