Cotton Links

- My Turn -

Dealing With Change

By Steve Brown
Tifton, Ga.

Change happens. Sometimes by choice and then sometimes not. A year ago I faced a fork in the road; in retrospect, my family and I really faced several forks.

After 21 years, why would I consider leaving my role as an Extension cotton specialist at the University of Georgia? I had long thought, “I was born to do this,” and I absolutely loved it.

But I had done “it” again and again and again. Moreover, in the public sector, the more you can do, the more you get to do, and while I was very well supported by the Georgia Cotton Commission and similar entities, there were more grant dollars than people resources to do it all. Also, I was at a stage in life when a career change was possible and might even be welcomed.

Was it a mid-life crisis? Who knows? December 2007 and January 2008 were rather extraordinary in terms of CHANGE for us. On the first Friday in December, I formally accepted a job with Dow AgroSciences as a Cotton Development Specialist for PhytoGen Cottonseed.

This was a monumental change that a short time earlier I would never have imagined. The following Monday, my wife Lisa and I made an offer on a different house because we needed a residence that would accommodate an in-home office for my new role at Dow. On Tuesday, Dec. 11, our middle son turned 18 and our almost 20-year-old announced he wanted to leave home for college.

On Wednesday, we signed a contract to purchase the house. And then came Thursday, Dec. 13. While I was on a trip to Alabama settling estate issues related to my dad’s death, Lisa heard a physician diagnose the cause for her severe headaches: “You have a massive brain tumor.”

That night we contemplated the pending changes in job, house and college. The familiar words of David’s Psalm echoed in our minds. “The Lord is my shepherd…Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me.” On all three questions we had the calm assurance that we should proceed. The next day we learned that Lisa’s prognosis was good and soon scheduled surgery for the following month.

At the Beltwide I presented two papers, representing work with UGA, and began learning my new role with Dow. While I was in Nashville at the Beltwide, my three sons and a host of friends initiated our move to the new house. Before we left for Emory University Hospital the next Wednesday, we had moved most of our stuff and put our old house up for sale.

On Thursday, Jan. 17, just before 8 a.m., I bid my wife goodbye as she was rolled into surgery. Shortly after noon, the doctor called to say the tumor was the size of a small grapefruit, but that it was successfully removed, and Lisa was doing very well. By 2 p.m., she was sitting up preaching to our pastor and sporting a frightening hairdo of shaved head and 38 staples. Oh yes, during the surgery I sold our old house; it was on the market less than 48 hours. Incredibly, we left the hospital two days after the operation.

My wife has recovered remarkably. Her energy and stamina are much improved and there has been no recurrence of the tumor. Other than the memory loss associated with being 40-something, she is normal. My older sons are both now settled in college. And our new house seems like home.

Amidst all this I embarked on a career on the “other side” of the fence. It is indeed stimulating to be part of a company with the will and resources to become a major player in U.S. cotton. Change is inevitable. It can be scary, shocking, painful, discouraging, invigorating, remarkably good and even life changing. We’re forever grateful to all who’ve helped us deal with those changes.

– Steve Brown, Tifton, Ga.

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