The questions in this occasional column come from actual people.
Dear Savvy Sister,
I’m ready to change careers – any advice on how to make money on the west coast without selling my soul? Any contacts with any large foundations in CA?
In my short adult life – because really, a quarter of a century isn’t all that long – I have been a swamp tour guide, cruise ship purser, journalist, middle school teacher, college professor, boxing instructor, plain old writer, and MOM. I’m all about mixing it up.
But here’s a mistake I’ve made: nearly all of those jobs – with the exception of MOM – just came to me while I was sitting on the couch trying to decide whether we should cook dinner or go out. I am the Queen of Indecisiveness. I can’t hang a picture on the wall because I’m afraid it will be in the wrong place. Finding the perfect pair of shoes at Dillard’s makes me weep with anxiety: are they too much money? Have I shopped around enough? Maybe the Birkenstocks can last another season. Will the sales clerk be mad if I say no?
I couldn’t even decide about my husband for a long time. Finally he just wore me down.
Basically, I’ve been lucky. But imagine what an empire I’d have now if I could actually map out a career plan! I’d probably be the writer-in-residence on the QE2, retired from professional boxing and with occasional speaking gigs about the dismal state of modern media.
Now contrast me with my dad’s best friend, who worked with Dad in the oil business in New Orleans 30 years ago. Elbee and his wife have a son who, years ago, became very sick and nearly died from a mysterious illness. When the child recovered, Elbee quit his job and moved his family to Corvalis, Oregon to open a running shoe store. They’re still there! They love it! Best decision of their lives.
So you want to move to the West Coast. What’s stopping you?
It’s really that easy, provided you aren’t interested in living next to Kim Kardashian or managing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s revamped movie career. But listen: the “West Coast” includes a massive expanse of land. How about moving to Brookings, Oregon, just six miles from the California border? Or to Napa? Plunk down enough money to rent a studio apartment for a few months, get yourself situated and learn the land, and apply for a job at Starbucks to help feed your wine habit.
Now, I happen to know you’re an attorney who hasn’t made a career out of hoarding the big bucks. But who needs money? You’ve successfully catapulted your children into financial independence, and you’ve got a resume as long as my unpublished manuscript. You must have a teeny bit of cash stashed away. Use it, mama! Try not to worry about retirement. Hopefully your children will marry well, and certainly by the time you’re infirm, some nursing home will have room for you. You can always relocate again to Latin America. They really care about old people there.
Let’s talk about the first few steps.
1. Clear out your house and put it on the market. Free yourself to leap at any opportunity. Is your house paid off? Price it aggressively. Don’t quibble over 20 grand.
2. Figure out where you want to live on the West Coast, and go there for an extended vacation. Rub elbows. Maybe you’ll decide you don’t want to live there after all. But maybe you’ll find yourself sipping wine next to the coordinator for Occupy Sausalito, and she’s looking for some legal advice. That’s a start! Check out local colleges. Meet with the deans to see if they’re hiring adjuncts.
3. Give a multi-month notice at your job. Tie up loose ends.
4. Finally, just move.
About the soul-selling business: Souls aren’t that expensive. Go ahead and sell it if you need to, because you can always buy another one. In fact, they’re free! Suppose you make a few thousand by joining the Lindsay Lohan defense team. So what? Who cares? Then use your newfound celebrity status to help Ellen DeGeneres start a new No More Homeless Pets foundation.
Don’t wish away your life, which is what most of us do on a daily basis. Assuming you move, will you live out your senior years thinking: Oh, man, I wish I had stayed in my comfort zone!
In my former house, my bathtub rested up against a window that faced east and was about 400 yards from the ocean. In the winter I filled up that tub with uber-hot water and opened the window so I could hear the sea and feel the cold breeze. Sometimes the water was so hot I could barely stand it, and stood there thinking how much easier it would be to just take a shower. But then I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and stepped in. At first it burned, but gradually the water and I melded into the same molecular construction – you know, metaphorically – and I sat there soaking, my body afloat in a warm current, cooled off by the chilly ocean air. Utter contentment, achieved only by battling through temporary discomfort.
Go west, woman.
Solicit your own personalized advice from the Savvy Sister by sending your questions to [email protected], or by friending me on Facebook. Please use proper grammar.