April is my birth month. While I grew up frequently deflecting jokes about being late for April Fools’ Day, I also fell in love with the month’s magic. It was all about cake and ice cream and feeling special as the focus turned on me. Everyone likes a little bit of fuss, although I now prefer a more low-key celebration. (In fact, it’s out of character for me to even acknowledge to you that I have a birthday!)
Growing up in the Midwest, April brought with it a deep sigh of relief (occasionally doused by an April snow). Here in Texas, we also sigh as we shoo away the swallows from the eaves, curse the weeds in the yard (you pull one and the next day there’s another in its place) and sniffle our way through the weather forecaster’s pollen count. Still, all the beauty and freshness of nature beckons us to roam outdoors, soak in the sun, and ponder what’s next.
April’s questions inevitably began with, “So, you’re another year older. What do you want to be when you grow up?” All dreams are possible when you’re young. We hold on to them, creating a strong path to follow without wavering, or sometimes taking advantage of serendipitous opportunities that cause us to rethink and redirect. On my birthday, I try to take time to look back over my shoulder at where I’ve been. A path that was so straight once upon a time. Not so much now!
So many of the decisions I’ve made throughout my career had their nascent beginnings in April. Which university invitation would I accept? Am I ready to take a leadership role within my SMPS chapter? Should I submit to become an SMPS Fellow? Can I contribute to the growth of the SMPS Foundation as a trustee? Do I try once again for a role on the Society board of directors? Even in my day job, my boss asks this silver-haired veteran: What do you want to do? How can I help you do that? And in my daydream time, I wonder: Where do I go next?
Challenge yourself. As you look at your current role in your firm, where could you become stronger? Research opportunities that are slightly off your path. Be open to considering the things you think you can’t do. I rushed to close many of the doors that opened in front of me, before someone wiser stuck their foot in the way and made me look beyond the reticence. Our Society offers so many opportunities to become a leader. Had I not taken them, I would not be writing this column for you!
Many of you know my brother (Dave Rearick) is a dreamer who follows through. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from his book Spirit of a Dream, “The journey you are on will teach you what you need to learn, not what you plan to learn.”
Let the magic of April transform your future. I’ll happily let you blow out one of the many candles on my cake, if you’ll share your dream with me. Let me help you keep that door open!
Nancy Usrey, FSMPS, CPSM, serves on the SMPS board of directors as past-president. She’s associate vice president of HNTB in Plano, TX, and can be reached at nusrey@HNTB.com.