Tell Us Your Story: An Impetus for Life-Change
By Daniel Holmes
I enjoy reading Susquehanna Life magazine; if only I hadn’t picked up the Summer 2018 issue, I wouldn’t be in this predicament. Life-change is difficult, but I made the difficult decision to “create my own adventure.”
As I pulled into an Arkansas shopping area at 3 a.m., my mind was reeling. As an attorney, I realize Erica Shames bears no liability for this road trip into the future. But, darn it, she should share some responsibility for my uneasiness surrounding this life-change. After all, it resulted from reading her editorial urging readers to “create your own adventure.”
Deep down inside
I knew in January 2018 I had to leave my job at ConAgra Brands when my 10-year mark came up last June or my mental health might irreversibly decline. I could retire and collect a tiny pension, but I needed a job with health insurance. More importantly, for my sanity I needed to return to the practice of law as a prosecutor in the public sector—the only job I ever loved and was good at.
I had not practiced law, except for a few small personal favors for friends and family, in almost 17 years. I looked for jobs in Pennsylvania but couldn’t find a salary commensurate with my experience. An article on the Web advised looking for a job outside your comfort zone, so I applied to jobs in Alaska, New Hampshire and New Mexico.
Telephone interviews came and second interviews followed. I was getting dangerously close to getting a job as a prosecutor. What would I do if someone offered me a job in another state?
I reread Erica’s editorial and thought and then thought some more. I always wanted to travel but I envisioned Europe, particularly France, as my destination. I had been to Ohio but no further west. I wanted to simplify my life and get rid of material possessions. New Mexico intrigued me; it would be a warmer climate where I could return to a healthy lifestyle infused with better nutrition and exercise.
The phone rang one day in the first week of July. I knew, even before I answered, that the job offer would be a defining moment—I either would be stuck in a rut for the rest of my life or do what would make me happy. I stalled and said I would give them a final decision by Monday, then left for vacation with my daughter Danielle.
Ready, set, go
I had three locations to choose from in New Mexico: one was semi-urban, but in an area that was disconnected from the rest of the state; another was in a large metro area; and the last was in a much smaller town called Grants, surrounded by Native American reservations and a wealth of natural beauty. The small-town size suited my personality. Albuquerque is only an hour away and Santa Fe not more than an hour beyond that. The whole state is rich in history and culture.
There was a tremendous amount of work required to get things ready for an auction, sorting through personal papers and getting organized for the big trip. My children, Danielle and Victoria, were a great help, and so was Tom, a good friend from college. My biggest supporter, however, was my ex-wife, Sherry, who has become a really good friend throughout this move. The lesson learned is that nothing good ever comes of harboring negative energy toward others—just be nice.
I planned to drive west in my nearly 20-year-old truck, with more than 185,000 miles on it—a prospect that had me outright frightened. I asked friends and family to pray for me to get there without a breakdown. Someone prayed real hard because I made it there without any problems.
My goal was to drive 10 hours a day, averaging 65 miles per hour, and make the 2,063 miles in three days. Instead I drove 16.5 hours a day and took only breaks for gas; I made the trip in two days. Many times during the journey I asked myself if I should just turn around and go home.
I don’t remember much about the trip, other than when I stopped for gas in Oklahoma the people were very nice. Many times during the trip I asked myself if I should just turn around and go home—I’m not sure why.
I had made calls about apartments before I left Pennsylvania, but hadn’t finalized anything. Luckily I found a place to live after one day but I could not move in for two days. Sleeping on your office floor is the best way to become familiar with your new job.
There is a lot to learn about criminal law in New Mexico; they do things vastly different than in Pennsylvania. My coworkers are a great source of help in learning the ropes after such a long absence from legal work. I don’t think I’ll have any problems practicing criminal law, even after so long—but I have a backup plan, just in case.
I spend my free time on weekends exploring the area. I have hiked Mt. Taylor which, at 11,301 feet, is the tallest peak in Northwest New Mexico. I have hiked El Malpais and El Morro, two national monuments nearby. El Morro has rock petroglyphs and carvings from Spanish explorers dating back to the 1600s. El Malpais has sandstone cliffs that overlook volcanic lava flows from thousands of years ago. I visit nearby towns like Gallup, and attend a flea market where Native Americans bring their crafts, artisanship and foods to for others to enjoy.
I like it here in New Mexico; maybe I should have moved here 15 years ago. It is a nice base from which to explore Arizona, Colorado and the entire West Coast. People are friendly and helpful. I guess I had to wait for Erica Shames to write her 25th anniversary editorial for it to happen.
If my job doesn’t work out, stop in to the Wal Mart at Exit 85, off Interstate 40 and say “hello.” My backup plan? I’ll be working there as a greeter!
In a box
If you would like to see more photos of my adventure send an e-mail to DanielE.Holmes@Yahoo.com. I’ll send you a link to Google Photos where you can view them and maybe be motivated to create your own adventure!
Daniel Holmes is an attorney practicing in the Grants, NM, District Attorney’s office.