Idiom #1 (Et Al.): Jumping The Shark

Baby Shark doing what she does.

We call her Shark. Baby Shark. She’s amazing.

No mere robot vacuum, she’s set me free from guilt. She’s changed my life. She’s brilliant and new, even if a little dusty after 20 laps around our farmhouse.

The first few times she ran, I just followed her around and watched. For hours. Baby Shark knows where she’s going and where she’s been. She eats her fill of dog hair and dirt and takes herself back to the mothership, this tower that sucks her insides out, leaving her with the capacity to do it all again. Then Baby Shark goes back where she left off.

She calls to me when her dust bins are full (in our house, at least every other time). She doesn’t suck up tassels on rugs or let hair collect around her brush. I love her and have never thought of jumping her. Not once.

No, Baby Shark’s on the ascendancy in our house, for sure. All she has to do is be herself, do her job. But should she begin shirking, should she stop picking up dirt and dog hair, she’d need to pull a new trick out of her hat (#2, did I tell you I love idioms?!). Baby Shark would indeed need to Jump the Shark to avoid the dust bin herself.

So now on to my idiom. If Jump the Shark isn’t meant to be taken literally, what does it mean?

“The beginning of the end. Something is said to have ‘jumped the shark’ when it has reached its peak and begun a downhill slide to mediocrity or oblivion… It supposedly refers to an episode of the TV show Happy Days in which Fonzie jumps over a shark on water skis…the point at which the series had lost its touch and was beginning to grasp at straws.” – from the Urban Dictionary

In a lot of ways I’ve been kind of a lesser-Baby Shark myself. Nowhere near as impressive, I still don’t want to be thrown away and I’ve aspired to be as impressive as I can be on behalf of the people and causes for which I’ve worked. And while they don’t follow me around saying I’m amazing or that they love me, so far no one has thrown me away.

In some ways though I feel like I’m throwing me way – the only me I’ve been for years.

Retiring feels like relegating myself to the dust bin of history (#3). It lowers my own standards, leading to expectations of mediocrity and oblivion. For a gal hard-wired to look to the future and do-do-do (I once considered my epitath of choice would be “SHE GOT A LOT DONE”), retirement is terrifying. It’s admitting I may never again do anything of consequence, of worth to anyone outside of me and a very small circle of friends and family.

What if I watch TV all day – who would care?What if I never again work on important issues I care about? Excellence in government, taking care of the land and people who live, work, and play on it, being part of something that makes a difference? What if my world goes on without me and I am relegated to playing bingo and eating at the Senior Center? What if no one remembers me? I’m embarassed to admit, I care about all of these.

Admitting this doesn’t feel good. Not pretty, it’s very, very honest. So I realize if I’m to survive this new reality without going begging for a job, any job, my motivations for achieving have to change.

I’ll have to jump this shark for me.

So, I’m reinventing myself to reinterest myself in new things. Like Happy Days, I know I need a change. I’ve lost a spark. I’ve become dull even as I’ve continued to grind things out week after week. If I don’t shake things up, I may as well toss me in the dust bin.

Others may think I’m grasping at straws (#4) but these two weeks before I retire, even considering them perks me up just a little. So yes, I’ll spend lots more time with my family. Have time for friends. Ride my horse. Listen to music and drink good wine. Cook new things. Write consistently. Be a badass target-asassin with a semi-automatic pistol. Renew my passport and fill up every page. Relax. I’m even thinking about taking diving lessons.

There will be more, I’m sure, but most importantly, I intend to try very hard not to care when I’m less than amazing at all of them. Retirement is not my end, retirement is not my end… This is my new mantra.

Jumping the Shark – pulling a retirement trick out of my hat – may just be the ticket (#5), especially if I accomplish a few ancillary goals in the process (avoiding mediocrity and obscurity). I say this because I know myself. I’ll go the distance, jump much higher than I need to. Retirement is not my end. Retirement is not my end.

I’m gonna vault way over that dang shark. Happy Days may not have endured long after Fonzie’s stunt, but it will forever have a place in history. As will I.

Please excuse the mixed metaphors and extend me a modicum of grace. I realize that so far I’m just taking the old me to this new season and that I’ve not yet left behind an obsessive need to achieve (and be amazing). I’m sorry. God made me that way. I will try someday to lie on a beach and read a book without wondering what else I should or could be doing. And not give a fig (#6) who’s watching and who’s not.

#thebigshift #TeriFromOutWest


  1. Beautifully sums up many of my thoughts lately as ‘retirement ‘ grows closer. I’d like to retire but… Thank you for articulating and sharing your path!


    1. I think there’s an article to be written about women like us who are compelled to achieve. I’d love to sit down with you and Maxine for lessons learned on leaving the state. I’ve been through it to a degree when I left my county, but this is bigger, more scary somehow.

      My question is how does a person extra motivated to make a difference and “get stuff done”, turn the spigot down or even off without sitting in a corner, mumbling to herself?

      Wouldn’t it be interesting to read how former Governors like Otter, Kempthorne, and Batt made the transition? And you two JFAC CoChairs too?

      I realize that you still have your day job and are now on the Board, but that had to have been a change from the Senate.

      Thanks for checking in. One more week! Eeek!


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