Pauley's 'Reimagining Life' Message Hits Home with Trucker Spouses

Gary Kicinski

SAN DIEGO – Jane Pauley isn’t the spouse of a trucker. She’s married to cartoonist and  “Doonesbury” creator Garry Trudeau.

But the longtime journalist and television personality, perhaps best known for her 13 years as an NBC “Today” Show co-host, certainly relates to many of the challenges that truckers and their spouses face – long days that often start in the pre-dawn hours, and lengthy periods of separation from loved ones.

In fact, growing up in Indianapolis, Pauley remembers that her father spent most of her childhood behind the wheel, as a traveling salesman. But she looks back at those days fondly for the quality of time she had with her father and not the quantity of days. “One of the oddities of my childhood was that though my father was away three or four nights a week, I don’t remember a night when he didn’t tuck us in bed,” she said.

And while truckers may have chosen their path because the road was calling, Pauley’s message Oct. 7 to ATA’s annual Spouse/Guest Meeting at the Management Conference & Exhibition of “Your Life Calling” seemed more than appropriate.

(Photo: Jane Pauley teases outgoing ATA 'First Lady' Lynda Byrd that her page of questions for their Q and A was blank.)

“Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life” is the title of Pauley’s book that is based on the series of 37 video profiles over four years she did for “Today” and AARP, which introduced everyday Americans who confronted the issue of what to do with their lives after reaching age 50.

Pauley, who is now 63 and was treated for the onset of a bipolar condition 13 years ago, preaches a message of embracing the future rather than fearing it. “When an opportunity passes in front of my eyes, I recognize it, and I have the courage to say ‘yes,’” Pauley said.

To illustrate that, she told the story of having participated in an interview about her book on CBS’ “Sunday Morning” program, which led to a job offer. “So in March,” Pauley said, “after 40 years at NBC, I became a contributor to CBS ‘Sunday Morning.’ I did not see it coming, but I’ve got a television career again. At age 63, I hope this is a long story. It could be. I did not see it coming. When opportunity happens, I just say ‘yes.’ ”

Pauley said her book doesn’t have the secret to reimagining life. “There is no right way to approach change,” she said. “I know the secret to reinvention: It is, that there isn’t one. By which I mean, that there isn’t only one (way).”

“My book is not a how-to. It’s more like a heads-up,” she said, “that inspiration is everywhere, but you have to be looking.”

The event also featured the passing of the torch of ATA’s first lady duties from Lynda Byrd, wife of outgoing ATA Chairman Philip Byrd Sr., to Pat Long, wife of new Chairman Duane Long. “All of the first ladies over the years have been an inspiration to me,” Long said to an audience that featured several former first ladies who stood to be recognized.

Many in the audience lined up to get signed copies of Pauley’s book after the session. But before she left, Pauley noted that she still returns often to Indianapolis, which refers to itself as the “crossroads of America.”  And she takes pleasure in those visits that goes beyond just being able to see family and friends.

”One of the signs that I enjoy when visiting Indianapolis that told me the economy was rebounding was that there were an awful lot of trucks on the road,” she said. “And a lot of trucks on the road meant that there was commerce. And those interstate highways are the lifeblood of America’s economy, and more trucks on them meant that things were moving again. It made me proud to be in the crossroads of America.”