Her Story: Donna Johnson

Donna Johnson Embraces Life's Challenges & Opportunities

Ten years ago, I was about to turn 50 and, for the first time in my adult life, I did not have a job. My company had reorganized and, after 26 years, I was no longer needed. I knew the change was coming and had taken steps to prepare myself for the inevitable. However, I was stunned. Only six months before, I had gone through a divorce and now, I was without a career with a company that I had grown to love. To top it all off, I was experiencing the empty nest syndrome. 

My identity had been shaken. If I was not a wife, a full-time mother, and a career woman, who was I? To say I was at a loss would have been an understatement. 

All I wanted to do was rest.

After three weeks of “resting,” I knew I needed to take action. The Bible tells us that without a vision, the people will perish (Proverb 29:18). Through prayer and meditation, I quickly realized that I was not lost but merely at a crossroads. It was time to dream big and create a new vision of what I wanted my life to be. The years of experience and mentoring I had acquired throughout my career had provided me with a wealth of knowledge that could be applied in many directions. Not only that, but as a single, empty nester, I had the freedom to try new things without the risk of failing others. My biggest obstacle was changing my own mindset. Several years before, I had jokingly adopted the saying that if your birthday ends in a zero, you get to get a new attitude. With 50 literally around the corner, it was time to adjust my attitude.

That proved to be easier said than done. I had to challenge myself daily to do something I had never done before – both personally and professionally. Naturally reserved, I had to learn to stop playing small so that I could spread my wings. I joined networking groups and became active in community organizations. 

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Johnson was a participant in the Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute (CWLI) Game ChangeHer class of 2022, which provided opportunities for continued personal growth as well as the opportunity to mentor 8th grade students at Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy. 

I became involved in mentoring programs (as both a mentor and a mentee) and started searching for new career opportunities. I learned to overcome my fear of heights and of open water by joining my children in new adventures such as ziplining and whitewater rafting. I began to embrace the challenges – and opportunities – that life brought my way, and in return, my life was blessed in ways that I could only imagine.  

I often say that I was not looking for a career in insurance, but God had other plans. After working for several insurance companies in sales and corporate positions, I now enjoy a career as an exclusive agent for a local agency. Not only do I get to help people protect their families and their assets, but I’ve also achieved my lifelong dream of entrepreneurship. 

Along the way of rebuilding my career, I met my husband, Jeffery. We’ve been married for almost seven years, and we work together in the agency. People will ask us what is it like to work with your spouse or how we make it work. My answer is that for us, it really is easy – one of us is the anchor and the other is the wings.

My journey over the last 10 years has had some incredible highs, but it has also had some extreme lows. In 2021, my daughter was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. She fought bravely for over seven months before making her transition – one month after her 34th birthday. Again, I was devastated. I struggle with the loss of my daughter daily, and I probably always will. However, as a family, we have worked together to keep her legacy of lifelong learning and helping others shining bright. A scholarship fund has been established in her name, and we are currently working on the second annual fundraiser that will allow us to provide financial assistance to Hamilton County high school students pursuing a degree in health sciences. 

Opportunities for growth will always occur. Sometimes they will present themselves as a daunting challenge. At other times, they come to us as some new adventure. What I’ve learned is that, by trusting God and focusing on the positive, you can and will achieve anything that you dare to dream. And even through the tough times, life will become exceedingly, abundantly more than you could ever imagine.

Donna Johnson, East Brainerd

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