Before all non-essential workers were pushed to slow down and isolate, Deidre had already taken a big step away from the frenetic work life of a K-12 school administrator. In this episode we talk about her career choice and about what she is learning from staying home during the pandemic.
To listen to my first conversation with Deidre Crawley, check out Episode 16 in your feed or on our site here: https://sharonspeaks.com/16-when-we-almost-lost-americorps/
00:06 Speaker 1: This is Do Good, Be Good. The show about helpful people and the challenges they face in trying to do good. Your host is Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom, a career do-gooder who also loves craft beer and a good hard tackle in rugby. Sharon speaks to everyday people about why they do good and what it means to be good.
00:26 Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom: Welcome back. This is your host, Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom, and I’m back with another update episode. Today’s guest is Deidre Crawley. We interviewed her… [chuckle] By we, I mean I interviewed her during season two of Do Good, Be Good when I was talking about AmeriCorps Programs. Deidre and I met as she was the Director of AmeriCorps Programs when I joined AmeriCorps back, all the way back, in 2007 so we’ve known each other quite a long time.
00:55 ST: Since then, I got the chance to work for her and we’ve also remained friends. The last time I spoke to Deidre she was working as the dean at the Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy. And during this episode, we’ll talk about the big transition she has made in her career and in her life since then. Before getting into the episode, I just wanna check in briefly. We recorded this episode in mid-April 2020 while both of us were isolating at home during the stay-at-home order for the coronavirus pandemic crisis. This was my first interview that I did in this format where we were interviewing from home. So I apologize and I hope that you will understand the audio quality on Deidre’s side of the conversation where she didn’t have an actual microphone, is not good [chuckle] and I’m so sorry about that.
01:48 ST: I think that her message is important and I hope that you’ll listen in. If it is difficult for you to hear, if you have any trouble dealing with the audio quality, there will be a transcript of today’s episode which is available at our website, dogoodbegoodshow.com. That’s dogoodbegoodshow.com. So if you have any trouble listening, just go and read the transcript. I think that it’s really worth taking the time to hear what Deidre has to say. I hope that this episode finds you well and safe. Thank you so much. Let’s get into my conversation with Deidre Crawley.
02:32 ST: How are you?
02:35 Deidre Crawley: I’m doing well, thank you. Thank you for asking. I’m getting used to a new… And I know they keep saying a new normal but I don’t think it’s normal, it’s just new. But doing good, healthy. I am not in a situation where I don’t have a job, I do. So not really much has changed for me except for that I can’t go as much. That seems to be something that I’m actually appreciating more. The slower pace, I’m appreciating more and it’s also making me feel like the planet likes it a lot more too. There’s so many things… My mother has a wreath on her door and a bird made a nest in the wreath on the door and is laying eggs in the wreath that’s on my mother’s door. And it’s just ’cause people aren’t going in and out of her door.
03:30 ST: That’s incredible.
03:31 DC: We shouldn’t just go back to the intense pace that was before ’cause I think about that, and it was very fast.
03:41 ST: Yeah, I was having a really similar thought this morning. Because Jay is still working, we’re actually enjoying having the weekend be quiet time for just us. We just had a really restful weekend. Mostly turned off, the news and the TV. And spend some time in the garden, got our bikes tuned up and did some good cooking and baking. It was just really pleasant. And I was so grateful to have a weekend that felt, it felt like an intentional staycation, which it wasn’t really. [chuckle] Alright. I’m gonna jump back in time now, now that we’ve checked in on the present. From the last time we spoke, you were working at the Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy. You were not just working there, you were the dean leading there and then you have made a big transition of having left that position. Curious if you can kinda go back in time a little bit and reflect on making that choice to leave there and how that came about.
04:54 DC: It wasn’t an easy decision. I can say that what happens at a school is very dynamic, very fast paced, always something happening. There’s so much that happens at a school. I’m in a leadership program with other school leaders and we’ve all shared our stories of the intensity and the amazing things that happen. But the pace is not, it’s just like break-neck pace. I think about the pace that I was working at this time last year. I was getting ready for graduation. We had AzMERIT testing, we were preparing the schedule for the next year. On a regular basis, I was working 60 to 80 hours a week. And that’s pretty normal for a school administrator.
05:47 DC: Well, what I started to see happening was that it was taking a toll on my health. A big one. So I had to decide between having the impact that I was having and the joy I got out of seeing young people learn and grow and move forward and inspiration that young people provide and teachers provide in the school is just… With the neck break pace of just the day-to-day life, it’s also that same way with the energy of young people and how they see the world and what they expect and their brains are so bright and wonderful. I missed that, a lot, and it was very, very inspiring.
06:33 DC: I had to choose between my health and that life, and so I made the decision to dial it back. I wasn’t even sure at the time what I was gonna be doing. I didn’t know where I was going. I just knew that I had to change the direction I was going in. So I decided that I was indeed going to resign and that meant leaving. My grandchildren were at the school, my daughter worked there, my brother worked there, so I also had family at the school. There were so many heart strings that were being pulled. But my heart, my beating heart, was saying, “You have high blood pressure.” My asthma was, coming up was stress related, I was having some panic attacks just trying to make sure I was keeping up with everything. I decided, I can’t.
07:33 DC: Within that decision and since I’ve made it, I have come to the conclusion that no one should have to make those kinds of decisions to do the amazing work that happens at a school. And now, with what’s happening now, bringing it to where we are now and seeing what’s happening with schools and teachers and administration and students really, really clear, how important school is. But we need to do it differently. We need to make sure that we’re taking care of everyone. The families, the community, the students, the teachers, the parents and the administration because I don’t believe anybody really knows how much work is involved with it until you’re in it. And it would take too long to explain.
08:22 DC: It would just create more stress to have to explain that. I’m inspired now by what’s happening now to even more so to make sure people understand what it takes to be in a school.
08:39 ST: Yeah. I do think there’s maybe a gained appreciation for what teachers and school administrators go through, as the kids are not in school right now. [chuckle] So, maybe there is some opportunity at this time for greater advocacy and understanding for the education system.
08:58 DC: Another piece that I have gained from stepping away is that I’m also learning how to appreciate that quiet moment and appreciate that that’s actually important for our brains and our bodies to be able to function better, is that we do need, we need to step away in a big way and really learn how to turn it off.
09:31 ST: What does a quiet moment look like for you right now?
09:37 DC: Being able to take a walk. But I’m just taking a walk and enjoying what’s happening on the walk as opposed to, “I’m taking a walk ’cause I need to get some exercise, because I’m not getting any exercise and I’m gonna power through this.” It was more like a means to an end rather than, “I’m just gonna be on a walk.” When I take a walk now, my brain isn’t thinking about, “What’s next? What’s next?” It’s staying in the present moment. I think that that’s something that I really had to work hard on but it’s also been very necessary for my mental health. And I’ll be honest, I had some significant mental health issues that I had to deal with as well. And I think you shouldn’t have to say, “Oh, I have to be honest.” You should just be able to talk about it. I did need to be in the present moment, I needed to not second-guess what was happening before or what’s gonna happen next. That’s what quiet looks like to me right now, it’s just being where I am.
10:50 ST: Have you noticed yourself noticing anything differently when you take a walk?
10:58 DC: I walk slower, and I’m also… Well, I saw a coyote, I saw a squirrel that was way off in the distance but I saw it, ’cause I saw the movement. ‘Cause I think that my head space was quiet, the coyote and I weren’t really afraid of each other. We just kinda looked at each other. I’m like, “Oh man. How cool, I see you.” And it seemed to be like the coyote was saying, “Yeah, you’re pretty cool too. It was nice to see you. I’m gonna go on my way.” And I’m like, “Me too”. [laughter] I don’t know, I don’t think I would’ve… Coyotes blend in with their environment pretty well. And I don’t think that I would have seen the coyote, even though he wasn’t that far away, had I not been walking at a slower pace and paying attention to what was going on around me.
11:54 ST: Yeah. When I was on my backpacking trip, I had been trying… I was walking, basically, 10 hours a day. I tried not to listen to music or a podcast while I walked but I had also been checking in with family when I had signal and so I had recently had my phone out and been texting my family to let them know where I was. And then it was hard to bring myself back to the present moment and try to get the phone out of my hand and say, “You don’t need to check anything else on your phone. You’ve let them know where you are. You don’t even need to take pictures right now. Time to just put the phone away and get back in the moment.” And so I just turned off the phone and put it away in my bag. And then I started stepping again, I look up on the trail and right in front of me, trying to get off the trail, is a Gila monster.
12:49 DC: Awesome.
12:50 ST: Yeah, it was my first time ever seeing a Gila monster in the wilderness. And they’re very slow. It had already been there for a while. If I had been paying attention, I would’ve seen it coming from far away. But it was trying very hard to get off the trail but it moves so slowly. And so then, of course, I tried to grab my phone again so [chuckle] that I could take a picture of it. But, yeah, I took those as little gifts because I felt like every time I needed something to connect me back to that moment, then if I just paid attention, there’d be something there that brought me back. I guess the cheesy phrase would be practicing gratitude as I hiked along. I’d say, “Thank you, Gila monster.” Or I’d be paying attention and suddenly a pretty bird would fly by, and I’d be like, “Thank you, bird. You brought me back to this moment.”
13:51 ST: So transitioning to what you did after or what you’re doing now, I should say. I know you, in a way, went back to where you had worked before, but in a different role. What is that like to be back in an organization that you worked for previously and also taking on a less intense, [chuckle] less time-demanding role in that organization?
14:18 DC: Still making a difference is important to me. And it’s interesting how… You have to have gratitude for what comes to you. I wasn’t looking for this job. It came to me just because I was talking to someone. And they said, “Well, actually, we have this position opening up, would you be interested? And the more I thought about it, the more I thought, back to being more, having a direct impact or direct service as opposed to making sure that things happen. It’s similar to being the teacher in the classroom as opposed to making sure that the teacher in the classroom has everything that they need.
14:54 DC: I started working with people 55 and older to help them volunteer and my main job is just making sure that everyone’s engaged in the volunteer type of opportunity. I call myself a volunteer matchmaker. The funny thing is that I absolutely qualify for this program. And what I noticed was is that, I’m not really engaging with people my age enough. Just seeing the impact that every individual has to give, whatever age or station in life is important.
15:28 DC: And right now, we can’t do anything. It’s really hard to be in charge of a program where people want to give service and wanna volunteer and we’re being told, “You can’t.” We were literally told, “No. You can’t do this right now.” Yeah, it’s really hard. And for people who have the time and are used to giving back to be told, “No, you can’t do that,” is what I’m dealing with now. It’s just trying to help people to understand, we’re gonna find a way to give back. We’re just having to restart it and how that’s gonna change. And there’s lots to be done, we’re just figuring out what that is.
16:10 DC: What I’ve been seeing a lot of things slow down is good intentions and unintended consequences. And how you think, “Oh, this is gonna be a good idea, and I think this is really gonna be helpful.” And then you get into it and you’re like, “Oh my goodness, this is well-intentioned but the consequences from it are worse.” We thought, “Let’s give our seniors masks ’cause they need them.” But in order to get them the masks, it turned out that we would probably be spreading… Could be spreading the virus, just by distributing the mask, unless we were more careful. It was like, “Nope, this is turning out to be… It’s gonna be worse than if we ended up going full-circle into… Uh-uh, we’re not doing that. [laughter]
17:03 ST: I know, I see so many posts. It’s hard to look at social media even on the positive pages because people will be posting like, “Here we are, doing our good deed.” And then you’re like, “Oh, I see three violations in that picture.” [laughter] Reasons why that does not look safe or according to the guidelines.
17:23 DC: Yep. [chuckle]
17:25 ST: Yeah, it just makes me stressed out, so I just try not to look at it. [chuckle]
17:30 DC: If we talk about the difference between my other job and this job. I think that I’ve been able to do that thing that needed to happen for me personally, which it was to be in the moment. And take care of my mental health, take care of my physical health. I still have some panic attacks. I can feel them coming and I’m starting to learn what causes them. And I never… That was not who I was, I never… It’s interesting to take a good look at who you were and who you are and what you need to do. I think I was very much like, “No, I can handle anything.” And I had to come to the conclusion that, “No, I actually can’t.” And that side is actually okay. So I’m able to take good care of myself, which means that I’m able to be creative in my thinking again. And I think that that’s going to be helpful for others and that’s something that’s important is that I am able to be the type of individual that helps people to be the best that they can be. But I have to take care of myself within that.
18:47 ST: That’s part of why I wanted to talk to you because I feel like, maybe particularly growing up in the DC area, that’s always very clearly communicated that a career path is this basically straight line path in which you are supposed to be advancing in a particular area and it’s all like you’re going up in a responsibility and in earnings and in all these things. And I don’t feel like I was really exposed to that many stories in which there was any alternative to that, or any reason why you would have deviated from that. And that making other choices about where you went with your career and with your life, that they were just options. [chuckle] You could prioritize other things, like your health or your family, and that didn’t need to say anything against what you were doing in terms of your intellectual life or your career or anything like that. I feel like there should be more examples and stories out there in the world of people who make all different kinds of choices. And not just once but throughout their career you make different choices, about whatever makes sense for that time in your life of what you need.
20:24 DC: We keep correlating it back to what’s happening now, but sometimes you’re forced to make those decisions. It would be really important and useful and probably much healthier if you could do it before your health goes, or before something like a virus comes and says, “You’re going to have to change your lifestyle.” But that’s sometimes how it seems… You’ll hear people saying, “Well, that happened for a good reason.” And usually it’s something that happened that wasn’t necessarily pleasant, but they learned something from it. If we could stop ourselves first before we had to have the big lesson or the big moment of clarity, but it’s usually brought on by some sort of a crisis, that would be good. It’s like, “Oh I can see a crash coming, I know how to avoid that,” and then it’s okay. ‘Cause I think we’re still very caught up in our appearances.
21:33 DC: Someone asked me, “Do you feel like you are missing out now?” Or, “Do you feel like you’re not achieving because you’re not at that level anymore?” And I can honestly say, “No, my life is better now. My life is clearer, I’m enjoying myself. I miss the kids, terribly. But I’m really enjoying getting to know these people that are my age.
22:03 DC: It’s just kind of fun and I can’t wait till we can actually do a little bit more. I really do feel like we move too fast and we strive too hard to be whatever that term of success, particularly in Western culture, that makes us so that we’re missing the point of our human existence.
22:30 ST: Thank you for listening to Do Good, Be Good and thank you, Deidre Crawley, for sharing your story. And thank you to all of our listeners for your patience and your understanding as I do my best to bring you new or updated stories during this difficult time. I will have more episodes coming out at a minimum every other week as long as I can, and I have several coming up with past guests which I think you’ll really enjoy. If you want more behind-the-scene stories, pictures, insights, you can join us on Facebook at facebook.com/dogoodbegoodshow. You can also always subscribe for free to this podcast at any podcast purveyor of choice, whether that’s Stitcher, Google Music, Spotify. Just search for Do Good, Be Good in your app and subscribe.
23:23 ST: Today’s episode was produced by me and edited by me, and pretty much everything was done by me, Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom. Music in this episode is Bathed in Fine Dust by Andy G. Cohen, released under Creative Commons Attribution International License and discovered in the Free Music Archive. Until next week, this is Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom signing off.