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  • Writer's picturepamradtkerussell

Moving Out of My Comfort Zone and Hoping for Change in 2022

Earlier this year, I got a phone call from a close friend and former colleague, Emily Holden. She had recently started a non-profit journalism collaborative called Floodlight, which investigates and holds accountable the corporate interests preventing climate action. Floodlight, working with local reporters, writes about those often covert actions and publishes the stories in local and national publications. I was serving on Floodlight's board of directors.

Emily asked me to consider joining Floodlight, full time.

Without even thinking, I said, “No, I can’t do that.” I had a good full-time job working with a group of two dozen editors at Engineering News-Record. It paid well, I got to travel, and they were the nicest group of people I had ever worked with.

Additionally, as a 50-something-year-old mother of two teen girls, I thought it was irresponsible to even consider leaving a “sure thing” at ENR for a non-profit startup. But, Emily countered, I wasn’t fulfilling my potential. Maybe, but I was comfortable.

I talked with Emily when I was visiting my father in Florida for his birthday. Coincidentally, on that same trip my friend Adrianna was brilliantly questioning my motivation, my “why”, for starting an online group for women over 40.

I was still trying to figure out my “why” as I got on the plane and flew home to New Orleans. The plane began descending over the Mississippi River, south of the city. I looked down and saw, as I had many times before, the eroding and disappearing wetlands along the river. I saw my state literally washing away, in part because of climate-related sea-level rise.

And then, one of my “whys” sucker punched me in the gut. I wanted to make the world a better place for my daughters. While ENR had for years been reporting on climate change and social justice, Floodlight offered a more targeted mission and a wider audience to make a difference about something I truly cared about. How could I say no?

It took several months of back and forth discussions with Emily as I questioned the move and we discussed how I would fit in, but on Jan. 17, I will start as managing editor of Floodlight. It will be a new, challenging adventure for me. Less editing and writing and more managing the moving parts of this dynamic collaborative that now has six full-time employees and publishes important pieces of journalism that are changing policy and reaching an audience of hundreds of thousands.

The move, from safety to risk, especially at my age, is scary. But all of my life, I have taken the safe and easy path. I have taken what I have been given and rarely questioned it.

But, at 53, I realize that the world doesn’t run on “easy,” and it’s my obligation to at least try to make things better.

My generation, Generation X, has been accused of being apathetic, but the truth is, I think, that as a youth, personally I didn’t have anything to fight for or rally around.

I cared and still care deeply. And now, in the second half of my life, I finally have the chance to step up and make a difference.

This year, 2022, could be the year that everything changes and gets better. Or, we might continue on our trajectory of divisiveness.

My 2022 wish for you is that you don’t give up. That you don’t become apathetic. Because things CAN change. But they can’t change if we sit back and expect someone else to make the changes we want to see happen.

I hope 2022 be a year of positive change. And I hope that change starts with each one of us.

Photo by Alisdare Hickson

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