It took me weeks but I grew into being the sort of person who gets awards.
When it was announced that I had been named one of twenty-nine 2018 “Women of Influence” by the very influential Milwaukee Business Journal, I alternately covered my face with my hands and walked around with a sandwich sign announcing my triumph. I couldn’t hit a stride. I deserve this. This isn’t me. Two sides of the same coin.
Yesterday was the big luncheon – 900 people in one enormous room sitting at tables adorned with a dozen Gerbera daisy plants, each chair tied with a giant organza bow in the back, tiny salads served in martini glasses. I wore a new outfit that I’d ordered online – a very bold blue themed jacket and black skirt. When I first tried it on I thought it made me look like Madeleine Albright but the alternative was a dress that suggested camouflage. Do I want to hide or do I want to be Madeleine Albright? Maddy won.
I waited for my name to be called, checking every 30 seconds on my phone for the order of the categories, worrying that I might not hear, knowing that my hearing sometimes kicks in and out like an old stereo with frayed wires, and there would be silence while the crowd wondered why Jan Wilberg wasn’t coming to the front. She’s looking at her phone for instructions, that’s why. But magically I heard my category – Innovation – and my name and I shot out of my ribbon-festooned chair and walked up to the stage where i was handed an enormous blue award and stood while the photographer clicked and then the video of me taped several weeks before played on two big screens.
I felt right then like I deserved to be there. I had a message. I could influence people. No equivocation. No hiding. No camouflage. Big bold blue.
During the taping several weeks ago, the interviewer asked me a dozen questions. I lost track of what I said and worried later that I said too much or that my answers were too complicated. I’ve never been good at soundbites, always over-elaborate, like right now with this sentence. But when I saw the video playing on the big screen while I stood there with my blue Oscar, I was so perfectly, exquisitely grateful. She had unearthed from all my words what matters most to me. And now it was being shown to everyone.
Here is the video.
I am so glad to have gotten this award. And so glad I had time to grow into it. It may not have been the award-givers’ intention but this recognition has made me stronger, more resolute, and more committed. This makes being 70 a wondrous, beautiful thing. I consider this day, this award, a launch of my 70’s. And I intend for the next ten years to be radical and powerful.
And, maybe best of all, my beloved and my kids were my witnesses.