“Girls you’ve gotta know when it’s time to turn the page.”
― Tori Amos,
This is going to sound so weird, but I killed a big part of myself. Not literally, obviously, but it’s true.
Two weeks ago I walked into work and turned in my resignation. As of 5 p.m. Friday I officially became a former disc jockey. My transmitter went dark. I hung up the headphones. My broadcast day came to an end. My station went off the air. I retired from the broadcasting field.
From the time I was 14 years old I wanted to be in radio. Music has always been such a huge part of my life that a career in broadcasting just seemed a natural fit. I wanted to talk over songs, give away prizes, take requests, meet celebrities, and have people love me. I needed that love and adoration. I needed to be needed. So when I was 23 years old, in March of 2000, I enrolled in Broadcast Center in St. Louis. They had a very focused program that led to actual jobs in radio. I loved it! I loved doing my airshifts at school. I loved learning how to produce commercials. I took great satisfaction in cutting and splicing audio tape, and I totally rocked it! I was eager to get out into the world and begin my takeover of the airwaves. I was hired for my first job before I even finished the program.
In January, 2001, I moved to Paducah, Kentucky, where I took my first job with Withers Broadcasting. I worked for a cluster of 3 stations: WZZL-FM, WREZ-FM, and WMOK-AM, which were all housed in Metropolis, Illinois. The radio station was tiny and far from high-tech. I was broadcasting to cows and corn. The pay was terrible, and I had no benefits, but I loved it. I was doing what I had dreamed of for 10 years. I was literally living my dream.
A few weeks after I started working for those stations we moved into our new-to-us building. It was bigger and prettier than the building we moved out of. But things were a little backwards in that building. This was most evident in the fact that the hallways were carpeted (in horrible blue carpet), but the studios all had ceramic tile floors. **Note to readers: when soundproofing a room, don’t put ceramic tile on the floor.**
I was with that company for 3-weeks-shy-of 11-years. In that time I learned how to do everything except sales. I was on-air, commercial production, music scheduler, program director, traffic manager. I was a well-rounded and valuable employee. BUT my pay still sucked and I still had no benefits. By the time I left the company I was married and had a 6-year-old son.
Somewhere around 2004 I discovered a frog on the radio . . . Froggy 103.7. It was a country station out of Murray, Kentucky. I fell in love with it immediately. All the jocks had adorable amphibious names. They wished listeners a hoppy birthday, and they went out on frog gigs. There mascot was a giant anthropomorphic frog named, fittingly, Mr. Froggy. I was hooked. A coworker told me that if I were ever to go to work for that station then my name needed to be Heather McRibbits, which was a play on my maiden name. I had a new goal in my career.
December 27, 2011, I walked into the offices of Forever Communications in Murray, Kentucky, for my first day of work at Froggy 103.7. I was on the midday shift where I spent 6 years as Heather McRibbits. I was still living the dream.
But eventually all dreams come to an end. A person must wake up and move on with life. It’s funny but even when I was going to school at Broadcast Center I couldn’t see myself still in radio at 40 or 50. I think maybe deep inside I knew I would not spend my entire working life in radio. After all, nobody wants to hear their grandma trying to into the latest Top 20 song from some skanky pop star.
I have no regrets about leaving the only career I wanted and the only real career I’ve known. I knew it was time to move on the same way that you know when it’s time to buy more toilet paper. In my 17 years in radio I have met many amazing people that made great impacts on my life. I made, and lost, lots of friends. That’s the thing about radio . . . everybody is always looking for the next best gig, and a market like Paducah is always a market that is a stopping point on the way to somewhere else. Some friends were in my life for less than a year. Some friends were in my life for several years, but ultimately everyone moved on.
When I look back on who I was when I first moved to Paducah I see a 24-year-old woman who was still just a scared little kid. I moved to a new city and state where I knew absolutely nobody. I may as well have moved to a foreign country. I am not the same woman now that I was then. I don’t need the same things now that I needed from my career then. I don’t have the same priorities, and I am a little more wise, and a little more jaded than I was then. The insecure and naive little girl that moved to Paducah in 2001 got lost somewhere along the way, but she had been replaced by a woman that is strong, independent, and secure in who she is and what she wants. I have made mistakes in those years, but I have learned even more. When I first moved to Paducah my career was my life. It was all I could see and everything revolved around that. Now my career is something that takes up 40 hours of my week, and is pretty low on the priority list. My career is a necessary evil. But that rearranged priority list had allowed room for new priorities.
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
― Corrie ten Boom
I am back in school. I am active in my church, and I eager to see where the future will lead. I don’t know where my life will go from here. I have hopes for the future, but I am open to wherever God chooses to lead me from here. Am I scared by so many unknowns in my life? Nope, because God has seen fit to put me exactly where he wants me in this exact moment, and I have complete faith that He will continue to put me where he wants me in my future.
I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but that is not a scary thought for me. I am not frightened of all of the change going on in my life. I am excited about it. Change used to instill a butt-puckering sense of fear and anxiety for me, but now change means possibility. It means something new, clean, and exciting. Change means something fresh and unknown. Change means a chance at discovery and exploration. Change means the future.
I spent too long fearing change, and thus staying somewhere where I knew I was safe but unhappy. Today I don’t know where I will be tomorrow, but I am happy and I am hopeful.
“Do not let the memories of your past limit the potential of your future. There are no limits to what you can achieve on your journey through life, except in your mind.”
― Roy T. Bennett,
Until next time . . .