For the first time in my five years of writing for the Northern Express, I am writing my first paragraph last.
I’m not sure why, either. Maybe because it’s easier to get down what you know and deal with the theatrical introduction later. Not that I have one, but I guess it’s a big deal for me since this will be my last article – at least as a feature writer and listings editor for Northern Express.
Two weeks ago I decided I didn’t want a long distance relationship anymore and moved to be with my fiancé.
Michael is from Cadillac but currently lives in the Chicago area. We did the “five-and-a-half hour drive and a timezone” thing for awhile, but on my most recent return trip to Michigan, I decided I needed to stop being a chicken shit (that may be the last time I’ll be able to swear in an article) and just go for it.
Quitting my job and moving has been a topic we’ve discussed exhaustively for the past several months; and involved me sending numerous resumes with not much response.
So here I was, driving back to Traverse City without prospects and realizing I’d soon be doing this ridiculous commute in wintry conditions.
Then I realized what I knew all along. I just wanted to be with my fiancé.
REMEMBERING TO LOVE
For awhile, I grappled with how I’d explain this decision to not only my family and friends, but—in particular—my mentors, co-workers and the readers of Northern Express.
I’m moving on in my career, looking for the ‘next big break,’ finding myself and exploring other options.
Don’t get me wrong. This is also true, especially when I first started looking for work. Making the decision to move has been a combination of being smart about it and not looking like a fool. After all, my fiancé and I agreed I had a pretty sweet life up here, but finding full-time, year-round work that paid equally well for him would be nearly impossible.
I never like hearing about young women who quit their jobs and moved away from family for a boyfriend. I didn’t want to be that person.
But my mentality began to shift from ‘how it looks’ to ‘what’s important’ on the day I looked for my wedding dress.
Earlier that morning, Kelly Boyce Hurlbert was struck and killed by a motorist while riding her bicycle home from work. She was my age and was a week away from celebrating her one-year wedding anniversary.
Then my dear friend, Shannon, lost her husband, Billy, in a car accident in September.
Every six months or so, I would sit in Shannon’s salon chair and we’d chat about relationships, marriage and children as she circled my head with scissors – her usually pregnant tummy brushing my hair apron.
“We both come from a big family,” she said about her and Billy’s plan to have several children.
Hearing the way Shannon described her husband and their relationship, along with the outpouring of stories about Kelly and her husband, Paul, made me realize how precious my own relationship is – and that life is so unpredictable and fleeting that you really can’t wait to love.
(When I asked a close friend of the Hurlberts and Shannon, herself, for permission on bringing up their tragedies, both assured me of something I already knew: They want people to remember how much they loved).
COMFORTABLE IS EASY
I think about a blog post that was circulating the internet this summer: “The Top 5 Regrets of The Dying,” in which a palliative nurse (one who helps relieve suffering) recorded her patients’ most common regrets.
These included: working too hard, not living a life true to oneself, realizing happiness is a choice and they didn’t choose it enough, not staying in touch with friends and not having the courage to express their feelings.
I’m sure all of us can confess to having at least two or three of these regrets; but the good news is that we can work on fixing them now.
One thing I’d like to add about choosing happiness is that I don’t think we realize how happy we could be; and sometimes that takes risk.
Five years ago in October, I was given two offers: work a guaranteed, full-time job outside my career field or chance a temporary, part-time position at a newsweekly.
I turned down the full-time position and went for the gamble. Five years later, I walk away from that gamble having learned and grown more than I could imagine. I’ve met people I never would have otherwise; and I’ve developed a standard for what a job can do for my self-esteem and integrity.
VALUE OF TRUST
What I loved most about my job at the Express was the amount of trust my editor had in me, not only to find my stories, but to—symbolically so—leave the red pen capped. Of course, when there were holes and things needed to be clarified, he’d step in; but for the most part, my stories were untouched (unlike some editors who tend to get cut-and-paste happy).
I think this allowed me to write more confidently because not only did my editor trust me, but I began trusting myself.
And the stories… I learned the more invested I was in the story, the more effort I put into it. And it wasn’t hard to come across inspiring subjects in this area who made my job easier.
Some of my favorite stories include (but aren’t limited to): the story about Grant Forrester, the “Nothing for Granted” quadriplegic who walked his first 5K; the health hazards of working a desk job; the ethereal efforts of David Milarch in “The Man Who Planted Trees”; Jamie Kramer’s nontraditional story of motherhood; “Ping Pong for OCD” and the search for “The Griffon,” one of the Great Lake’s greatest shipwreck mysteries.
While I’ve been thanked by individuals for promoting their work, business or cause; I’m not sure they fully understand a story is reciprocal. Every week I’m rewarded to hear stories that have humbled, motivated and sometimes changed my life; and as a writer, it’s my hope I’ve done my job in allowing others to experience the same.
A SHIFT IN THE COSMOS
Just as I was pulling into town on my last return trip from Chicago, I got a call for an interview.
By this point, I had rallied myself to consider doing something a little off-pace from the normal work routine – like working front desk at a gym and part-time at a health foods store. After all, I have a wedding dress to fit into.
There are other prospects on the horizon, as well.
I’m sure this is mostly due to my changing of the address on my resume (big tip: use a local address if applying from out-of-state), but a part of me can’t help but smile and shake my head when I think about the day I put in my two weeks at the Express.
Just moments after telling my bosses I was moving on, I opened the paper and decided to read my horoscope. There, on page 42, contributor Rob Brezsny wrote this about Aries:
“’I’m greedy,’ says painter David Hockney, “but I’m not greedy for money – I think that can be a burden – I’m greedy for an exciting life.’ According to my analysis, Aeries, the cosmos is now giving you the go-ahead to cultivate Hockney’s style of greed. As you head out in quest of adventure, here’s an important piece of advice to keep in mind. Make sure you formulate an intention to seek out thrills that educate and inspire you rather than those that scare you and damage you. It’s up to you which kind you attract.”
To make a donation or learn more about the search for the person responsible for Kelly Boyce Hurlbert’s death, visit RememberToLove.org. To make a donation in memory of William Kochis for his children’s college educations (Sophia, age 5; Porter, 3; Josslyn, 2; and Brooks, 5 months), visit http:// www.youcaring.com/tuition-fundraiser/kochis-kids-college-fund/88980 (or search Kochis Family Fund on YouCaring pages).