I can’t really be sure of the date, but at some point over the last few weeks, I passed the 20th anniversary of my move to New England.
Those of you that know me, know that my New England residency is self imposed. Having visited the region during my 20s, I vowed to move here if I ever were in a position where I could choose my destiny. In 1998, I had just divorced, and decided to leave the Army, so I could have gone anywhere. I originally toyed with the idea of moving to Atlanta to be near my brother, and was also looking at Denver. But then I discovered that the Massachusetts National Guard had a college tuition waver program, so I arranged to join the state’s National Guard Band and applied to four state colleges.
Salem State was the first to accept me, and when I researched further the school’s location near the water north of Boston, it was a no-brainer. While some find it inconceivable that a native of temperate-climate southern California could decide to live in one of the nation's coldest regions, I felt it was a move I couldn’t refuse.
New England is the polar opposite of California. Its centuries-old mill towns strung together by former meandering horse paths possessed a certain charm that I found lacking in the Golden State. While California basks in eternal summer, New England has distinct seasonal periods that include a visually stunning autumnal season of which I never tire. The first snow of the year is always welcome (until Christmas), then becomes a major life annoyance. And yes, in the middle of January of every year, I question my sanity in enduring seemingly endless hard freezes (this years weeklong sub-zero spell was particularly mind-numbing). But for the most part, weather is like taxes; you deal with it. Since I chose to live here, I’ve never felt like I should complain.
So, now that we’ve recapped why I’m here, let’s see what goals I accomplished in moving here.
Finish college - Mission accomplished. My main reason for coming here was to focus full time on school and get a degree in something. It was odd that I was a full time student in my mid 30s, but I made it work and got to cross the stage to get my diploma. Thanks to the GI Bill, my National Guard paycheck, financial aide, and student employment positions with the music department, I didn’t even need a part time job outside of school. At the time I was the last of my siblings to get a degree, so it was a huge accomplishment for me.
Fully retire from music - Total Failure. I should never try to make grand declarations regarding music in my life. I had yet to even start at Salem State when the music department nabbed me. I performed in all of their ensembles and choirs, assumed a student concert manager position, and became a de-facto mentor to many music students (Salem State did not have music major at the time). I also continued to play in the National Guard band for another decade thus extending my Army career, played at a local catholic church for their Life Teen group, and embarked on a solo career thanks to an iPhone app. Most recently, I've discovered the activist street band scene and picked up the ukulele.
Find a job and have a career - Mild success here. After sputtering a bit post graduation, I ended up at the Apple Store for eight years, attempted running my own business, and finally landed at HubSpot. A majority of this time has been spent in customer service, which I never really thought I was cut out for, but seem to be proficient at. I love explaining things to people, and have a knack for learning and understanding technology quickly. These have been the elements of my daily work life since 2004. I’ve used the communication skills learned at Salem State to various degrees of success. I enjoy blogging, but like everyone else, I'm quite inconsistent at it. I would very much desire to make editorial content (writing) a bigger part of my job and career.
In my time here there have been a few surprises, good and bad. I was thrilled at being named editor of the college newspaper, but not so happy when a professor I wrote a story about sued me for $250,000. I was even less thrilled when the school informed me they could not support me in my defense. That episode ended when a judge dismissed the case.
In my first employment position post-grad, I won two national awards for a story and special-focus newsletter that I wrote and edited. Six months later, the company let me go because my writing “wasn’t professional enough.” Go figure.
After putting my sax away for a few years, I was inspired to pick it up again thanks to a new app and bluetooth technology that provided a very real sounding backup band. I spent the next four years busking in various locations and booked quite a few gigs. I finally (and mercifully) gave up guitar about 10 years ago, but have recently put those skills back to work on the ukulele.
I opened my own business, and was recognized by the local chamber of commerce and congressman for my entrepreneurial skills and vision. However, the business model was not sustainable. With my coworking business flailing, I put in an application for a customer service position at HubSpot. Despite my baby boomer age, they hired me. My professional growth since has been unparalleled.
Other highlights of my time here include:
- hearing the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Symphony Hall
- attending various operas at the Boston Lyric Opera
- playing in pit bands for local musicals
- marching and playing in the New York City climate march
- attending the US Open in New York
- singing the National Anthem at a Patriots game
- visiting Fenway Park for Red Sox games (including Derek Lowe’s no hitter)
- hearing jazz artists at Scullers
- serving as a delegate to the state Democratic convention
- attending America's Cup races in Newport, Rhode Island
- participating in Honkfest with the Leftist Marching Band
- attending ukulele camp in the Ashokan Valley and meeting Jay and Molly Unger
Has it been worth it? I'd give you a resounding yes. I’m not the type to look back and regret, so for now, I’ll look forward and start making plans for the next 20 years.