10/08/2012 07:11 pm ET Updated Dec 08, 2012

Why I'm Not Impatient For the Light to Change

"Are they happy? Where do they work? Is this their big night out?"

Those are some of the questions I happily asked myself about the people in the cars going by as we waited to cross the street in St. Louis several years ago. The Arch had been a sight to behold -- and photograph, of course -- but we didn't know about the football game and how much traffic there would be. I grinned at the woman smiling at our daughter as that car drove by while my husband wondered when the light would change.

"I'm in a hurry to get where we're going," Darrell admitted. I was having so much fun I couldn't remember where that was! We teased each other while Kate piped in with her own wisecracks and -- only because she was 10 -- admitted how much fun it was to be in on this conversation.

It reminds me of a game Katie and I loved when she was about that age: Watching People Come Home From Work. I got the idea from a kindred spirit in the hanging-out department.

I don't remember who first told me life is short, but it obviously made an impression. Maybe my grandmother, who guessed I didn't think I'd ever be as old as her -- and she was younger than I am now when she told me.

Remembering that has made all the difference.

It's the reason I jumped off the corporate ladder and into radio, where my paycheck's been -- to borrow a line from The Family Man -- an embarrassment to paychecks.

"Get a life in which you pay attention," the writer Anna Quindlen suggests, "to the baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger." I found a life where it was my job to give Cub Scouts a tour of the radio station, and where my boss didn't get mad when one of my newscasts had sound effects from Star Trek in the background because I couldn't figure out how to disable them. Where I promised someone a chance to talk, then interrupted that promise to ask a question, then watched the person collapse in laughter when I added questions don't count because they're an invitation for the other person to talk.

I made memories by the hour, and I had time to savor them.

What stories get to you the most? The answer might tell you what you're meant to do with your life.

I once read about a guy who was reflecting on musicians he'd seen in concert. He guessed they'd be able to look back on lives filled with one fun moment after another. He, on the other hand, would leave behind a file cabinet full of contracts that helped a lot of other people go out and have that great time. He fell silent for a second. Then he straightened up, strapped on his headset, and punched out another call.

I dreamed up The Career Clinic with this person in mind. I still ache for him.

Here's wishing him, and you, happiness -- moment by moment.

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