It could be a layoff that acts as a wake-up call. Sometimes it’s the arrival of new life or the tragedy of loss that shakes us up. And other times, it’s a period of introspection or even a moment of clarity.
The decision to pursue a dream takes courage because it often means derailing a career, risking financial stability, and saying goodbye to life as we know it. Even so, when two roads diverged, these neighbors were brave enough to take the one less traveled, and for them, that has made all the difference.
Susan Myers is a polite, petite lady, not exactly someone you’d expect to see on a football field sideline. But that’s where you’ll find her, under those Friday night lights, coaching the varsity Prince of Peace team.
Long before she was tackling gender barriers on the field, this Harvard MBA was conquering Wall Street. And working as woman on Wall Street during the 1970s, she was a trailblazer.
“When I first got to Wall Street, women were there as more of novelty. And now that I’m a female football coach, I’m back in a field where I’m virtually the only woman.”
But that doesn’t faze her because Myers loves what she does.
“I have tried and tried to love other sports, and I simply cannot. I just love football.”
What makes her love for the game so fascinating is that she didn’t discover this passion until later in life.
“The only real exposure I had to football growing up was when my dad watched it on TV. But he wasn’t very good at explaining what was going on, so I’d lose interest.
“But when I moved to Dallas, everyone was talking about the Cowboys, so I started watching football to keep up with the local culture.”
That curiosity soon turned into fascination.
“At first, I think my husband liked having a wife who was into football. But after awhile, I think it became annoying because all I ever wanted to do was watch football games on TV.”
Myers says her football fixation became an ongoing joke in her marriage. So one day, her husband showed her an ad for a Dallas Cowboys’ football camp for kids and teasingly encouraged her sign up.
“I called the camp to see if they’d really let me go. They said no adults had ever asked if they could attend a kids’ camp, but they agreed to let me go.”
Myers attended the camp, getting her first up-close feel for football. That’s also where she met the head football coach at the University of North Texas, convincing him to let her to spend time in the university’s football program.
She spent the next two years fully committed to that football program, studying plays, conditioning regimens, coaching strategies — you name it.
“I pretty much lived, breathed and ate football all day, every day.”
By 2001, Myers landed her first coaching gig at the Fort Worth Country Day School. From there, she coached at a string of local schools. But perhaps her most notable stint was as the 2003 varsity tight end coach for Bishop Lynch High School, where she helped lead the team to a state championship.
“I still wear that championship ring with pride — but really, it’s not the ring that reminds me of that victory, it’s the people I made that journey with. In the end, that’s who I remember because the journey was the whole point.”
A year after that journey to a state victory, Myers was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Football actually helped me cope with my cancer. I had spent all these years giving my athletes encouragement and positive attitudes, and now my own words were ringing true in my own ears.”
Myers has now been cancer-free for about three years, and she recently published “The Complete Handbook for Coaching Wide Receivers.”
“Right now, life is good. I love what I do, and I’m passionate about my work. I’d like to see more people doing what they love, and following their own passions. If you’re doing what you love, good things will happen.”
Frances Cowden’s career change was an answer to her prayer, literally.
“I actually woke up one morning and said aloud, ‘God, if I’m supposed to be a teacher, then show me.”
Within the next few days, she had what she believes was her sign.
“It was three days before the school year was going to start, and out of all the jobs in DISD, I qualified for just one. It was like I was meant to have that one job.”
And so she began teaching high school English. It was a far cry from her previous careers. She had started out as a commercial real estate agent, specializing in vacant land sales. Years later, she became a telecommunications executive.
“I remember there was one day where I was traveling for business. I was sitting in the airport, just waiting, when I suddenly thought:
Why am I doing this?”
Not satisfied with any answer she could muster, Cowden says she began dabbling with the idea of leaving the corporate world.
“This is going to sound corny, but I remembered a woman I had seen on TV who left the corporate world to become a teacher. And it just so happened that my undergraduate degree was in education.
“I had earned my degree in education as a promise to my grandfather. He wanted me to always have that to fall back on because he said there was a lot of job security in teaching, and that it was an honorable profession. He knew it might come in handy one day.”
Turns out, her grandfather was right. Cowden has been a teacher for five years, and this is her first year at W.T. White High School.
“The kids here are phenomenal. I love that everyone at this school is a unit working together. We all have a product to produce, and that’s’ the next, best generation.
“I know you can make a lot of money in other professions, but the personal satisfaction I get from helping these kids is unmatched by any paycheck.”
Charlotte Thompson still remembers her first yoga class.
“A friend had to drag me to that class, and I absolutely hated it,” she says. “To me, it seemed like yoga was just about getting into these really weird positions. There was no rhyme or reason, and I was uncomfortable the whole time.”
But about six months later, she was talked into going to another yoga class at a new studio.
“This time, it was totally different. This was yoga I could actually do, because they started me off as a beginner. And unlike that first class, I could actually feel my body getting a work out. I was instantly hooked to yoga from that day on.”
Thompson, a busy mom and owner of her own interior design company, says yoga soon became a stress outlet.
“The more I practiced yoga, the more I realized yoga was more than just a form of exercise. For me, yoga is a lifestyle. The more I learn about it, the more passionate I become.”
Thompson has now grown so passionate about yoga that it has inspired her to start a new chapter of her life. She’s currently earning her certification to teach yoga, and this winter she plans to open Sunstone Yoga, a local franchise studio.
“It’s a scary time of my life, but I think it’s always intimidating when you start something new. My family and I joke about this new yoga studio I’m opening. We say I’m either going to make millions, or deplete our whole life savings. I’m sure it’ll be somewhere in between.”
While her studio gets off the ground, Thompson will continue working as a designer, but her intention is to fully dedicate herself to yoga within the next five years.
“This is a transitional period of my life. Right now, my interior design career pays the bills, so I can’t walk away from that just yet. I’m definitely not a big wealthy designer jumping into the next big investment, I’m just following my heart. I know this is going to be hard work, but my heart is in it. It’s like God is showing me what I can do in this next phase of my life, and that’s exciting.”
For others who might be dabbling with the idea of pursuing their own passion, Thompson has some words of wisdom.
“Sit down and write out all the reasons you think you’re capable of making your dream a reality. Trust your ability and reasons for wanting to follow your heart. Trust your faith, and go for it.”
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