Monday, April 28, 2008

My fairy tale...except it’s true

Once upon a time there lived an ordinary, middle-class, midwestern girl. She had a bit of a wild, independent streak growing up in a suburb of Cleveland, and being a tad unconventional, she pursued her bachelor’s degree in photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology. By the end of her senior year, she was working in a television studio on campus and was recruited by the Public Broadcasting Service to help develop the technology for closed-captioned television. So off she went to Washington, DC, in 1978 to pursue a career.

The group of folks she worked with at PBS soon started up the National Captioning Institute, to produce closed-captioned television programming for the networks, and she went along for the ride. Before she knew what hit her, she was in charge of the offices in New York, then Los Angeles, and England. And she was responsible for a few hundred people. She was good at what she did and took her job seriously, but she always felt like she was acting – doing what she was supposed to do, not what she wanted to do.

So she shopped to ease her pain. And every time she got a raise, she bought a bigger house. And somewhere in there she got married, but she wasn’t very good at that, so she got divorced. Then one day, on another red-eye flight to London, she prayed for the plane to crash, just so she could get out of the meeting she was traveling to. And she was dead serious. That’s when she said to herself, “Self, you’d better find something else to do with your life, ‘cause this ain’t right.”

When she got back to the states, she entered the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes, absolutely convinced that she would win, since she had paid her dues and then some. But the prize patrol did not show up at her door.

The morning after she found out she had not won, she left on a week-long ski trip to Telluride. She rode the chairlifts with a lot of interesting people, several of whom were ski bums who had dropped out of successful careers to pursue deep powder. “I could do that,” she thought. Except she wasn’t a very good skier. But the seed of a simpler life had been planted.

When she got back to DC, she hatched a plan. She could quit her job, sell her house, move someplace where the cost of living was less than Washington (i.e. anywhere), buy a house with her equity, find a job making 20 grand a year, and be a heckuva lot happier than she was.

Where should she go? She opened her desk diary and looked at the weather charts for various cities. Hmm...four seasons...but winters that weren’t too harsh...low cost of living...hmm... Flagstaff, Salt Lake City, Santa Fe, somewhere in Texas. She eliminated Salt Lake City right away, thinking she wouldn’t fit in. Her hair wasn’t big enough for Texas. She learned Flagstaff had more fast food restaurants per capita than any place in the country...not her scene. Santa Fe? Whoops. The one place where the cost of living was higher than DC. What was close to Santa Fe? Albuquerque... Albuquerque?

She played hooky from work for the first time in her 14-year career and made all the arrangements to go to Albuquerque the following weekend. She told a few of her closest friends. One of them said, “I can’t believe you’d do this, but if you do, I’ll buy your house.”

Off she went to Albuquerque on a Friday morning in early March 1993. She arrived and saw the mountains that bordered the eastern edge of the city, took a deep breath of the clear air, and decided, “Yep, I could live here.” For a woman who could read a menu for an hour and still not make up her mind what to order, she was making life-altering decisions at warp speed. But it was easy, because she knew in her heart it was right.

To be continued...

Click here for Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.


  1. I just know this is going to have a happy ending.....
    Kudos to you for making a change and taking a chance, something so many people never have the courage to do!!

  2. I admire anyone who would "give it all up" to follow their dreams. Albuquerque is a great place to settle down in, I have been there a few times,(just passing through) on my way to Arizona and just loved the scenery and the weather. Good for you! Will be looking forward to the continuation of the fairy tale.

  3. To think of all the TV shows that I've produced and had to "close caption" for PBS, it is a small world. I totally understand your reaction to New Mexico. I fell in love the moment I landed at the Albuquerque airport. You're lucky to have moved there. Land of infinite sky. So, then what happened????

  4. Talk about a cliff-hanger! I literally lurched forward in surprise when I saw the 'to be continued'. I hope it's continued soon!

    Yeah you for following your dream.

    Janet Roper

  5. I love your story - and that you went for the good life with all your amazing animals.

    And LOL about hair not big enough for Texas! Mine wasn't either, but it managed to get me through grad school in Austin. :)

  6. I can't believe I've been reading your wonderful blog all this time and had not stopped long enough to read the "Fairy Tale".

    I'm so excited to read your journey to happiness because it's similar to my own. I even got sidetracked for a bit, but then found my way back here again 7 year later. Whew!

    I know how you felt about that first moment you arrived in ABQ. I was told people either love NM of they hate it...there's no grey middle ground.

    I'm glad that I fell in love with my enchanted NM home, and glad that you did, too.


  7. Wow, you go girl. Isn't it the best to leave what you know in your heart just isn't right for you, and finally be where you need to be?

    I'm finally where I need to be, here in south central Kansas. And I'm so happy. It probably wouldn't hurt if I outlined my story more concisely on my blog... like you've done.

  8. I love the reason that you ruled out Texas. You are a girl after my own heart. I here in TX trying to figure out how to get out of the corporate world and make a living in the country. Love your blog!