Her first stop on her Albuquerque tour was an employment agency – would she be able to find some sort of job with not too much responsibility? Something clerical perhaps? The recruiter assured her she would, once she convinced a potential employer she wasn’t insane for giving up her current salary for minimum wage.
Her next stop was a real estate office. Would she be able to find a house within her budget so she could live mortgage free? She looked at about a dozen, found one she really liked that had a killer view of the mountains, and made a purchase offer.
And her last stop was the western wear store. She bought a pair of red lizard, pointy-toed cowgirl boots. There was no turning back now. She had embraced her new lifestyle.
On her way back to DC, she called her friend during a layover in Houston. “Remember how you said you would buy my house? Were you serious?” He was. Whew. She spent the last leg of her trip making lists: who to tell, what to do, when to do it. Pulling up stakes would require a lot of work and careful coordination but she was energized, knowing what was waiting for her in New Mexico: a simple life with few responsibilities, endless possibilities, and good-lookin’ cowboys.
Her friends were universally supportive of her plans. Her family, not so much. When she told her parents over the phone that she was quitting her job and moving to New Mexico, her dad said, “You don’t want to be a secretary! You’ve been the boss all your life!” Dad, you’re not listening. Her mom asked her if she had a terminal illness. It didn’t take them long to figure out that she was doing the right thing, though; her mom said, “I can hear it in your voice.”
The house in Albuquerque would be available at the end of June, so she had a little more than three months to wrap things up in DC. She would give two months’ notice to her employer, but that meant keeping her plans secret for a month at work, which proved to be exceedingly difficult as she couldn’t stop smiling or keep her feet on the ground.
She had been unhappy...miserable...oppressed for many years in her role as a responsible adult – neither she nor her closest friends realized to what extent. Then all hell broke loose as she started counting down the days to the big move. She found a country bar and learned to two-step. She had more dates in three months than she had in the past three years. She stayed out past 11:00 on weeknights, for cryin’ out loud.
The day finally came to quit her job. It was a Monday. She wore one of her favorite suits - the fuscia wool crepe with the draped-collar ivory silk blouse and patent leather heels. She could also tell you exactly what she ate for breakfast that day, how many red lights she hit on the way to work, and how many stops the elevator made on the way to her office. Certain days you just don’t forget.
She had rehearsed what to say about a bazillion times but was still nervous, not because she had any doubts about quitting but because she had no idea if she would be talking to Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde. After a few minutes of chit-chatting about the hockey playoffs, the conversation went like this.
“No, I’ve been here a long time, it’s time to move on.”
“I wish you would have talked to me before you made this decision.”
“Huh? Are you from outer space?? I should confide in you when you’re responsible for 99% of my misery?”
She doesn’t think she said that last part out loud.
She nodded and smiled for another half hour while he blabbered on about who knows what. She was hoping he’d tell her to pack up her office and leave right then, but no such luck.
She floated out of his office and started to make the rounds, telling her staff and her colleagues that she was leaving and moving to New Mexico. She never would have predicted their reactions. Suddenly she was everybody’s hero. There was jubilation, excitement, dancing in the hallways. Someone was breaking free from the grips of the evil corporate empire!
And for the next eight weeks, she got similar reactions every time she told her story. From the car salesman who sold her a Jeep, to the estimator from the moving company, to the clerk at the post office – they all wanted to be in her shoes. “Don’t envy me – just do it yourself,” she would say. “Yeah, but...” Then came the list of excuses why they couldn’t follow their dreams.
She recognized she was in a unique situation, but it wasn’t like she won the lottery. She had worked hard, made good decisions along the way, and put herself in a position to be able to walk away from a career and land on her feet somewhere else. She wasn’t going to feel guilty about it.
She sold her house to her friend, she sold her fancy-schmancy car, she gave away her clothes...but she hung onto her shoes for some bizarre reason. Just where did she think she was going to wear them?
She was packing up her Jeep in the driveway when an elderly man she had never seen before walked up to her house. He introduced himself and asked if she was really moving – he and the missus had seen the Mayflower van. He told her that she had been a wonderful neighbor and they were sorry to see her leave. Huh? Apparently, his sedentary wife watched her from their window, and her comings and goings and furniture deliveries had been keeping them entertained for years. It was kind of creepy, really, but it gave her something to think about on the drive to New Mexico.
Tune in soon for the final chapter.
Click here for Part 3 and Part 4.