Half a lifetime ago at the age of 30, I sabotaged my life and ran away from my New Jersey home. I gave away my business booking comedy clubs, said goodbye to friends, wrote a short note to my parents saying I would be back in a few days, climbed into my red 1990 Hyundai, and began a journey into the unknown. I had little money left in reserves after my final bash down the Jersey shore and a one-month trip to Ireland had nearly depleted all my savings. I was in my hotel room on O’Connell Street in Dublin, September 19, 1992, when I saw a pie chart on the cover of USA Today declaring Santa Fe, NM, the best city in which to live in the United States. That’s all it took for me to steer my destiny in that direction. What can I tell you, I like pie charts.

Thirty years later, almost to the day, and here I am abandoning my established life, once again willing to surrender the security and privilege of living the good life, this time in the safe confines of the Rangeley school district. Here’s the thing, though, I have not left because I was unhappy. I love teaching, and the kids are the best. RLRS is a wonderful gig. I have left teaching, for now anyhow, because I have this desire to dive headlong into pursuing what I taught. I want to do what I’ve always wanted to do, and have already been doing, and that is to write. Without excuses. Edit, revise, rewrite, revise, submit, reject, revise, reject, rewrite, and see where the whole damn process leads. Maybe this is what a mid-life crisis looks like, minus the Maserati and the comely wench on my arm.

Writing is a solitary pursuit. You live alone with your words in your head until they come out on the page, and then you erase some, and then move some, and then add some, again and again and again, until reaching the point where you say, enough: Submit. And then there’s the small matter of very few people actually making money at it because so few people read anymore. Forget about the nagging doubt: Who would want to read anything I write? Am I good enough? Have I made a horrible mistake? Is it possible to have too much butter on popcorn?

A lot of these thoughts come with the territory of taking life-altering chances. There’s a level of fear in most things we do as humans. For instance, potty training children can be tough for many reasons, not least of which is that some kids are afraid of what may be lurking beneath their exposed derrieres. Snapping turtles have been known to come up through plumbing before. True fact. And even though snapping turtles may appear beneath their vulnerable tuchus the kids sit anyway. They have no choice; duty calls.

It’s much like most things in life, you take that first step. That’s how every journey worth taking begins. And don’t expect guarantees. You may have a map but you can still get lost. Health insurance doesn’t prevent the illness; it may not even defray the cost of the cure. Sometimes the Cracker Jacks box doesn’t have a prize in it (that truth has scarred me for life). I received my final paycheck and am searching for new health insurance. I have given up something I love with people I love in a place that I love, and now it’s time to answer the siren call and crash upon the rocks. After all, had I not done so 30 years ago I would have missed out on the journey that led me here. Come to think of it, maybe I wasn’t running away from home all those years ago but, rather, I was striding towards a new one, and, now, borrowing a line from a Steely Dan song: “Could it be that I have found my home at last/ home at last.”

(L. to R.) Outside the Upper Deck Comedy Club in Lake Hopatcong, NJ.; unknown, Eddie Feldmann, Tim Straub, Pat McGarrett

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