I unexpectedly found myself at the end of an era this week. Although I hadn't planned on it, the events over the week quickly made it inevitable... but more on that in a moment.

What is an era? It is when you have devoted your time, money, and effort to something in your life. It's likely something that has a piece of your heart (but not always). It may last years or only months, but it is a part of you in some way and has helped shape you into who you have become.

Early in the 90s, I joined a writer's group. I had made the "mistake" of commenting to a friend who had just become its president that I loved organizing things. We would joke about it years later as I had no idea what it would lead to, but I think she had an inkling. 

Starting out as a contest coordinator and a host for several writer's retreats, I would go on to become a board member, then later, as the annual conference coordinator. I raised my hand enough during my years there that I eventually won their highest award of Meritorious Service. Voted by the members, I received a clock to indicate the passage of time I'd given.

During those same years, I also volunteered at the elementary school as its head Writing Center coordinator and served as PTO board member and president. In addition, I served on committees and as a speaker for the local homeschooling organization. However, when slated to be the writer's organization's next president, I reneged.

A funny thing about my clock is that it stopped. Being hung in a nearly unreachable place, I took it as a sign. Like the clock's battery that died, I had burned out. But there was more to it than that.

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I sat down one day and took stock of all my volunteer efforts. I had become a bit of a volunteer junkie. My family began to notice my lack of attention to them as I devoted more and more time to organizations. I needed to know why it gave me such a high. It turned out, at least for me, that at the core of it all, I loved the appreciation. I loved the praise. I loved working hard to accomplish something and having people notice.

After quite a few years of all this giving, I was exhausted. I came to terms with my "why." I determined I could get that same high from my family and personal projects. I finalized each obligation one by one and didn't volunteer for anything for a long, long time. If anyone would ask, I joked that I belonged to "Organizers Anonymous." "Ask me where we meet," I would tease. "Where?" they would ask. "We don't! That's the point!"

Thus, all my years of being "Ms. Volunteer of America," came to an end — for the most part. After a period of rest, I did offer my time here and there because "give back" is what we do when many others have given to us. But like before, one needs to keep aware of when the clock has stopped, the era has ended, and it's time to move on to the next thing.

Here are a few signs that it's time to move on. . . 

  1. The joy has gone from it. Whatever pleasure you may have derived from it initially, it now feels like a chore, and it is something you are forcing yourself to do.
  2. Someone or something about it has changed, creating a different dynamic than when you wholeheartedly dove in. You find this change makes you uneasy or cranky. You may find yourself griping about it, if not vocally, then to yourself. You've lost the happiness it once brought.
  3. You find yourself being pulled in a different direction and realize the time you need for it can only be obtained by moving on from where you are now.
  4. Times have changed. What once was popular isn't anymore.

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This week, I left a group that had brought me great joy and an education about something I wanted to learn. The people were great. The group was great. But for me, three out of the four points hit me hard. I knew, long before I took the steps to go, it was time to leave.

In addition, I pulled two of my long-available books from the market. I put to rest my book on self-publishing and its companion, a free guide on how to know if self-publishing is right for you. Like the above, at least for me, times have changed, and recent changes in the industry would require extra work to bring these books back to current. I've lost my passion for it. Yes, I'll always be an author's advocate and will offer advice when I can. But for now, there are other endeavors calling my heart, and it's time to focus on them.

As I've written here previously, Hatch — A Change Your Life Guide, will be released soon, along with other projects I hope to bring to fruition to help others find their best life. Being wise enough to know when one era is ending and another is beginning is a part of that "best life" I hope all can enjoy. If I don't take my own advice, what kind of pathfinder would I be?

Where are you in the search for your best life? Have you noticed you're coming to the end of an era? Are you beginning a new one? Is there something in your life that has outlived its passion and joy alerting you to the fact that it is time to move on? Write me and let me know. I'm always glad to hear from you.