It was the end of 2016. I was 36 years old and living in Los Angeles, California, with my soon to be ex-husband. We’d gotten married in our early and mid-20s, completely smitten with each other. We enjoyed nearly a decade of birthdays, holidays, annual trips to my parent’s house in St. Louis, watching our twelve nieces and nephews grow up, and furnishing the bungalow that we fell in love with as soon as we stepped in the door.
Our careers grew. Our bank account grew. Our social circle grew. But in that ninth year of marriage, his lies caught up to him, creating a divide that I could no longer cross. All I knew when I filed for divorce, was that life as I’d known it was over, and I had no idea what came next.
In the fall of 2017, I saw how much money the house a few down from my home sold for. It was the exact same size as my house. I was blown away. A few days later, a realtor knocked on my door, asking if I wanted to sell my house because they needed inventory. I started to seriously consider selling. I didn’t know what lay ahead for me in life, but I liked the idea of facing the unknown with a substantial bank account. Plus, I wanted to travel. Not a little. Not some of the time. Not to one place and back. I wanted to leave Los Angeles and see the world. I wanted to be a traveler.
And perhaps I always had…
As a kid growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, I used to lay in the back of our station wagon during family trips to Colorado and Pennsylvania and wonder what else was out there. By the time I was 18, I’d worked so much overtime and forfeited many weekend trips to the mall that I had saved enough from my $6.35/hour job in a fast-paced photo packaging department to hit the beaches of Panama City, Florida for spring break.
One year later, friends and I piled into a cramped sedan, and I drove us 1,000 miles to New York City. We were promptly swept up into the cacophonic symphony of sirens, buses, subways, and street vendors luring passersby with the sweet, earthy scent of just-roasted peanuts.
By 20, my friends could no longer afford to travel, so when I headed to Colorado for my next trip, I had just a suitcase and my savings in tow. That trip gave me my first taste of solo travel and, on the way back, as I pulled up to my uncle’s house in Omaha, stopping for a short family visit, I remember thinking how much I loved seeing new places. I suppose it’s no surprise then that when I moved to Los Angeles at age 23, a single woman who knew all of zero people in the sprawling city, it quickly became my home.
I’d always loved Los Angeles, but in the fall of 2017, I traveled to Norway, and not only did I not miss Los Angeles, but I also didn’t want to leave Norway. When I returned to Los Angeles, I didn’t want to be there. As I sat in the Uber on the way home, I felt sad to no longer be traveling and irritated with the smog and traffic in Los Angeles. Usually, I felt at least relieved to be back “home” to rest and get back in the swing of things.
After 15 years of thriving in a life of stability and predictability, I wanted to go where I didn’t know what was around the next corner. But could I do it? I had no track record. I knew no one who’d up and taken off to explore the world on their own – certainly not like this. When I told my friends and family about it, they thought I was out of my mind. I suppose I did too, but then my neighbor’s house sold in no time.
Suddenly, though I had no experience, no mentor to cheer me on or help me through jams, no one to rely on but myself, I found myself with all the backing I could have needed to quit my job and hit the road (or “world”, as the case may be). And, as sure as the sun rises, I knew that I was going to do it.
I spent the next six months quietly planning my departure. I made repairs to my house, getting it ready to sell. I hosted several family members so they could visit one last time while they had free housing in Los Angeles. I tried to do some things in the city that I hadn’t done before. My company had recently moved me to manage a new department, and I worked hard to make an impact in the six months I was there. I wanted to leave, but I wanted to embark on a good note.
At the end of April, I listed my house for sale. My realtor had two open houses over the weekend, and by the following Wednesday, I had five offers — five good (no, great) offers. I countered on three, accepted one, and that was it: My house was sold.
I still faced one last hurdle: Leaving my job, leaving the people I’d spent every day with for the past 11 years. As much as my house had been my home, the company had become one too. I was afforded opportunities that many people don’t get. Every two years, I was moved into a new role or a new department. I worked with some of the most intelligent people on earth who challenged me to be better. I was mentored and guided. There were also so many fun times that made the (often) tedious work bearable. In the last two years with the company, I had the opportunity to put my broadcasting and film degree to use by creating four videos. It reminded me of what I enjoy and what I’m good at; creating and storytelling.
In my goodbye email, I included some of my favorite quotes from The Office, which perfectly described my time there. Jim Halpert: “Even if I didn’t love every minute of it, everything I have, I owe to this job… this stupid, wonderful, boring, amazing job.” Creed Bratton: “It all seems so very arbitrary. I applied for a job at this company because they were hiring. I took a desk at the back because it was empty. But, no matter how you get there or where you end up, human beings have this miraculous gift to make that place home. Let’s do this.”
I’d started working at age 16 (technically I had a paper route at age 13) and full-time at age 18. I worked full time all through college and finished in four years. Immediately after college, I continued to work full time. I joined Target as a Team Leader, and after about one and a half years, I was promoted to Executive Team Leader. After being at Target for five years, I left and joined McMaster-Carr Supply Company. In the 11 years that I worked there, I was promoted twice and had many opportunities to work on high-level projects. But I had been feeling exhausted and stagnant and knew it was time for a change.
When I sold my house, I hadn’t yet given the company notice. I hadn’t even told coworkers about my plans. I knew that once I did, there would be no turning back.
Finally, on May 24th, 2018, wracked with nerves, I did it. I told them my last day would be June 15th (almost exactly 11 years from when I started), and those final three weeks passed at warp speed.
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Post Edited By: Anne Radford