40 years ago: I once was lost

IMG_20150628_065854585_HDRForty years ago this week, I moved to Western Massachusetts. I had no car, little money, no friends, a tedious job, and an attitude problem.

I moved to take a job at the newspaper in Greenfield. I had gotten fired from my previous newspaper job, and after my latest unstable relationship with a woman bombed out, I had moved in with my parents. My father drove me to Greenfield, hoping I could make a new start.

I rented a room in a seedy old hotel and spent my spare time reading Paul Ehrlich’s “The Population Bomb.” Soon I moved to an apartment in South Deerfield, and did the 10-mile commute to Greenfield on a bicycle. One morning I was changing my clothes in the newspaper’s bathroom after a rain-soaked ride when a senior editor walked in and said, “Did you just jump in the river?”

After four months of writing headlines for stories I didn’t care about, I got fired again. In short, I was not the kind of person you would predict would find success in work or love.

I chose South Deerfield because it was halfway between Greenfield and Amherst and the roads connecting the three were flat. I went to Amherst for the first time on July 4, 1975, expecting to see a vibrant college town, and was surprised to find it largely deserted.

I didn’t expect to remain in Western Mass. I had received what I thought was a promise of a job at the newspaper in Philadelphia and was waiting for an opening. That job never materialized, and so I wound up staying.

IMG_20150628_065936122I met a woman through a personal ad in an alternative newspaper in Amherst. After losing my job in Greenfield, I moved in with her. I decided to leave the newspaper world and became an intern at a day-care center, figuring I’d go back to school and become a kindergarten teacher. After all, I loved playing with children (the photo shows me with my niece Natalie).

But that career path didn’t work out either, and I was in yet another unstable relationship. Seeking the familiar, I wrote to big-city newspapers and got a job offer from one in Pittsburgh. At about the same time, I wrote an article for that same alternative newspaper in Amherst (on road salt, of all things). They offered me an appealing job as a writer and I said no to Pittsburgh.

After four months, they made me managing editor. But I was not cut out to be an alternative paper editor, and I had no management experience. I continued to flounder in my personal life. A little over a year later, I got fired for the third time.

But by then I had met Betsy and my life started to stabilize. Two years later we got married, and three years later I found the right newspaper job and stuck with it for 32 years. Five years later we started having children, and seven years later we moved to the house in Amherst where we live now.

I still get around on a bicycle. But mostly, my scattered life of 40 years ago seems a distant memory. I feel grateful to have somehow ended up with this good life, with a stable marriage, close friends, a secure retirement, a coherent lifestyle and a sense of purpose.

For new readers of this blog, an index/reference guide provides links to more than 100 posts in 12 categories, including frugality, simple living, gardening and climate change.




3 thoughts on “40 years ago: I once was lost

  1. Pingback: Past posts: A simple living index | Adventures in the good life

  2. What an inspiring story. How kind of you to share it with us. You would make a great motivational speaker.
    I picked up two Reader’s Digests at the Survival Center – the first one promised to tell me how to loose weight easily. The second had some quotes you might like.
    ” It doesn’t matter how many times you fail. It doesn’t matter how many times you get it almost right. All that matters in business is that you get it right once. Then everyone can tell you how lucky you are.” Mark Cuban.
    “It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.” Lewis Grizzard

  3. Thanks for this fascinating and compelling post, Nick. It describes a period of your life of which I, one of your best buds, know little. I, too, went through a lost period in my early 20’s. Among my many misbegotten career paths was that of dog toilet salesman/distributor. Friends from that era often tease me about the fortune I planned to make by selling Polutomats to pet stores!
    Hope you’ll write about the business adventure we lived together as co-publishers of The Rockport Horizon!

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